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Geocaching in NSW National Parks

NSW National Parks FAQ

The following list of questions and answers relate to the new NPWS Geocaching Policy (2010). If you have any further questions relating to the policy and hiding geocaches in NSW National Parks post a note on the Geocaching NSW forum or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .





Why do we have these restrictions?


Most geocaching listing websites, as part of their terms of service, require that you obtain permission from the land owner or manager before they will list your geocache.

In the case of NSW National Parks, permission needs to be sought from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The NPWS Geocaching Policy 2010 provides an outline of what they will allow, and not allow, on land that they manage. As geocachers we are asked to respect the policy and place geocaches accordingly.

Isn’t this a backward step? What about the geocaches that already exist in NSW National Parks?

Geocaching was banned from land managed by NPWS in 2002. Despite this, geocaching listing websites have since allowed the publishing of geocaches placed on their land.

This new policy, reverses that ban and allows the placement of new geocaches on land managed by NPWS.

What is the status of grandfathered (existing) geocaches already within the National Parks system?

The owners of existing caches within NPWS controlled areas need to seek approval via the same process that new caches need to go through to be approved.

At this stage, there is no time limit, but we encourage geocache owners to do this as soon as possible.

In the future, NPWS staff may request geocache owners to submit a consent application. If the owner fails to lodge an application, NPWS may approach the geocache listing website and request for the geocache to be archived.

Geocaching NSW has agreed to assist NPWS in contacting geocache owners when asked, but we will not be involved in the archiving or removal of other people's geocaches.

Previously, you have asked geocachers not to search for geocaches in NSW National Parks. Does this mean we can now?

The short answer is yes.

Although there are a number of geocaches hidden in NSW National Parks that do not have official consent from NPW, the owners of these geocachers willl have to seek permission for them to remain.

As it would not be immediately evident which geocaches have permission and which do not, geocachers should not be impeded in their search. However, Geocaching NSW ask all geocachers who are searching for geocaches in NSW National Parks to follow the NPWS Geocaching Policy.

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Who do I send the Consent Form to?

Approval for geocaches will need to be sought from a 'Park Authority', which may be the head ranger, area manager or regional manager. A list of the best contacts for each region.

Geocache hiders will be required to download and fill in the Consent Form and either visit or discuss with the Park Authority the placement of the geocache before hiding it.

During this discussion, any potential problems will be identified by NPWS staff. In most cases it is anticipated that a ranger will not need to visit the location, but this would be on a case-by-case basis. Photos of the location in the submission may streamline the approval process.

Once approval has been received from NPWS, geocachers can then submit their listing to A scanned copy of the signed consent form should also be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . A reviewer note should also be added to the geocache listing to alert the reviewers that the consent form has been emailed.


What are the ‘standard conditions’?

The standard conditions are attached to the Geocaching Consent Form (Attachment A). They cover how a geocache can be ‘hidden’ and the size, type and contents of the container.

What if I decide not to lodge a Consent Form?

To have a geocache that is hidden on land managed by NPWS listed on, you will have to provide evidence that the Constent Form has been approved by the Park Authority.

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What is meant by 2.0 litres?

Most small/regular sized geocaches are constructed from plastic systema and click’n’lock containers, or former ammunition (ammo) cans. The 2.0 litre restriction is based on the plastic container size and is the approximate size of a 30 cal ammo can.

Note that this is the maximum size allowed. Smaller geocaches may only be permitted in certain locations. This will be indicated by the Park Authority.

What sort of label should appear on the outside?

It is important that the geocache is labeled using either a decal or paint. This is to ensure that if the geocache is found by a ‘muggle’ is identified immediately as a geocache and not a suspicious package.

Decals can be purchased from various geocache stores online.

Are swappables allowed? Are trackables allowed?

According to the Standard Conditions “the only additional items that may be permitted in a geocache are a logbook, pen, pencil and pencil sharpener.”

Therefore we suggest you do not include any swappable items in the geocache. Finders should also avoid placed trackable items in these geocaches.

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What sort of educational message do I need to include in the geocache and on the listing? Is this information available on the NSW Park’s website?

One of the reasons NPWS agreed to allowing geocaching in National Parks was the opportunity to educate users.

The educational message should contain some information about the park, or section, in which the geocache is hidden. This may include statistics about the park, the fauna and flora found in the vicinity, or a brief history of the region.

Information can be found on the NPWS website, brochures available in each Park Office, or from the Park Manager. You might also use information from a range of hiking and nature books, online or from your own knowledge.

What is meant by risk?

Risk is a subjective thing. What one person considers simple, other will view as too risky.

When placing a geocache, consider the level of skill and risk required to complete the geocache and outline this clearly in your description. Do not place a geocache in a location that will encourage geocachers to take unnecessary risks.

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How far from a track can a geocache be hidden?

The policy states (Point 14) “Geocaches must be placed to avoid the creation of new tracks or trails …”

How far a geocache can be placed from an existing trail will depend on the environment and the number of expected finders – i.e. more finders increases the potential for a trail to form.

Environments that allow users to ‘go off-trail’ without creating a trail include rocky outcrops and areas with little vegetation. Be aware that some environments are more easily damaged than others. It is best to discuss this with the Park Authority when you are planning your hide.

How far from dams, lakes or watercourses must a geocache be?

As outlined in Point 15 of the Policy, geocachers should not place geocaches in dams, lakes or watercourses. There is nothing in the policy regarding distance from them.

The policy says we must not construct stone cairns to hide a geocache. Can use an existing cairn (e.g. at a trig point) to hide one? Can I place rocks in front of the geocache to hide it? How many rocks constitute a cairn?

In general, the construction of cairns is discouraged by NPWS. Therefore we recommend you not build one to hide a geocache.

In regards to using an existing cairn, we advise caution. In order to make the geocache ‘invisible’ to muggles, it would have to be deep inside the cairn. Subsequent finders may pull apart the cairn to the extent that is no longer the same. This occurred at the geocache Time (GC8C7A) in 2007, and resulted in Groundspeak enforcing the ban NPWS had enacted several years earlier.

We see no problem with the use of rocks to conceal a geocache from muggles eyes. But this should be kept to a minimum. It should not appear as an artificial construction.

How can I hide the cache without moving rock or substrate?

There are many ways in which to hide a geocache – hidden in cracks, under rock ledges, etc. We therefore encourage geocachers to use the environment ‘as is’ when hiding a geocache.

However, there my be times when a well-placed rock makes all the difference. But this should be kept to a minimum. It should not appear as an artificial construction.

How will I know if I'm in an area that contains endangered ecological communities, threatened species, etc.

Geocaching NSW, through NPWS, has Google Earth overlay for NSW National Parks containing park types and boundaries is available for download. We recommend you also contact the Park Authority to identify any other ‘no-zones’.

What is meant by caves? Does this karst environments? Does this mean a geocache may not be placed within the reserve containing the cave?

The definition for a cave and a karst cave can be found in the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 [pdf], Part 2, Division 3, Clause 24.

cave means any naturally occurring void, cavity, recess or system of interconnected passages, that is:

(a)  beneath the surface of the earth or within a cliff or ledge, and

(b)  large enough to permit a person to enter, whether or not the entrance is naturally formed or human made, and

(c)  wholly or substantially roofed.

karst cave means a cave that has developed in soluble rock (typically limestone dolomite, marble and gypsum) through the processes of solution, abrasion or collapse.

In line with the policy and the regulation, we recommend geocachers not hide geocaches in caves in NSW National Parks.  We don’t consider the definition of a cave to include rock overhangs, cracks in rocks, or gaps between rocks. If in doubt, it is best to discuss this with the Park Authority.

Why not Nature reserves and Wilderness areas? There are paths in Wilderness areas.

Nature Reserves and Wilderness Areas have been excluded due to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Nature Reserves are set aside for nature and 'limited' human use. Wilderness Areas are areas deemed to be in an ‘original’ state – i.e. before the arrival of European settlers. Although they have existing paths, these were formed before the area received Wilderness status and many are being ‘phased’ out.

Geocaching NSW, through NPWS, has Google Earth overlay for NSW National Parks containing park types and boundaries is available for download.

How will I know if there are Aboriginal objects in the area?

Geocaching NSW, through NPWS, has Google Earth overlay for NSW National Parks containing park types and boundaries is available for download. We recommend you also contact the Park Authority to identify any other ‘no-zones’.

Can EarthCaches or other virtual caches be placed within designated wilderness areas?

The Geocaching Policy 2010 only covers physical containers left on land managed by NPWS. There are currently no restrictions on EarthCaches or virtual geocaches.

Is there a list of areas that geocaches will not be allowed (e.g. aboriginal areas)?


Geocaching NSW, through NPWS, has Google Earth overlay for NSW National Parks containing park types and boundaries is available for download. This includes aboriginal areas.

We recommend you also contact the Park Authority to identify any other ‘no-zones’.

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Can I apply to extend how long the geocache is hidden after five years?

As stated in the Standard Conditions, “At the end of the consent period further consent may be sought to have the geocache remain.”

But geocachers should note, that the consent for a geocache does not guarantee it will be granted again. The ParK Authority can also request the removal of a geocache, for reasons such as changes to the environment, or closure of the area in the which the geocache of is hidden, at any time.

If consent is revoked, is it OK to just disable the cache until it can be retrieved physically?

If you are asked to remove a geocache, you should do so as soon as possible. We suggest you also post a disabled note on the geocache listing. If a geocacher indicates that they are likely to ‘find’ the geocache before you have an opportunity to recover it, you should request that they recover it on your behalf.

What do I do if the area where the geocache is placed is closed to the public? How will I retrieve it?

Contact the Park Authority to discuss your options for retrieving the geocache. Do not attempt to retrieve a geocache in an area closed to the public without consent.

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