Punakaiki Cavern walk

Punakaiki Cavern walk


4 Rankers Reviews

2 Face-to-Face

14 Punakaiki

Online Maps


Five minutes walk north from the Pancake Rocks walkway is the Punakaiki Cavern, hidden away on the eastern side of the main road. Car parking is available on the sea-side of the road, slightly north of the cavern. Take care when crossing the road.
A very short walk from the main road leads to the stairs up to the cavern entrance. The Punakaiki Cavern is a Karst cave, formed with a combination of water and carbon dioxide, carving out the cave from the Oligocene limestone.

Make sure you take a torch to explore the cavern and wear suitable footwear.

The cavern features glow worms, the larvae of a large mosquito-like fly. In order to survive they build traps consisting of vertical hanging threads of silk. The silk thread is studded with sticky droplets of mucous to catch small insects (mosquitoes, midges, fruit-fly, etc.) that are attracted by the light. In actual fact they are not worms at all.

There are also stalactites in the cavern, formed when calcium carbonate and other minerals, drip from the cavern ceiling over time, eventually creating hanging formations tapering down to pointed tips, resembling solid cones.


Feature Value Info


DOC West Coast

Central government organisation


South IslandWest CoastPunakaiki


  • Caving
  • Walking
  • Scenic Attractions
  • Free


techno69's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 7/10

TAKE A TORCH!!!! When you get to the top of the steps you think "yeah great" but the cavern goes back a surprising distance. It gets muddy and wet at the back and there is a really small crawlspace so don't let the kids go unsupervised but the youngies will love it!

Reviewed over 7 years ago

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Azteca's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 6/10

A worthwhile walk close to Pancake Rocks, takes very little time and gives some idea of geological history of the area. Take a torch and shoes that will probably get muddy.

Reviewed almost 9 years ago

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Stephanie Wirthlin's avatar

Stephanie Wirthlin


Ranking: 7/10

Nice to go there at night, big cave where you can see glowworms and swing on a 'tarzan string'. Bring your headlight.

Reviewed about 10 years ago and experienced in February 2012

John Mathers's avatar

John Mathers

United Kingdom

Ranking: 5/10

Unexpected large cavern to be explored. Not big enough to be commercially exploited, thank goodness, but big enough to be interesting. Take a torch

Reviewed about 12 years ago