Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park 5CP-225 and VKFF-0804

It was now day two (Saturday 9th June 2018) of our trip to the south east of South Australia.  Despite it being a very chilly morning, Marija and I were very pleased to see some blue sky outside.  The weather forecasters had predicted some wet weather, but there appeared to be no sign of that at Mount Gambier.

We hit the road quite early and headed Subway in Mount Gambier for a coffee and an egg and bacon roll.  We then headed out to the historic Glencoe Woolshed, about 25 km north west of Mount Gambier.

We picked up the key and paid a small fee at the local Glencoe General Store.

The Glencoe district was first settled in 1844, just 8 years after the colonisation of South Australia.  Edward and Robert Leake established a sheep shearing station and had named the property after Glen Coe in Scotland.  The Leake holdings comprised about 90,000 acres stretching from Mount Muirhead near Millicent encompassing the Mount Gambier region to the Penola Road.

The Leake brothers were originally from Rosedale in Tasmania and then moved to South Australia, bringing with them Saxon Merino sheep.  In around 1857 they built a two storey home, calling it Frontier House.  Sadly this building has now been demolished.  However the two storied coach house, stables, and groom’s quarters are still standing.

One of the brothers, Robert, died in 1860.  This left Edward to manage the property on his own.  When his flock of sheep reached 50,000, he decided that a good shearing shed was required.  In 1863 the Glencoe Woolshed was constructed.

The shearing shed has hand adzed, cathedral like arched blackwood beams with supporting posts of pit sawn blackwood.  The roof timbers were laid on the ground and marked with Roman numerals to assist in their assembly.  The roman numerals are still clearly visible today.

Glencoe is unique in that it was never converted to a mechanised shearing.  At its peak there were about 38 shearers at Glencoe, as well as roust-a-bouts, wool classers and shed hands.  The most sheep shorn in one year at Glencoe is 53,000.  A total of 2,000 sheep were shorn in that year, with an extra 100 men employed.

We then left Glencoe and headed to the Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park 5CP-225 & VKFF-0804.  The park is situated about 36 km north west of Mount Gambier and about 434 km south east of Adelaide.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

The Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park is about 14 hectares in size and features the Tantanoola Cave, a dolomite cavern which contains spectacular stalactites and helictites.  The park is one of South Australia’s oldest reserves.  It was first dedicated in 1930 and was the first in Australia to provide wheelchair access to a show cave.  The park also contains the Up-and-Down Rocks, a stranded marine cliff which towers over the Princes Highway which runs passed the park.

The park was discovered in 1930 by Boyce Lane, a 16 year old boy who was out rabbit hunting with his pet ferret in an area known as Hanging Rocks.  Boyce’s ferret disappeared down a small hole in the cliffs whilst chasing a rabbit and would not come back out of the hole.  Boyce returned to his nearby home to collect a torch and notify his brother.  They returned and climbed through the small hole and then shined their torches around to discover the cave.


Above:- Boyce Lane, aged 21.  Image courtesy of ABC

The two boys shared their discovery with their father George Lane, and later that day a group of men returned later that day to investigate.  It did not take long for news of the discovery of the cabe to spread throughout the local community.  The Lane family then opened up the cave to the public.  The entrance to the cave was only.  The Lane family later increased the size of the opening and hand rails and electric lighting were used to make the cave more accessible for visitors.

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Above:- Article from The Mail, Adelaide, Sat 12 April 1930.  Courtesy of Trove

Sadly, by the 1980’s, Occupational Health and Safety had taken hold and due to safety issues the cave was declared as unsafe and was closed.  The cave was subsequently taken over by Parks Australia and was reopened in 1983.

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Above:- Aerial view of the Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park and the surrounding countryside.  Image courtesy of google maps

The name Tantanoola is derived from the aboriginal word ‘tentunola’ which means boxwood/brushwood hill of camp.  The town of Tantanoola is situated a few kms to the north west of the park.  Tantanoola was originally named ‘Lucieton’ by Governor Jervois after his daughter Lucy Caroline, on 10th July 1879.  It was changed by Governor Robinson to ‘Tantanoola’ on 4th October 1888.

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Above:- Aerial view showing the location of the park to the east of the town of Tantanoola.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.


We had arrived at the caves just at the start of a tour, so we had a look through the small but very interesting visitor centre.

We then did the Clifftop Look walk which offers some terrific views of the surrounding countryside, including the nearby Lake Bonney and Woakwine Range wind farms.

The original entrance to cave is visible above the current day entrance.

After our walk we joined the tour guide who explained the history of the park and then took us inside the cave which is truly quite spectacular.  The cave measures 25 metres by 18 metres and is 8 metres in height.  It is believed the age of the cave is more than 300,000 years.

Numerous fossil remains have been located in the park including bryozoa, brachopods,  molluscs, shark teeth and extinct megafauna Zygomaturus trilobus and sthenurine kangaroos, and fossils of an unidentified seal.

Once we completed the tour we returned back to the vehicle where Marija quickly activated the park for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  As we were activating from the car, the activation would not count for the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award.

I spotted Marija on parksnpeaks whilst she called CQ on 7.139.  First in the log was Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula.  Within 10 minutes Marija had contact number 10 in the log, with a QSO with Rod VK7FRJG in Tasmania.  Marija had qualified the park for VKFF and it was time for us to hit the road for our next stop for the day.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5FANA
  2. VK2IO/p (Dooragan National Park VKFF-0143)
  3. VK5NJ
  4. VK2VW
  5. VK5KX/3
  6. VK4VXX/5
  7. VK3PF
  8. VK2MKE
  9. VK4TJ
  10. VK7FRJG

I worked the following station on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2IO/p (Dooragan National Park VKFF-0143)



ABC, 2018, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-27/boy-loses-ferret-finds-tantanoola-caves/6979856>, viewed 18th June 2018

Department for Environment and Heritage, 2008, Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park Management Plan.

National Trust, 2018, <https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/glencoe-woolshed/>, viewed 18th June 2018

National Trust South Australia, ‘Visitor Guide to the Glencoe Woolshed’

Wikipedia, 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantanoola,_South_Australia>, viewed 18th June 2018

2 thoughts on “Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park 5CP-225 and VKFF-0804

  1. G’day Chris,

    Both the shearing shed and the caves are well worth a visit. We had intended visiting them both in previous visits, and decided this year we weren’t going to put if off any longer.


    Paul VK5PAS

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