A photo op over the Grose Valley.

A photo op over the Grose Valley.

I’ve finally found time to venture out of Sydney, into the Blue Mountains. I thought I knew them well, but I didn’t know about this hidden treasure.

The adventure begins when we take a turn off the Great Western Highway near Leura, onto Mount Hay Road.

Mt Hay Road - magical forest of gums.

Mt Hay Road – magical eucalypt forest.

After bumping across the rough, rutted road for about ten kilometres, we park and continue on foot, following an overgrown path.

Spring is wildflower season in the mountains. For most of the year, much Australian bush can appear a dull greyish-green. So flashes of colour really catch the eye.

Mountain devil- lambertia formosa.

Mountain devil- lambertia formosa.

A banksia, I believe, though which one I have no idea.

A banksia, I believe, though which one I have no idea.

Boronia, I think.

Boronia, I think.

Waratah, floral emblem of New South Wales and the state's rugby team.

Waratah, floral emblem of New South Wales and the state’s rugby team.

Hakea, I think. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Hakea? Correct me if I’m wrong.

After an hour of walking we arrive at a cave, halfway up the cliffs that line the valley. It was a favourite, secluded haunt of celebrated Australian writer Eleanor Dark, husband Eric and their family. They used to spend weekends here, hiking in via different routes so as not to leave a permanent trail, and swearing their children to secrecy about the location.

The living room of Darks' Cave.

The living room of Darks’ Cave.

We can see why they’d want to keep it to themselves. The cave is deep enough to protect campers from the elements, but with a spectacular view out over the Grose Valley.

Darks' Cave. As pedantic writers, we discussed where the apostrophe should go. Since there were two Darks, we decided 'Darks' should be treated as plural.

Darks’ Cave bedroom. As pedantic writers, we discussed where the apostrophe should go. Since there were multiple Darks, we decided ‘Darks’ should be treated as plural.

I’ve often walked to Evans Lookout, on the opposite side of the Grose Valley, but never found my way to Darks’ Cave. Though it is mentioned in some walking guides, the route is still unmarked. I’d explain how to get there, only I’ve been sworn to secrecy. If I told you I’d have to come and kill you.

Thanks for being my guide, Duncan.

Thanks for being my guide, Duncan.


Filed under Hiking, Travel-Australia


  1. Looking good, Richard! Would love to stay in that cave for a week of writing.
    Oh, and I think the Banksia might be Isopogon anomonefolius or Broad-leaved Drumsticks. The Boronia could be the Shark Bay variety.

    • Oh, you Dutch botanists do have an impressive knowledge of our Aussie flora! But it would take more than a week to crank out the sort of work Eleanor Dark specialised in – very thick books, including the classic The Timeless Land. She must have spent a lot of time in her cave.

  2. Excellent article, Richard. And didn’t we choose perfect walking weather. Let’s hope it stays this way for a while before the blast of summer to give us some more bushwalking time.

  3. Yes, the Banksia is Isopogon, and the Hakea is indeed a Hakea.

  4. Stan

    There are three hakeas with needle – like leaves, H. Gibbosa, H.Sericea and H. Propinqaua that can be distinguished by the shape of their fruit but I don’t think the photo is clear enough. However my guess is Sericea.
    HOWEVER, the isopogon is not a banksia or visa-versa. They are separate genera within the family Proteaceae
    Some taxonomists have moved Dryandras into Banksias but I am unaware of anyone trying to move Isopogons.

    • Thanks, Peter and Stan. I stand corrected on the banksia/isopogon thing, but good to hear they are in the same family so I don’t feel totally mistaken. Brilliant to have such knowledgeable blog readers!

  5. Stan

    Richard, at the risk on botanically overloading your readers, I suggest that “Shark bay” Boronia (B. crenulata) is endemic to shark bay (surprise !) north of Geraldton, W.A.,an area well known to the Dutch . Of the Boronias of the Blue Mountains, your one looks like B. floribunda (the pink Boronia) but I could be wrong.

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