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


DOC Northland

Central government organisation


North IslandNorthlandWaipu


  • Walking
  • Free


  • 28 Rankers Reviews

    Quick Quotes

    • As good as Waitomo and for free!
    • Wouldn't recommend doing the whole walk...
    • Amaizing glow worm cave.
    • For free!
    • A must see to see the glowworms for free!

    Rating Distribution

    Rating Count Percentage
    10/10 12
    9/10 7
    8/10 1
    7/10 5
    6/10 1
    5/10 1
    4/10 0
    3/10 1
    2/10 0
    1/10 0
  • Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in December 2016


    For free!

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

    Carina Weber's avatar

    Carina Weber


  • Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016


    Well signposted from State Highway 1.

    Head torch and boots are needed. The last 10km to the cave are gravel tracks.

    MARK CURPHEY's avatar


    United Kingdom

  • Reviewed over 5 years ago


    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.

    Breanna Alexander's avatar

    Breanna Alexander

  • Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016


    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.

    Igor Pretzer's avatar

    Igor Pretzer


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago


    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.

    Michelle Smit's avatar

    Michelle Smit


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016


    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.

    Gerbrand Smidt's avatar

    Gerbrand Smidt


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016


    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!

    Leon Grummer's avatar

    Leon Grummer


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016


    As good as Waitomo and for free!

    Just go there.

    Patrick Thumeyer's avatar

    Patrick Thumeyer


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago


    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.

    Jane Simmons's avatar

    Jane Simmons

    New Zealand

  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016


    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.

    Pierre Alexandre 's avatar

    Pierre Alexandre


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016


    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.

    Catharina Cuntz's avatar

    Catharina Cuntz


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016


    Glowworms for free with lots of glowworms.

    You really need good shoes and a good torch, because it is really slippery and dark.

    Ruven Rintelmann's avatar

    Ruven Rintelmann


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016


    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.

    Christoph  Herrmann 's avatar

    Christoph Herrmann


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago



    We did the signed Cave Track (2km/1,5h return) and this was average. The track goes trough the forest, up & down hills and ends up on a hill top, on private land! The view was ok, but not worth it. You have to go back the same way. If it's wet it's also very slippery, which is annoying on the steep parts. After that we found the cave entrance right next to the carpark. The cave itself deserves the 9/10, it's an amazing experience! Lots of glowworms, nice limestone and really big inside! Take a strong torch, phone flashlight was like nothing inside. Besides that you have to pass some water, so take flip flops with you. We chose to walk barefoot, which was ok too.

    Nina Rittmann's avatar

    Nina Rittmann

  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Caves with glowworms for free.

    Kay Radloft's avatar

    Kay Radloft


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Beautiful long expanse of soft sand - really lovely to walk along/spend the day at a great cafe called 'The Cove' opposite - the salted caramel slice is to die for!

    Steph's avatar



  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Great walk and glowworm cave!

    It was beautiful and not crowded.

    Paula Bauer's avatar

    Paula Bauer


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Great non-commercialised caves!

    Adventurous, unique and overall wonderful glowworm experience (with baby is carrier). Simply great!

    Johanna Kuch's avatar

    Johanna Kuch


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    This was a great adventure!

    The cave begins immediately after the parking site (50 meters). With 2 kids, 3 and 4 years old, we went half way. We had to help them, but they liked it very well! The glow worms and the adventure makes it a great experience. You need a torch, short trousers, and flip flops / swimming shoes. Let the fun begin! Mid February there were quite some people, but most of them stayed at the beginning of the cave. We were with a camper van and overnight at the parking site. During the evening it became quite busy with campervans and tents doing the same. But still it was very quiet and nice. There is a toilet (not very clean) and a cold shower.

    Boukje Diijkstra's avatar

    Boukje Diijkstra

  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Such a great, big and beautiful glowworm cave we have ever seen.

    Amazing and it also did not cost anything! Also only a few people around.

    Julia Martin's avatar

    Julia Martin


DOC Managed

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 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner