Harwoods Hole

Harwoods Hole

Takaka Hill


46 Rankers Reviews

39 Face-to-Face

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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Its a big hole, you wouldn't want to fall in!
Read the warning signs - Harwoods Hole
Caver absailing Harwoods hole with a very long rope


5.8 km return | 1 hour 30 minutes return

This is a big hole, deep in the bush. It’s a magical forest, especially when it’s misty. Perfect place for fairy spotting.

A beautiful walk through the bush that eventually ends up in an old stream bed. Very nice and cool. This walk ends up at Harwoods Hole - a hole about 170m deep, this place is very popular with cavers. You may be lucky enough to see a group go down, or set the abseil up.

There are no safety barriers, just a huge hole! So look after your kids and don't be tempted to look too far down yourself.

Make sure you take the lookout side trip 5 minutes before Harwoods Hole. Some say it's more spectacular than the hole itself.


Canaan Road is signposted on the right 10.4 km from the bottom of the hill. The unsealed road is passable in 2WD drive vehicles, but take care to avoid potholes. It’s a bit rough. The 10.8 km to the carpark at the road end passes through farmland and native beech forest. At the carpark are toilets and information panels. The start of the track is signposted.


This forest track can be muddy in places. You should heed the warning signs and not veer from the track, as sinkholes are present in the karst landscape.

The track initially passes some mystical beech forest, with columns rising high from a sparse forest floor. It’s relatively flat going, passing a small pond (doline). The track then weaves through a labyrinth of weathered limestone boulders, their convoluted forms telling the stories of erosion. At the junction with the track to Gorge Creek Lookout, continue straight ahead, and Harwoods Hole is shortly after.

The 176-metre deep hole has no safety barriers. The rocks can be slippery when wet. Take care and get as close as you dare to view the hole’s interior.


Most of the limestone in this area was formed during the Ordovician geological period, around 140 million years ago and is a feature of this country. Where preferential erosion takes place along pre-existing cracks and fissures, the mildly acidic rainwater and groundwater imperceptibly enlarge the weaknesses. Over aeons, holes such as Harwoods Hole and the associated cave systems are formed. In this case, a stream which used to flow into Gorge Creek used to flow through this system, but has since migrated to a source closer to the headwater, leaving Harwoods Hole as a dry valley and the caves dry too. In karst landscapes, this is known as headwater retreat.

Although it is 176 metres from the track to the hole’s floor, the entire depth of the hole is 357 metres.
The small pond adjacent to the track is a doline. This depression is filled with water, which will slowly enlarge and may give rise to a cave system. Plant metabolisms produce carbon dioxide, which is absorbed by the water to form a weak carbonic acid. Because the marble and limestone are alkali, they are readily dissolved by the weak acid.

European History

New Zealand cavers have been exploring this area since the 1950s. On the 4th January 1960, caver Peter Lambert, successfully winched into Harwoods Hole and released dye into the water. Meanwhile, other members of the party also discovered the cave system exiting at Gorge Creek and observed the dye, thus concluding the systems were interlinked.

Many cavers have since explored the depths. Some with outcomes ending in disaster. A rescue here is not for part-timers. The most noteworthy in 1995 was dubbed ‘Operation Long Drop’, where a doctor waited 10 hours with a patient, all the while administering morphine.

Lord of the Rings location in the area include Chetwood Forest (an Unexpected Journey). At Canaan Downs on the access road, the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug locations include Anduin grasslands and Beorn’s House.


Feature Value Info


DOC Nelson/Tasman

Central government organisation


South IslandNelson RegionGolden Bay


  • Walking
  • Free


Showing 13 reviews of 46.

Susanne's avatar


Ranking: 5/10

Looked like a walk with a great view - the road to the starting point can not be accessed by campervan though.... So had to turn...

Reviewed over 2 years ago

Theo Macer's avatar

Theo Macer


Ranking: 10/10

Harwoods Hole walk was one to remember. The old woods with their spooky feel, all very beautiful. We did not make it to the Hole itself, but the viewpoint was incredible. Well worth the drive down the long gravel track, do not drive too fast.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Anna Wooster's avatar

Anna Wooster


Ranking: 10/10

45 minute walk through an ancient forest (after a 10km windy, gravel track) submerging into an epic break in the forest, crazy beautiful scenery, valleys, birds, tree tops. Well worth the extra drive/walk.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Matthias Wohlegamuth's avatar

Matthias Wohlegamuth


Ranking: 7/10

The drive to the Harwoods Hole parking area was the best of all. Very beautiful. The walk to the Hole was nice as well. The Hole itself is not really impressive.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

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Sandra Marangi's avatar

Sandra Marangi


Ranking: 9/10

Very nice walk through the forest. All the landscape around this place is so beautiful. The drive to the carpark is so beautiful and highly recommended. The Hole is not so impressive if you do not climb down.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Natasha's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 7/10

Shorter than what was expected, really nice walk through the forests and out near the cave, I only I had brought a longer rope!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in December 2016

Eline-Jessica van der Hoeven's avatar

Eline-Jessica van der Hoeven

Ranking: 8/10

Fine walk, can't look down the Hole but it has a great echo. The outlook was my favourite though, stunning views. Entrance road was challenging for my 2wd van.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Luke's avatar



Ranking: 8/10

Pleasant varied walk through woods and over rocks. Impressive surroundings at the Hole. Very nice view from the lookout path.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

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Rulp Niet's avatar

Rulp Niet


Ranking: 9/10

Nice hike, stunning hike, be careful!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Evelyn Rloeh's avatar

Evelyn Rloeh


Ranking: 8/10

Nice walk, liked the climbing over the rocks at the end!! But a bit afraid of heights. So did not come too close!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Sarah Dorsett's avatar

Sarah Dorsett

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Easy walk through a beautiful forest, leading to the impressive sink hole. The view of the gorge was spectacular.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

George Bellwood's avatar

George Bellwood

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Very gentle and relaxing walk through a Tolkeinesque forest. The hole itself gave me vertigo and you cannot see the bottom. Nearby lookout is phenomenal.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Ellie Perkin's avatar

Ellie Perkin


Ranking: 8/10

Beautiful area, Hole was very eerie. The lookout was amazing.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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