The Enchanted Cave at Wollemi National Park is in the Australian Bilpin in the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO world heritage area tucked behind Sydney. This primitive-looking albeit luxury stay is for those who love unique experiences, organic architecture, and the peace and romance of staying in a secluded wilderness setting.
Cave With A View
Guests enter the Enchanted Cave through a round Hobbit-style door. Resist the temptation to yell, “Hey, Wilma, I’m home!” even though the kitchen is carved from rock and looks like one where Wilma cooks Fred's Fishasaurus sandwiches and gravelberry pie. Step down into the main room, where a mattress on bedrock has been cloaked in soft kangaroo fur rugs, and there’s a warm glow from the wood space heater.
While a cave, this is not a dark, dank place. Guests have panoramic views through the cave’s arches. These arches can be closed with fully-retractable double-glazed glass doors, but most guests leave the spaces open to remain at one with nature.
The rocky outcrop forms a natural verandah. Like Simba on Pride Rock, you are lord of all you survey. Watch the clouds roll in over the valley and the majesty of the sunset over the mountains. At night the sky is so clear you can make out the colors in the Milky Way. The outside shower is an incredible way to appreciate the view while rivulets of warm water caress your body.
The Man Behind The Cave
Lionel Buckett discovered the cave around six years ago while hiking through 600 acres of bushland on a property his family has owned since the 1950s. He decided to live in the cave while he built upward from the natural rock platform using concrete and steel.
Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Buckett, who is now in his 60s, spent his childhood building tree forts and hobbit houses. He built his first home as a 17-year-old carpenter, and by 1999, the NSW Master Builders Association acclaimed him a Master Builder. Today, Buckett has 19 awards for his pioneering work as an environmental builder and designer. His Secret Treehouse, another of the buildings on his property, won Airbnb’s 2016 Belo Award for the best Airbnb stay in the world.
Admire The Construction
Construction is reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi or Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s organic structures, except here Buckett’s creative design overlooks the Australian bush. Interiors mirror the outside’s colors, so nature is drawn inside, creating a continuum of the natural bush aesthetic.
Guests marvel at Buckett’s design work, artistry, and ingenuity. The cave is dotted with carvings telling the history of Australia’s settlement and includes the Aboriginals, the Europeans in their tall ships, the convicts, and early settlers. Those with mechanical minds are intrigued by the copper pipe that winds around the heater's exhaust flue, heating water on its way to a tank on the roof. There is also an ironstone toilet seat over a long-drop composting toilet. In case you were wondering, there’s a shower inside and a hot tub looking out over the remarkable view.
A Place To Disappear
On his website, Buckett says, “The Cave stirs something in our biology -- a primitive memory of our beginning, of when we lived in a simpler world and simpler times. Like a refuge, we can visit and stay inside it, using its protection against the hassles and stresses of modern life.” Here is the digital detox you may have been craving. No signal for social media means the rest of the world has to leave you in peace.
Wake up to the chorus of birdsong and spend hours immersed in the scenic view. There's a fully equipped kitchen, but a cook can also come in and prepare a meal for you. For some guests, this meal is a highlight of their stay. There are options for in-house massages and mud baths during which you’ll wallow in ancient ochres while sipping locally made cider.
Outside Your Cave
Instead of technology, you can submerge yourself into the natural world around you. Wollemi National Park is the largest wilderness area in the Australian state of New South Wales. You may see lyrebirds, koalas, and antechinus. There’s plenty of hiking and a chance for a dip in the river, which is best done in summer because it can get cold in the mountains in winter. As for nightlife, glow-worm tours offer nature's own light show, and stargazing is another popular pastime.
The entire property is a bush canvas for Buckett’s creativity. Collectively, the property is called Wollemi Cabins. There are eight accommodation options, including wilderness cabins, an exotic TeePee, Buckett’s award-winning Treehouse, and the Enchanted Cave. Prices range from $300 for the cabins to $650 a night for the Enchanted Cave or Treehouse.
Even if not staying, tourists can book a guided tour (for under $50 per person) of the accommodations to learn about Buckett’s design concepts, construction processes, and inspiration. For more Australian bucket-list and adventure highlights, consider
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