The Dangerous Reason These Pretty Pink Caves In Australia Got Shut Down For Good

When you set your sights on the "Land Down Under," there's a good chance you have quite a few stops included on your Australian bucket list. While the country is certainly awe-inspiring, it's also a place where adventure goes hand in hand with risk. If you're not well-versed in the places you're planning to visit, you could find yourself in an unexpectedly dangerous — or even fatal — situation. So was the case for some visitors who made their way to a destination known as the Pink Caves.

Located within the Munmorah State Conservation Area, Pink Caves sits about 80 miles from Sydney on the Central Coast within New South Wales. Sometimes referred to as the Cotton Candy Caves due to the destination's beautiful pink-hued rocks, this area was officially closed down as an approved visitor site in July of 2022. The decision was made and implemented by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service after several injuries and fatalities occurred at the site. 

Safety was the driving force behind the decision to shut down access to Pink Caves after the location experienced a significant rise in popularity, as photos of the unique pink rocks rapidly circulated across social media channels in 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, the aesthetic appeal of the location wasn't always matched with safety precautions. This led some visitors looking for gorgeous photos to pay for the experience with their lives.

A beautiful but lethal destination

Pink Caves is one of several sea caves that dot the Moonee Beach area in Catherine Hill Bay. However, the unique coloration of the rocks here makes it easy to see why the area would become an instant hit on platforms like Instagram once the word got out. Before 2020, Pink Caves was considered much more of a hidden gem but as photos of the dazzling pink rocks made their rounds across social media, visitor numbers quickly grew.

The science behind the pink hue comes down to a microalgae that thrives in the area known as crustose coralline. These pink algae come with the unique distinction of being as hard as rocks. While they're visually appealing, they also contribute significantly to the local coral reef ecosystem.

Visitors to Pink Caves often arrived mistakenly assuming the breathtaking destination was harmless. Without understanding the natural risks sea caves present, they willingly walked into a life-threatening situation. The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service points out that Pink Caves is an extremely dangerous destination due to caves filling up quickly at high tide. Even at low tide, ocean swells can send powerful waves over rocks and into the cave, knocking over visitors or sweeping them out to sea. There is no lifeguard service at Pink Caves, so visitors who find themselves in trouble can't easily access emergency care. Slippery rocks and a lack of designated walking tracks through the cave further elevate the danger.

Safe alternatives to a cave visit

The dangerous conditions at Pink Caves led to at least three highly publicized deaths in recent years. In April 2022, a woman was tragically washed off the rocks as she attempted to enter the cave. In July of that same year, an elderly couple met a similar fate when an unexpected wave hit the cave entrance. By the end of July, the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service deemed the destination too dangerous to maintain as a place open to the public.

While Pink Caves has seen its fair share of tragedy, visitors looking for a warm-weather winter vacation to Australia's Central Coast can still enjoy the region without the risks. The greater Munmorah State Conservation Area is refreshingly beautiful and well worth taking time to explore while you're here. Moonee Beach is a fantastic place to settle in and watch the waves roll in without having to add a trip to the caves to your itinerary. You can even take time to trek the Moonee Beach Trail if you're looking to spend a more active day on the shoreline. The Munmorah State Conservation Area is also a popular place for visitors to enjoy time surfing, camping, fishing, and whale watching. If you want a dangerous Australian location you can visit, check out Cutta Cutta Caves.