In September 1899, the Yallingup Cave (now known as Ngilgi Cave) was discovered by Edward Dawson. The Cave was subsequently opened to the public, with Dawson as guide.
In early March 1902, the Government considered the building of an accommodation house to cater for visitors to Yallingup Cave.
On 11 June 1902 tenders were called and the tender of Hough & Donald of Busselton at a cost of £2602 was accepted and the contract was signed on 9 July with 9 October 1902 set as the date for completion. The building was completed on 20 January 1903 at a cost of £2729.
Caves House, together with the Ngilgi Cave, has played a central role in the development of the Yallingup and Busselton area, of the South West, and of the State as a tourist and holiday destination.
In January 1903, Caves Accommodation House, the first Caves House, was opened to the public. It was a two-storey, timber building, with an iron roof. The accommodation included nine single and three double bedrooms, a smoking room, dressing rooms, with toilets and bathrooms.
On 4 December 1930, a fire caused extensive damage to the old wing of Caves House.
In early 1938 plans were drawn for the new hotel building by Principal Government Architect A E Clare, assisted by S B Cann, whose initials appear on a number of the plans.
On 18 March 1938, the tender of R Donald of Busselton was accepted at a cost of £20,450 for completion by 15 November 1938.
On 21 May 1938 the foundation stone was laid by the Chief Secretary, the Hon. W H Kitson, MLC. Building continued through 1938 and it was completed on 31 December 1938 at a cost of £20,721.
On 15 January Caves House was officially opened by the Chief Secretary, W H Kitson, in the presence of various visiting dignitaries and a large number of residents of the district as well as guests at the place. It was reported that ‘The beautiful surroundings were worthy of such a structure and would go far towards catering for the ever-increasing tourist traffic in the South-West’.
From 19 December 1960, Caves House was leased to Mr and Mrs Copley. In 1965 the Copleys experienced financial difficulties, the Government agreed to waive rental for the remaining period of the lease in return for the surrender of the lessees’ option for renewal of the lease.
It was determined at this time to dispose of Caves House by public sale. In 1965 the Copleys’ lease expired and the State Government disposed of the place by public sale.
On 23 January 1968, Sussex Location 4421 was granted to Norman Henry Emmott and Horace Leonard Emmott of Nedlands, former farmers in the Wongan Hills, Ballidu region.
On 6 January 1988, Sussex Location 4421 was sold to Corry Pty Ltd (Cape Hotels Pty Ltd) for the sum of $2.5 million. The new owners set out upgrading and refurbishing Caves House, beginning with a new garden bar and extension of the gardens.
In August 1993, Caves House was assessed by the National Trust of Australia (WA) and subsequently classified on 6 September 1993.
In December 2004 the property was sold to Yallingup Ridge Pty Ltd, and an extensive refurbishment of Caves House was undertaken.
The Heritage Council of WA supported the alterations and additions, dependent on the retention of the ambience of the 1938 Hotel and conservation of significant original fabric and landscape elements.
This referred to the retention of original-built fabric, including textured plasterwork, skirtings, coffered ceilings, decorative ceiling treatments, fireplaces, saloon bar, picture rails, Art Deco cornices, terrazzo floors and coves, wall tiles, etc.
The existing bedrooms were made larger; now all rooms have a marble-tiled en-suite bathroom and some rooms have an adjacent sitting room.
Where possible, existing chairs were recovered and furniture retained, including occasional tables, planters, hatstands and dining room serving cabinets.
Caves House was reopened to the public in January 2006, operated by the Seashells Hospitality Group until December 2011. Then the hotel was in receivership until August 2013 when the Peter and Helen Cribb took over ownership.
In January 2016 new owners Neil Jilley and Elizabeth Sheppard took over.
Throughout Caves House, historic photographs are displayed showing the original Caves House opened in 1903, Caves House rebuilt 1938 and the many activities which have taken place here over the years.