Yarrangobilly (called Yagby by cavers) is an extensive caving area, just past Kiandra in the Snowy Mountains south-west of Canberra. It contains some of the best caving in mainland Australia, as well as the mainland’s deepest and coldest cave. Some of the wonderful caves here are:
Yarrangobilly is located in Kosciusko National Park. Drive via Cooma, Adaminaby and Kiandra, past the Yarrangobilly Show Caves exit and entrance roads. The usual place to stay is Cotterills cottage, just before the crossing of the Yarrangobilly River, and this is about 3 hours from Canberra. You can also go via Boboyan Road through Namadgi, which shaves a little bit off the trip if the road is in good condition, but it can get VERY bad. The road in Kosciuszko NP can be subject to significant snowfall in winter, and it is mandatory to cary snow chains in winter for vehicles that don’t have a 4WD capacity (although they are rarely needed). From Sydney or Melbourne, driving in via Tumut is the better option (especially from Melbourne). Even for Canberra drivers, driving via Tumut can be a great option in winter, as the road from Yagby-Talbingo is less prone to snow and bad weather than Yagby-Adaminaby. The last fuel coming from Canberra is in Adaminaby, and coming from Sydney or Melbourne, in Talbingo. Be wary though: both have limited opening hours, and Tumut or anything back on the Hume Highway is more reliable! Adaminaby also has a fantastic bakery that is well worth a quick stop before heading up into the mountains.
There is a book about the area called the Caves and Karst of Yarrangobilly, available from SSS here. There are are also usually copies of it available from the NPWS Visitor’s Centre. It is an interesting book, and contains a list of all tagged karst features at Yagby as of publication (more have since been tagged though). Unfortunately, it is very light on cave maps or descriptions, and thus is not always particularly useful to the curious caver.
This Visitor’s Centre is also the only source of supplies between Talbingo and Adaminaby, and is excellent for an ice cream after a hard day’s caving (or a not-so-hard day’s caving spent lounging by the pool and river). It’s open 9am-5pm, 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day.
The Visitor’s Centre also doubles as the local NPWS Office, and is down the bottom of the signposted turn to Yarrangobilly Caves. It’s a dirt one-way loop road from the Snowy Mountains Highway, and travel is north/west-south/east. Regular show cave tours are run from the office, if that’s more your preference than the wild caves. Parking down here is a $4/day/car fee. There is also a thermal pool and some wild caves down here, as well as a few short bushwalks through some spectacular scenery. Further details can be found on the NPWS website page about the area. The Thermal Pool is in the mid 20*s, and thus can be quite chilly outside of summer, but is still pleasant to visit. Don’t forget your togs and towel.
Cotterills cottage is available to caving groups who have applied for caving permits. The cottage is the old Yarrangobilly Village Post Office- the rest of the former village has been demolished. The cottage is basic, but provides a bit of shelter from the elements. Pit toilets are provided, and there is an adjacent campground (in case you want privacy). Bring your own mats, sleeping bags and camping equipment, and the fireplace in the hut is not to be used (plenty of fireplaces available outside though). No drinking water, but there is usually plenty of water in the Yarrangobilly River which runs next to the campground. It can get very cold here in winter too, and snow pretty much any time of the year. It is generally more pleasant camping up near the Cottage than down by the river- it may be closer to the road and not as scenic, but it is also noticeably warmer in winter due to cold air pooling on the river flats!
There is excellent vehicle access to the Yagby campground, so no trouble should you wish to bring a camper trailer or van.
The caving conditions at Yagby are relatively unique for mainland Australia due to its alpine location, with longish, remote, cold and wet caves. Cooleman has cold and wet, but you’re rarely more than 15min away from the sun and a doddle back to the camp/cars. Yagby however, can involve several hours walking uphill through thick scrub to get back to the cars, and has much more committing caving than (most of) Cooleman. You will need to bring: