Waipu Caves: Amazing Glow Worm Caves – Practical Information

Waipu Caves are beautiful caves located in New Zealand’s North Island. It is the largest cave system in Northland. Waipu Caves create picturesque limestone karst area where you can find stalactites, stalagmites, and most importantly glow worms! There is no entry fee and you are free to visit Waipu Caves at any day or night time.

What are glow worms?

New Zealand is the only country in the world, where we can witness an awesome natural phenomenon called the glow worms. Glow worms (Arachnocamp Luminosa) are a special kind of bioluminescent insect which lives only in New Zealand’s Caves. Adults are similar to mosquitoes.

Why do they glow?

The larva spins a nest out of silk and hangs down with small sticky droplets. They glow to attract prey into these threads. The more hungry they are, the more they shine.

Waipu Caves Glow Worms
Glow worms are just totally magical.

Waipu Caves

Waipu caves are a truly magical place. You can see there literary a glow-worm Galaxy! Waipu Caves are spacier compared to the Abbey Caves and you should also count that you will get a little wet.

  • No entry fee to Waipu Caves
  • Time needed: Count at least 0,5 – 1 hour, of course, you might spend more time here.
  • Expect to get your shoes wet and muddy.
  • Bring a torch or headlamp.

Caving track description

Waipu Caves entrance is just across a meadow from the parking area. When you reach a borderline of the forest you will see a stream and cave entrance. During the night there is a lot of glow worms already in the first chamber.

There is deeper water if you turn right at the beginning and the cave also ends soon. If you want to continue and go deeper – go left. The best place to watch glowworms is right before the beginning of the lower ceiling tunnel.

To have the best experience, stop and turn your lights off. It is simply a fairytale experience!

If you continue to the 3rd chamber, the water is deeper (above knees) and there aren’t much more glow worms than in the 2nd chamber.

It's like watching the sky with millions of stars. Waipu Caves, New Zealand.
It’s like watching the sky with millions of stars.

How to dress for caving?

Prepare to get wet and muddy! The cave is also slippery so it is better to have good shoes. Tracking or hiking shoes are a good choice if you don’t mind getting them wet. Gumboots or even sandals can be an alternative if you don’t want to have your hiking boots wet.

How deep is the water? It depends how far in the cave you go. You are going to have your feet wet 100 % (unless you have gumboots) and if you continue further than to 2nd chamber, water will be above your knees.

Facilities at Waipu Caves

There is a cold shower at the parking lot, right next to the toilet, so you can remove the mud from your shoes after caving. There is no cell phone coverage but you can purchase access to Wi-Fi if necessary.

Glowworms illuminating Waipu Caves.
Glowworms illuminating Waipu Caves.

How to photograph glow worms at Waipu caves?

As you need to shoot long exposure pictures, a tripod is a must. Settings depend on your camera (the newest camera can go much higher with ISO compared to older ones). General rules are having F-number as low as possible, ISO as high as you can without having the photo grainy and shutter speed: longer – better. You will probably need at least 2-minute exposure.

Example of settings of our Nikon D5100 at Waipu Caves:

  • ISO: 1 200 – 2 500
  • Shutter speed: 5 min.
  • F-number: 1.8

Photo TIP: If you plan to take a long exposure shot of the cave and glowworms, come to camp in the evening and plan your visit in the next day early morning. Otherwise, you will be distracted by other visitor’s lights. You need ideally 5 minutes exposure for nice pictures and it’s quite difficult to have these 5 minutes of darkness during the day because it is quite busy there (even at 11 pm).

Glow worms close-up
Glowworms close-up

Camping at Waipu Caves

There is a freedom campsite right at the Waipu caves car park – only 50 meters from the cave entrance. There are toilets and an outdoor cold shower. Unfortunately, there is no cell phone coverage, but you can purchase Wi-Fi access if necessary.

Accommodation at Waipu Cove

Waipu Cove Resort is a lovely place by the beach. The resort has also a hot tub and heated outdoor pool.

A cheaper option is a nice coastal accommodation Camp Waipu Cove.

Glow Worms

Getting to Waipu Caves + Map

The Waipu Caves are located off State Highway One, on Waipu Caves Road. Last few kilometers is a gravel road. Take either Shoemaker Road (from Waipu) or Springfield Road if you are coming from the north.

Where to go next?

Are you planning your trip around the Northland? We have prepared a complete guide including the map with the best places to see. Read more: Northland: 35 Best Places to Visit + Free Things To Do

Watch this awesome Glow Worm 360° video from National Geographic:

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Waipu Caves

FAQ – frequently asked questions:

What are glow worms?

New Zealand is the only country in the world, where we can witness an awesome natural phenomenon called the glow worms. Glow worms (Arachnocamp Luminosa) are a special kind of bioluminescent insect which lives only in New Zealand’s Caves. Adults are similar to mosquitoes.

Why do they glow?
The larva spins a nest out of silk and hangs down with small sticky droplets. They glow to attract prey into these threads. The more hungry they are, the more they shine.

What facilities are at Waipu Caves?

There is a cold shower at the parking lot, right next to the toilet, so you can remove the mud from your shoes after caving. There is no cell phone coverage but you can purchase access to Wi-Fi if necessary.

Is there are Campsite at Waipu Caves?

There is a freedom campsite right at the Waipu caves car park – only 50 meters from the cave entrance. There are toilets and an outdoor cold shower. Unfortunately, there is no cell phone coverage, but you can purchase Wi-Fi access if necessary.

How to photograph glow worms at Waipu caves?

As you need to shoot long exposure pictures, a tripod is a must. Settings depend on your camera (the newest camera can go much higher with ISO compared to older ones). General rules are having F-number as low as possible, ISO as high as you can without having the photo grainy and shutter speed: longer – better. You will probably need at least 2-minute exposure. Read here more about how to photograph Glow Worms.

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Adriana a Matěj - Czech the World - travel blog

Adriana & Matěj

Travelers, sport enthusiasts and photographers behind this blog. Creating high-quality and informative guides for your travels. Read more about us here.

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