Waipu Caves Walk

Alert/Important notice

Track entrance/exit at Ormiston Road closed

From December 2013, the Ormiston Road end of the Waipu Caves track will be permanently closed.

The walking track can only be accessed from the southern Waipu Caves road entrance.

The track now starts from the Waipu Caves road end and follows the existing alignment through to the northern edge of the DOC Reserve, where it meets open pasture. From there you must return back to Waipu Caves road the same way.

Track category

Walking track


1 hr each way


2 km


A tramper passes by a cave entrance at Waipu Caves Walk.
A tramper passes by a cave entrance
at Waipu Caves Walk

From the Ormiston Road end, the track leads you across farmland up a steep ridge. The undulating farmland is dotted with native trees, and the open aspect affords excellent panoramic views of McKenzies of Limestone Hill Scenic Reserve in the foreground, and the Whangarei Heads and Harbour and Hen and Chicken Islands in the background. Once you crossed the fourth stile, the walkway enters Waipu Caves Road Scenic Reserve on the old logging road.

The track leaves the Reserve over another stile and drops down through farmland into the Waipu Caves Valley. Towards the bottom of the hill the farm road can get quite muddy as it zigzags down and crosses an unbridged stream at the bottom. A large flat grassy area is ideal for picnics, and brings you to the Caves Road entrance.

The limestone caves are very impressive with ample headroom in the main cavern. You find fine examples of stalactites (the ones that hang from the roof), stalagmites and glow worms near the entrance. 

View a track location map 

10,000 Steps Northland

This track equates to approximately 2,666 steps.

Getting there

The track is located south of Whangarei, off State Highway 1. The walkway runs from a Whangarei District Council administered reserve at the entrance to the Waipu Caves on Waipu Caves Road, through a scenic reserve to Ormiston Road. It can be walked in either direction.

Northern walkway entrance – turn off SH 1 into Springfield Road, approximately 12 km south of Whangarei (just before the petrol station). About 10 km from the turnoff, there are car parks and signs on Ormiston Road and Waipu Caves Road indicating the walkway entrances.

From the southern (Waipu) end, take Shoemaker Road, then Waipu Caves or Ormiston Road, depending on the preferred entrance point.


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.

Track location map

Map of Waipu Caves Walk.


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. Find out how to stop it spreading.


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


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

Give feedback on a recent visit to a DOC place