Waipu Caves Track

Waipu Caves Track


28 Rankers Reviews

20 Face-to-Face

2 Waipu

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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4 km return | 1 hour 30 minutes return

The Waipu Caves area features a karst / limestone landscape and weathered rocks. The term "karst" refers to a type of topography that is formed over limestone, dolomite or gypsum by solution of the rock and is characterized by closed depressions or sinkholes, caves and underground drainage.

The natural heritage values of karst areas are high as Karst surface landforms provide a variety of habitats for plant species that are restricted to or favour growing on calcareous soils. They also provide refuges for species that were once more widely spread throughout the landscape.

These areas are important sites for geological, geomorphological, palaeontological and climatological studies.


From S.H.1 at Waipu, follow Shoemaker Road and turn left into unsealed Waipu Caves Road. After 500 metres veer right into Ormiston Road (unsealed). The start of the track is signposted from a small parking bay 13km from Waipu.

The caves are reached by continuing 6km along Waipu Caves Road from the junction with Shoemaker Road. The small parking bay has toilets nearby. The caves are marked at the far side of the paddock, a 2-minute walk from the parking bay.


From Ormiston Road, the track is marked with orange posts. Climb the undulating ridge over grass paddocks for 30 minutes. The track enters regenerating podocarp forest (10 minutes) before dropping down a muddy track to the caves.


The limestone is moderately hard and fine grained and composed of around 80% calcium carbonate. It is a coarse rock, composed of foraminifera (tiny calcareous sea dwelling creatures) and broken shell fragments, with many recognisable fossils. It probably formed as a shell bank in a shallow sea, thus preserving its structure.

Acid dissolved in percolating groundwater has slowly sculpted the caves, which now form a magnificent cavern, easily accessible near the entrance. Take care around the entrance as the rock can be slippery where water dripping from stalactites has left a wet film on the rock below.


Caves provide habitats or shelter for a suite of animal species with varying degrees of reliance on or adaptation to dark, cool, moist conditions with low daily variability.

Bones of bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles are commonly found in caves. Some caves also contain remains of fossil invertebrates, often of previously unknown or locally extinct species.

Polynesian History

Karst landscapes are of particular significance to Maori, which is enshrined in the tikanga and kawa (sacred customs and ceremonies) of those with the whakapapa to talk about them.


Feature Value Info


North IslandNorthlandWaipu


  • Walking
  • Free


Showing 13 reviews of 28.

Carina Weber's avatar

Carina Weber


Ranking: 7/10

For free! Follow the water, otherwise you are getting quite dirty - it is really muddy and slippery. Do not wear good clothes!

Reviewed over 4 years ago and experienced in December 2016



United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Well signposted from State Highway 1. Head torch and boots are needed. The last 10km to the cave are gravel tracks.

Reviewed over 4 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Breanna Alexander's avatar

Breanna Alexander

Ranking: 3/10

Wouldn't recommend doing the whole walk... first five minutes you will find the caves.. then after that you should turn back. If you decide to do the rest of the walk be prepared to walk up very steep hills (for a very long time) to get to nothing special at the top - don't really see the point of the walk. The caves are at the bottom. Again, up to you, but I wouldn't recommend this walk.

Reviewed over 4 years ago

Igor Pretzer's avatar

Igor Pretzer


Ranking: 7/10

These caves are a great alternative to the Waitomo Caves. The Waipu Caves are for free and easy to access. There is a stream and there are also glowworms in the cave.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.

Michelle Smit's avatar

Michelle Smit


Ranking: 7/10

We only visited the caves, which were okay. Be prepared to get wet feet (even to get to the caves through the paddock) and make sure you take a strong torch (my headlamp was only just good enough.) Glow worms were good, especially if you haven't seen them before. The karst landscapes are very interesting.
The road in from the southern end via Shoemakers Road was very narrow, only one lane for much of it, so not really suitable for motorhomes - we held our breaths praying we wouldn't meet another vehicle. The northern access was much more accessible. Presumably the paddock is normally used for carparking, but because it was so wet it wasn't usable. The carpark on the road was all but full when we were there.

Reviewed about 5 years ago

Gerbrand Smidt's avatar

Gerbrand Smidt


Ranking: 7/10

Steep walk through nice forest. I am only reviewing the walk, so I have not included the amazing glowworm caves. Just the caves would be satisfying enough though.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Leon Grummer's avatar

Leon Grummer


Ranking: 10/10

It is a gravel road to get there but the caves are amazing. It is really slippery, but it is easy to access, you have to go to the end of the cave to see glowworms. Looks so beautiful!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Patrick Thumeyer's avatar

Patrick Thumeyer


Ranking: 9/10

As good as Waitomo and for free! Just go there.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Jane Simmons's avatar

Jane Simmons

New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

We just walked from the carpark into the cave - 2 mins walk. Beautiful cave, many more glow worms than I expected. Would take a stronger torch next time so we could explore further. We were a bit nervous of our battery running out, but still got to see a lot and would highly recommend this FREE experience.

Reviewed over 5 years ago

Pierre Alexandre 's avatar

Pierre Alexandre


Ranking: 8/10

A must see to see the glowworms for free! After 15 minutes you are on the bottom of the cave where there are a lot of glowworms under a river.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Catharina Cuntz's avatar

Catharina Cuntz


Ranking: 9/10

A long gravel road but worth it, we did not do the walk just the cave and it was stunning and absolutely free. Experienced beautiful glowworm filled ceilings. It is muddy and dark in the cave, be prepared. Toilets at the parking area.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Ruven Rintelmann's avatar

Ruven Rintelmann


Ranking: 10/10

Glowworms for free with lots of glowworms. You really need good shoes and a good torch, because it is really slippery and dark.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Christoph  Herrmann 's avatar

Christoph Herrmann


Ranking: 6/10

Beautiful track, big free caves but awful signage. The three caves are hard to find, there are no signs showing the entry of a cave nor the way to the next one. Still a very beautiful walk with stunning views, glowworms picnic areas and three huge caves to explore.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in February 2016

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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner