Waipu Caves Track

Track category

Walking track


1.5 hr return


2 km one way


A tramper passes by a cave entrance.
A tramper passes by a cave entrance

It is recommended that you walk this track starting at the Whangarei District Council reserve by the caves entrance, off Waipu Caves Road. There is a large flat parking area suitable for picnics and a Whangarei District Council administered public toilet at the entrance.

Note: the entrance to the caves is also at the Waipu Caves Road end, within the Council reserve.

Look across the large flat parking area for the orange post, which indicates the start of the track. Cross the large concrete culvert and start climbing your way out of the Waipu Caves valley.

The track runs through the Waipu Caves scenic reserve and in and out of open farmland with native trees dotted along the way. This area is grazed so be sure to leave all gates as you find them.

Once up on the ridgeline you will be rewarded with panoramic views right out across the Whangarei Harbour to the Heads and the Hen and Chicken islands.

You must return back the same way.

Getting there

The Waipu Caves track is located off State Highway One, south of Whangarei near Waipu. From State Highway One take Shoemaker road, then Waipu Caves road. The track is sign posted from the Whangarei District Council Waipu Caves reserve entrance.


Bird and wildlife watching Bird and wildlife watching
Caving Caving
Climbing Climbing
Guided activities Guided activities

Guided walks and caving excursions are available through various tourism operators.

Scottish history and superb surfing characterise the little town of Waipu and its nearby beach, Waipu Cove. You can discover more about Waipu’s history at the Waipu Museum.

An estuary near the mouth of the Waipu River is good for bird-watching, with many waders including the NZ dotterel, oyster catchers and fairy terns.

Other activities include abseiling, climbing, and dolphin and whale-watching.

About the area

Karst formations at Waipu Caves Walk.
Karst formations at Waipu Caves Walk

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. 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.

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

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.

Plan and prepare


The caves are wet and slippery inside. The inner cave area is suitable for experienced cavers only. A torch and suitable footwear are necessary.

Sinkholes are a common feature of karst landscapes. Please stay on the track and closely supervise small children.

Although classed as a Walking Track, the track is not always well formed. It is suitable for people of most ages and fitness levels.

Help stop kauri dieback

Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it.

  • Stay on the track and off kauri roots.
  • Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forests.

Visit the kauri dieback website for more information on how you can help.



Find out more


DOC maps: Discover the outdoors - DOC's key places, campsites, tracks and huts, and visitor centres on a map

Learn more

Check, Clean, Dry between waterways and stop the spread of didymo.

Kauri dieback disease is attacking kauri trees in Northland. Stop it spreading.


Total fire ban

There is a total fire ban within the Kaipara and Whangarei Districts, effective from 1 February 2015 until further notice.

Follow the Outdoor Safety Code

1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for Northland places


Whangarei Office
Phone:      +64 9 470 3300
Email:   whangarei@doc.govt.nz
Full office details

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