Off the Beaten Track to... Waipu Caves
If you like 'undeveloped, unguided and absolutely free' the Waipu Caves south of Whangarei (Northland) on the North Island are definitely worth a visit. The Waipu Caves area features a karst/limestone landscape and weathered rocks and is characterised by depressions, sinkholes, caves and underground drainage. Karst landscapes are significant in Māori culture and are enshrined in tikanga and kawa (sacred customs and ceremonies). Karst areas are also important sites for geological, geomorphological, palaeontological and climatological studies.
The Waipu Caves are considered important for geomorphology, because they include the largest cave passage in Northland. Bones of bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles may be found along with the remains of fossil invertebrates. The cave entry is wide and ground can be muddy. Stalactites hang from the ceiling and to the left of the entrance is an enormous stalagmite. Even with torches, it is recommended that you pause inside the cave’s entrance for a few minutes to allow your eyes to adjust.
There are no tracks or paths in the cave and wading through water and clambering over mud banks may be necessary. There is a cold shower outside the cave that you can use to clean up afterwards. In places, it will be narrow and tight. The cave is in three sections with the third chamber being the best for viewing the ‘galaxy’ of glowworms.
Find out more from DoC on the Waipu Caves.
How to Get There
Follow the signs from State Highway One by Uretiti Beach, about 25 minutes south of Whangarei, or five minutes north of Waipu. Parking is available at the caves. The track is located south of Whangarei, off State Highway 1.
A Note About Cave Safety
- The caves can fill with water quickly. Before entering, always check the previous week’s rainfall
- Avoid caving alone
- Make sure all of your equipment is reliable and in good condition. Ensure batteries for gear are working and take spares
- Take all valuables with you or leave them well secured
- Caving requires a moderate level of fitness
- Sinkholes are a common feature of karst landscapes. Please stay on the track and closely supervise small children.
Things to Do in the Area
- Caving, exploring and looking at glowworms
- Climbing and guided activities (e.g. guided cave exploration)
- Scottish history and superb surfing characterise the little town of Waipu and its nearby beach, Waipu Cove
- Discover more about Waipu’s history at the Waipu Museum
- Birdwatching near the mouth of the Waipu River (NZ dotterel, oyster catchers, fairy terns)
- Other activities include abseiling, dolphin and whale-watching.
Plan Your Whangarei Holiday
To help plan your holiday near Waipu Caves, choose from the main categories below:
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