Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Mt Etna Caves National Park

What's special?

Limestone outcrops and dense, decorated caves are protected in Mt Etna Caves National Park. Mt Etna is the roosting site for more than 80 percent of Australiaís breeding population of little bent-wing bats. This is also one of the few places in Australia supporting a colony of the endangered ghost bat.

Seabed deposition, volcanic activity and erosion created this rugged karst landscape over millions of years. Grassland, open silver-leaved ironbark forest and semi-evergreen vine thicket grow in the park.

Mt Etna was named after the volcano in Sicily by the Archer Brothers who settled in the Rockhampton area in the 1850s. From 1914 to 1939, the caves were mined for guano, a natural fertiliser, and, from 1925, for limestone. During World War II, commandos trained here. The park was established from 1975 to protect the caves, and a subsequent campaign to save other caves protected Mt Etna.

Exploring Mt Etna Caves

Mt Etna is one of the few places in Queensland where you can go caving. Access to some caves is restricted or prohibited to protect the bats, which are very easily disturbed. Johanssenís Cave is closed between 1 June and 31 January. Caves are a very special environment and easily damaged. Visitors are asked to protect the caves by not touching the limestone while caving.

When caving, go in groups of at least three people and make sure there are at least three torches or light sources within your group. Temperatures inside the caves are fairly constant and cool, so caving is a great way to escape the summer heat.

Have a picnic at Cammoo where toilets, electric barbecues and picnic tables are provided.

Guided night tours of Bat Cleft on Mt Etna operate every summer (December to February) when you can see the spectacular nightly emergence of thousands of little bent-wing bats searching for food. Fees apply.

Explore Limestone Ridge. Wear sturdy shoes to protect you from the sharp rocks if walking off-track. The Bat Cleft track is a safer option and provides ready access to the vine thicket and the limestone karst.

Go wildlife watching. Look for brush-tailed rock-wallabies, brushtail possums, bandicoots and echidnas. Go birdwatching. More than 75 bird species have been seen in the park.

Guided cave tours are available at Capricorn Caves outside the park (07) 4934 2883,


The 1∑2km track uphill to Bat Cleft is quite strenuous with many steps. Only relatively fit people should attempt this walk or join the Bat Cleft tour. Walk in the cooler months or early morning to avoid the heat. This track is closed to visitors during the breeding season, 1 November to the end of February, when the tours operate. A 400m track leads to Johanssenís Cave.


The Cammoo picnic area has wheelchair-accessible toilets and a picnic table.

Getting there

Mt Etna Caves is just north of Rockhampton and about three hours south of Mackay. Turn off the Bruce Highway 24km north of Rockhampton or 11km south of Yaamba to The Caves township. The park entrance is a further 2km along the Barmoya and Cammoo Caves Roads.

Sources & Further reading


Journey Back Through Time
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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading