Exploring Abbey Caves in Whangarei

Caves! Who doesn’t love a good cave? The adventure, delving into the unknown, the stalactites and (in New Zealand) the glowworms! The city of Whangarei has its very own set of caves to explore a mere 10-minute drive away. What’s more, it’s free!

A wildlife-filled start to the day!

We hit the road at lunch time and park up at the well-signposted entrance to the Abbey Caves walk situated on Abbey Caves Road. We eat some sandwiches made with not love, but budget, in mind, at the entrance to the walk while spotting a few native birds (fantails and silvereyes) and even a tiny black lizard – our first wild lizard sighting in New Zealand! Maybe we are just far more aware of lizards after our visit to Kiwi North yesterday?

Speaking of animals, we are only two seconds on the walking track to Abbey Caves when we are greeted by two ponies at the edge of their paddock. Robin ends up having to pull Laura away from the friendly ponies that she is stroking into a coma.

Hitting the Abbey Caves Track

We approach a large information board giving a rough map of the three caves found on the loop walk, as well as what to expect in the caves, how they were formed, how to be prepared for them, etc. Geared with a torch/flashlight plus the torch lights on our phones, hiking shoes, (a backpack full of cameras but that’s not important), and a sense of adventure, we march through the farmland dotted with limestone outcrops and toward the caves.

Obligatory pre-caving pony petting session Obligatory pre-caving pony petting session
Crazy limestone formations lead the way to Abbey Caves Crazy limestone formations lead the way to Abbey Caves
Even making your way to the cave is an adventure Even making your way to the cave is an adventure
Who is this mysterious stranger? Who is this mysterious stranger?

Cave #1: The Organ Cave

The walkway is very well sign-posted so we don’t end up grazing with the sheep, as are the caves themselves. The first one we approach is the Organ Cave. As soon as we pass through the gate with the signpost, we turn left and clamber into the cave. (We say this is such specificity because we do later bump into a couple of German girls who completely miss this cave).

Under the shelter of the forest and rocky limestone bluffs, it feels like we have instantly been transported into another world. We step over winding tree roots that have wrapped around rocks also covered in tiny ferns until we get to the harder stuff. Rocks get larger, steeper and covered in moisture as we delve into the cave so we gingerly make our way down until we reach the bottom. An ankle to knee-deep stream passes through the bottom of the cave. We only go as far as the stepping stone will let us go with our shoes on, but already we are spotting the odd glowworms shining its blue light on the ceiling. A few small stalactites hang from the ceiling too. After we are satisfied with our exploration of the Organ Cave, we simply move onto the next one.

It’ dark in here.

Cave #2: The Middle cave (Our favourite)

It’s only about a 5-minute walk through stunning forest and farmland covered in unusual rocky outcrops until we arrive at the aptly named “Middle Cave”. Again, we climb down rocks until we reach the bottom with a much calmer stream than the previous cave. Although the water is amazingly clear, the stillness of it reflects the beautiful rock formations that have been carved by water over the years. This cave is so beautiful, we can’t resist the temptation to take off our shoes and go for a little mission. The deeper into the cave we go, the more defined and undisturbed stalactites hang from the ceiling. Clusters of glowworms decorate the ceiling like fairy lights at Christmas. Our breath is taken away by it all.

Now, word on the street is that you can actually go through this entire cave and emerge at the other end, but with our bag of cameras and tripods, we decide to not scrape our way through these delicate caves and just enjoy what’s we’ve got.

Glowworms! Glowworms!
Clambering back out to daylight Clambering back out to daylight
Even making your way to the cave is an adventure Even making your way to the cave is an adventure

Cave #3: The Ivy Cave

We have one more cave to check out – this one having the most stunning entrance of all the caves. We have to scramble through a rocky river bed where limestone rocks have fallen into each other, then moss, trees and other vegetation have took over once again, growing over and around the rocks. After doing the steepest climb into a cave that we have done yet, we arrive at the bottom of a cascading stream echoing its way into the dark and unknowns depths of the cave beyond.

Again, this unusual environment provides heaps of picture opportunities, before heading back onto the walk and completing the loop track. We pass through more lush green farmland, again, dotted with limestone outcrops carved into all kinds of shapes. They look extremely climbable themselves! The sound of birds egg us on until the end of the walk where the loop conveniently returns us to the car.

Bunkdown then drinks in the Town Basin

From here, we drive back to our accommodation, the Bunkdown Lodge, before heading out for a drink this evening in the Town Basin. The waterfront with its lights shining onto the masts of rows and rows of sailing boats is pretty spectacular sight to go with our drinks. It’s a relaxing way to end the evening after scrambling in caves all day!

Join us tomorrow for more free activities in Whangarei, including Whangarei Falls and Botanica! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

It's even a mission to get to the cave entrance!
It's even a mission to get to the cave entrance! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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  1. The pictures are seriously great! bravo!

    Comment avatar DannyEre
    06/06/2017 at 8:19 pm
  2. I only saw 2 caves when I went there :((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((

    Comment avatar olivier
    07/06/2017 at 5:30 pm
  3. I remember doing it a few months ago and almost missing the 1st cave! It’s well hidden

    Comment avatar ice rob
    07/06/2017 at 5:47 pm
  4. Added to my Todo!

    Comment avatar Lys
    07/06/2017 at 5:57 pm
  5. Thx for that, I was struggling to find fun things to do in Whangarei…

    Comment avatar Ava
    07/06/2017 at 6:12 pm
  6. Haha, nope! not for me…

    Comment avatar eva z
    07/06/2017 at 6:15 pm
  7. Is there more than those 3 caves to explorer there!? I’ve heard from other backpackers that there was a few more.

    Comment avatar Eli
    07/06/2017 at 6:30 pm
  8. The second cave is a walk-through one, you can pass all the way to the other side But not after a rainy day! And take lights!

    Comment avatar USA-Mike
    07/06/2017 at 7:54 pm
  9. Thanks for all the tips! I read your adventures almost daily!!!

    Comment avatar Mepa Hoh
    07/06/2017 at 8:11 pm
  10. Another tip when going to Abbey Caves is… If you have Car keys that have a remote etc put your keys into a zip lock bag before placing into your pocket or bag…If you get wet at least your vehicle will still start. I have been an Ambassador there and this was a tip I used to give Cavers. Enjoy our beautiful scenery and be safe.

    Comment avatar Dianne
    07/07/2018 at 10:14 am
  11. wow so much help i needed things to do in Whangarei 🙂

    Comment avatar jeff
    20/05/2019 at 12:44 pm
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