The Pink Caves, also known as the Cotton Candy Caves, are a beautiful set of sea caves located near Sydney on the Central Coast of New South Wales (NSW). Of course, if you’re from NSW and have social media, you’ve probably heard about the Pink Caves at Moonee Beach. But, did you get a chance to visit the Pink Caves before they closed forever?
On the 29th of July 2022, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) permanently closed access to the Pink Caves. Understandably, after a number of deaths and injuries occurring at the site, NPSW had no choice but to close the area. Indeed, this isn’t the first time NPWS have closed access to a popular natural attraction due to safety concerns. And, we’re sure it won’t be the last time either. Admittedly, though, Beck and I have taken more of an interest in this NPWS closure than any other.
The truth is, I was one of the first to write about the Pink Caves in September 2020 when I was based in Sydney. At this time, there were a few photos of the Pink Caves floating around on social media. Having sparked my interest, I did the obvious thing – a quick Google search. To my surprise, as I mentioned in my original article, there was minimal to no information about them online. So, after visiting, we wrote about the wondrous Cotton Candy Caves, and, indeed, stressed the importance of how to visit safely. But, only one and half years later, the Pink Caves have closed.
With a keen interest in this beautiful place, I’d like to talk about the closure and how it all came about.
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What Are the Pink Caves?
If you haven’t already seen them in person or on social media, the Pink Caves, refer to one specific sea cave, which has amazingly pink-coloured rocks. Although, this stretch of coastline is home to many, slightly less dazzling, pink sea caves. The Pink Caves are also known as Deep Cave Bay, Munmorah Sea Caves and Catherine Hill Bay Caves. These sea caves are located on the shores of Moonee Beach in Catherine Hill Bay. The sea caves also fall inside the Munmorah State Conservation Area, also known as the Lake Munmorah State Conservation Area and Munmorah State Recreation Area.
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So, that’s where they’re located. But, how are these caves pink? Well, we have the microalgae crustose coralline to thank. Basically, red seaweed deposits algae in the ocean, which can form a thick calcified crust on the surface of rocks. This is what causes the incredible pink colour to form. Just as impressive, microalgae like this, produce around 50–75% of the earth’s oxygen and absorb around 25% of its carbon dioxide.
Anyway, that’s the basics! Now, let’s look at how and why the Pink Caves were closed in mid-2022.
Read our guide about the Munmorah State Conservation Area
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From Local’s Hidden Gem to Social Media Sensation
The Pink Caves were once a local’s secret. Indeed, the Cotton Candy Caves are well hidden on the northern shores of Moonee Beach. Little did people know that just 2 hours north of Sydney was one of NSWs’ most stunning natural attractions – the Cotton Candy Caves. But, as you know, this once unknown natural attraction wouldn’t be a secret forever!
It started with a few photos of the caves on social media. Personally, I first saw a photo of the Pink Caves on a hiking-based Facebook group in mid-2020. The beauty of the sea cave left me mesmerised. With little to no information about it online, I contacted the sharer of the photo to get more details. From there, Beck and I visited, during low tide and light swell, as we would later recommend in our original article. Honestly speaking, this natural phenomenon blew us away. As a travel writer, I was stoked to be one of the first people to write about this destination. Around the same time as publishing the original article in September 2020, photos of the Pink Caves were going increasingly viral on social media.
To be expected, more people started to visit the Cotton Candy Caves near Sydney. With that, more writers started to publish articles and guides about visiting the site. And, of course, influencers started to visit. They’d post photos of themselves at the Pink Caves trying to get a slice of the viral content pie. By 2021, the Cotton Candy Caves was a viral sensation. Information about visiting the Cotton Candy Caves spread far and wide in NSW. But, the key point is, information about how to visit them safely did not.
The Role of Social Media and Blogs
In 2021, many users of social media, particularly Instagram, found out about the Pink Caves. Unfortunately, photos shared on Instagram by influencers, often failed to mention the dangers of visiting. Most posts failed to include details about the need to exercise caution on the often volatile coastline. Time and time again, the posts’ captions didn’t mention anything about the need to visit during low tide and a slight swell. But, even during low tide and a mild swell, visitors should have been warned to forgo visiting the Cotton Candy Caves, even once arriving at Moonee Beach, if conditions were sketchy.
Generally speaking, I’d like to think that bloggers were more mindful about informing their readers of the dangers and risks, writing about to how to visit safely. Despite this, of course, there’s always a risk when exploring rock platforms and sea caves on the edge of a shoreline. No matter how careful or cautious you are, the ocean is unpredictable. The tide and swell can change drastically at any moment. Ask the many hundreds, if not, thousands of people who have been injured and rescued at the Figure 8 Pools at Sydney’s Royal National Park.
Essentially, by exploring the Pink Caves, there’s always a safety risk. Even during seemingly safe conditions of low tide and a slight swell. Unfortunately, with more visitors, came an increased likelihood of injuries, and, sadly, deaths.
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Pink Caves Deaths
Devastatingly, reports of Pink Caves deaths emerged in 2022. The most widely publicised deaths were of a woman in April 2022 and an older couple in July 2022. Indeed, it was the most recent of these deaths that triggered the closure of the Pink Caves by the NPWS.
The Pink Caves Close
Given the safety risks, locals of Catherine Hill Bay called for its closure as early as late 2020. This was when the Pink Caves started going viral. Personally, we even received messages from locals, sometimes abusive, telling us to pull our original article from our website. But, inevitably, the Cotton Candy Caves swept the social media accounts of many people in NSW. So, there was always going to be an increase in visitors. Many ill-informed about how to visit safely.
To that end, media companies and bloggers in Australia were always going to write about them. With this being the case, omitting information about the Pink Caves online or trying to conceal or hide the fact they existed, was never going to be a solution for reducing the number of visitors. Besides, so much information about the Pink Caves is already out there, missing vital information about how to visit safely. In reality, informing and educating people about how to visit safely seemed a decent solution.
But, with the inherent risks of visiting, even during low tide and a slight swell, and, ultimately, as a result of deaths, there’s no wonder that the Pink Caves, near Sydney, were closed. To that end, we highly recommend that you respect the wishes of the NPWS. Do not access this area. Without a doubt, a mere sign may not deter some people from visiting. Still, please, don’t be that person!
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What About the Rainbow Caves?
Not so far from the Pink Caves and Moonee Beach, you’ll find the Rainbow Caves. They’re also known as the Ghosties Beach Caves and, not surprisingly, are located at Ghosties Beach. Considering how things have played out with the Pink Caves, we wonder whether the NPWS will close these sea caves too. Admittedly, the Rainbow Caves are potentially even more dangerous than the Cotton Candy Caves. So, watch this space!
Find out more: Ghosties Beach Caves (Rainbow Caves) – The Ultimate Guide
Alternatives to Visiting the Pink Caves
The Cotton Candy Caves are just one beautiful area in the Munmorah State Conservation Area, near Sydney. We guarantee that you’ll still have a marvellous time visiting Moonee Beach without accessing the Pink Caves. Indeed, the Moonee Beach Trail, a 4km return walk, is still an exceptional coastal walk without the Pink Caves add-on. Indeed, it’s more than safe to visit other areas nearby. A family trip here wouldn’t be out of the question. For more information on other great hiking and natural attractions near the Pink Caves, read our guide on Munmorah State Conservation Area.
Be a responsible adventurer and traveller. Go above and beyond to follow the rules set by the NPWS.