Mermaids Cave, Blackheath: Dozens of stone steps and a waterfall in just 25 minutes
Last week, Nick and I took a short trip to the Blue Mountains. It was the first time we had a break in a while, and were able to spend time outdoors. Although it was raining quite a lot during our trip, it was intermittent and we were still able to do a couple of walks while the rain had stopped. I have more details and photos from our trip in a future post, but for this post I wanted to write about this little gem called Mermaids Cave.
I’m a bit of a sucker for hidden gems, even in my hometown of Sydney. I like to explore where no-one really goes, and find the quiet and less popular places that are still worth visiting. Those spots are mostly in the city, but when it comes to outdoors and recreation, it’s no exception.
Mermaids Cave is located in Blackheath and can be accessed at a point on Megalong Road. When turning off from Shipley Road into Megalong Road, it’s about a kilometre down the road. Part of the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was filmed in Mermaids Cave, but apart from that, I couldn’t find too much information about the walk – just that it is a hidden gem in the Blackheath area, with a cave and waterfall. I haven’t seen the film myself (or any of the other Mad Max films, for that matter), so I can’t comment on that.
I found one video from a guy on YouTube and one blog post with more details about what to expect from the Cave. The Cave is not particularly hard to get to, but the small dirt parking spot opposite the beginning of the walk can be easily missed if you are not slowing down when driving on Megalong Road. The parking spot is on the right hand side and pretty much at a hairpin bend. On the left of the road, the beginning of the walk is signposted with “Mermaids Cave walk” but it’s a pretty small sign in the familiar recreational brown colour.
On a map, you can see where to slow down a bit more as it appears to be the first hairpin/almost 180º turn coming from Shipley Road.
The dirt area probably fits a few cars, but I don’t think Mermaids Cave is very well known and most people might just be passing through, so I don’t think that area would be full of cars at any point. You have to be quite careful when crossing the road and move quickly to cross the road to the entrance, just because it’s in a bit of a blind spot to cars coming up towards Shipley Road.
Since it had been raining quite a bit, there was a lot of water and the waterfall and stream through the trees was running! There are many steps going down to the cave and waterfall. It starts with some large stone steps and there is some railing you can hang onto. The ground goes flat for a bit before there are more stone steps. I am unsure of exactly how many steps there are, but this blog post suggests there are 77.
It didn’t seem like there were that many steps, but we had to be careful because the steps were wet from recent rain. I was scaling the wall a bit on the right hand side with my hands to make sure I didn’t slip. There is a bit of a dirt landing after the stone steps and you can see the waterfall, then you can make your way down.
There are a couple of ways to head down. The easiest is by walking to the left along the edge of the cave, and then there are some stone steps. You can’t see those stone steps until you walk a bit – we didn’t notice it until we climbed to the bottom via the rough and large dirt-covered rocks. It’s a bit more tricky but if you have good footing, or do a bit of a crawl and use your legs and a bit of your hands so you don’t fall (that’s my technique), you will be alright.
While the earlier steps were slippery due to rain, the waterfall felt fresh and beautiful. It was nothing too flooded in terms of where we had to walk, but my waterproof shoes survived. I did slip a bit on wet rocks and splash myself with water, but my socks remained dry. 💪🏻
It’s a lovely and serene view, a nice spot tucked away in the bush. If you like waterfalls and an interesting walk, and want to have a moment to yourself, this is worth checking out.
The waterfall goes into a stream of water. With the waterfall to your left, you can continue along the path to the right, around the water, or you can head back. Continuing along the path is a bit tricky though, and can end up quite wet before you walk up some stairs to meet the road. If you are not comfortable with walking on the road for a hundred or so metres to get back to your car, I recommend just turning around and going back the way you came.
We had to take a large step over the stream before heading towards the stone stairs. Before we crossed the stream we were a bit confused as to whether we had to step over it and if that was the right direction, because the path wasn’t clear, and the dark foliage made it hard to see the stairs leading up to the road. I suspect that the stream is probably dried up during some months of the year. It looks like you could also keep walking to the left and not cross the stream, but I don’t think there’s much there.
We might have had close to the worst of it since the rain had been frequent and the water was running. I don’t have a giant step or long legs like Nick (who is six feet tall), so I was a bit uncertain, but he seemed fine. If you have hiking boots that cover your ankles you might be alright and will save yourself from getting wet. The bank on the other side of the small stream was quite squishy and damp so it looks like it could be easy to lose your footing. The worst case is getting a wet foot, in my opinion.
When you take the stone stairs to get back onto the road, there is about a hundred or so metres of road after the end of the trail, which takes you back to the parking spot. Watch your step as you get to the top of the stairs in case any cars are coming around the slight bend on the right.
It’s not super dangerous in terms of the road, but it’s best to cross when safe, and walk on the left side where the cars behind you can see you as they approach. I would just take extra caution and walk slowly, and stop when there’s a bit more room to stand at the side of the road in case any cars are coming. You do come across a couple of waterfalls on your way back up to the car.
I recommend the Mermaids Cave walk if you’re looking for something to do and you’re near Blackheath. If you need to kill some time, it’s a walk that can be done pretty quickly. There is also a trail called the Coachwood Glen Nature Trail that is 2.5 kilometres drive further south down Megalong Road. Apparently it is a beautiful loop rainforest walk that will only take you about 30 minutes as well. You can see a large signpost for it on the left hand side of the road if you are driving south. I don’t know about it first-hand, but I can tell you that we were thinking of going for it when we accidentally missed the turn for Mermaids Cave and passed that way.
Let me know if you try out this walk or if this is your thing! Are you into waterfalls or hidden gems in nature? I’d love to hear about similar discoveries. 💚