Bungonia State Conservation Area
Bungonia is one of the oldest public recreation reserves in the world, with its limestone caves first being protected back in 1872. It lies 35km east of Goulburn on the edge of the Southern Highlands. It is bounded to the north by Bungonia Creek, and to the east by the Shoalhaven River. It is a popular reserve for a variety of activities, including bushwalking, canyoning, caving and rock climbing. The caves are the deepest in mainland Australia.
The main road access to Bungonia State Conservation Area is fairly well signposted from both Goulburn and Marulan. From Sydney, head south west on the Hume Highway and turn left just south of Marulan, then immediately right. At the next T-intersection after 16km turn left to the town of Bungonia, and then left just past the middle of town. The State Conservation Area is about 10km down the road.
Bungonia has quite a number of signposted walking tracks, the longer ones marked with coloured squares and signs. There are easy short walks to the major lookouts, Adams Lookout and Bungonia Lookdown. The Green Track and Yellow Track are relatively easy walks along the tops with short side trips to a number of lookouts over Bungonia Creek. The White Track is easy to Mt Ayre, where there are good views of the Shoalhaven River. From there a steep, unmarked track takes you down to the Shoalhaven. The Red Track passes through the limestone slot canyon in Bungonia Gorge, and has a long, steep ascent and descent.
The canyoning at Bungonia is similar to some of the longer canyons in the Kanangra-Boyd area, featuring relatively open canyons with rock that gets slippery when wet and can be quite loose. Scrambling and route-finding skills are necessary and they are recommended for more experienced parties. The most popular canyons are Jerrara Creek and Bungonia Creek. Spring Creek used to be a popular trip, but it is closed because of loose rock. Long Gully is open, although NPWS advises against trips there for the same reason.
The Shoalhaven River can be kayaked, and runs alongside the park. However, the major difficulty is the 400m descent to the river, so generally trips are started and finished from outside Bungonia.
The steep pocketed limestone cliffs on the south eastern side of the Bungonia Creek Slot Canyon offer powerful climbing at the higher grades. Most routes are long, protection somewhat limited, and the difficulty of most climbs is 22 or higher. Because of the low traffic and the length of the routes, route finding is difficult, and the climbs are recommended only for experienced climbers.
The cliffs around some of the cave areas are used for abseiling practice, generally before doing a caving or canyoning trip. Hogan's Hole is one of the more popular areas.
The Shoalhaven River is the only watercourse suitable for liloing. However, the river around Bungonia moves too slowly unless there has been recent rain, so it is not generally recommended as a lilo trip.
Bungonia is a very popular area for caving because of its proximity to Sydney, and the fact that many of the caves are able to be visited without obtaining special permits. Most of the caves are quite vertical, requiring abseiling to visit fully. Carbon dioxide can accumulate in the lower chambers, so experience is necessary. Popular caves include the walk-in Mass Cave, Grill Cave and Hogan's Hole.
There is a large camping area at Bungonia, with toilets, showers and a communal kitchen. Sites need to be booked during holiday periods, and a fee applies. Bush camping is allowed down at the Shoalhaven River, and at other places away from the main visitor areas. Camping is prohibited in Bungonia Creek and in limestone areas.
Time: 4 hrs; Distance: 7km; Fitness: EM; Skill: M; Ascent: 440m
An excellent walk with good views on the way in and out, and a beautiful swimming hole