Which Glow Worm Caves to Visit in New Zealand
There are many places in New Zealand where you’ll questions whether you are still on Planet Earth. The New Zealand glow worm caves are certainly among some of those places! Seeing shimmering blue lights on a cave ceiling lighting up ancient stalactites is bound to take your breath away. There are several places around the county to get this experience from the tip of the North Island all the way to the bottom of the South Island.
While glow worm caves are an obvious go-to for seeing the famous glow worms, glow worms also live in other habitats like deep dark forests. Check out some of the forest walking trails where you can see glow worms in our guide on Where to See Glow Worms in New Zealand.
North Island or South Island?
Which island is the best for seeing glow worms? Here’s a quick list of glow worm caves on the North Island and South Island.
Glow Worm Caves on the North Island
- Abbey Caves, Whangarei
- Waipu Caves, Waipu
- Kawiti Caves, Paihia
- Waitomo Caves, Waikato
- Okupata Caves, Tongariro
Glow Worm Caves on the South Island
- Nile River Caves, Paparoa
- Te Anau Caves, Te Anau
- Clifden Caves, Tuatapere
For more North Island and South Island comparisons, see our Should You Travel the North Island or South Island?
Glow Worm Caves in Northland
New Zealand’s northernmost region is one of the best places to find glow worm caves in New Zealand. Not only does it have vast glowing displays in commercial caves, but there’s also a whole lot of free caves to explore too! Here are our top picks for glow worm caves in Northland:
Being only 13km (8 miles) inland off State Highway 1, Waipu Caves is a must-stop for any Northland road trip. However, be aware that the road to Waipu Caves is mostly gravel. Once you arrive, you’ll find a large cave with shallow water at the bottom to explore. Jandals and a torchlight are advised, but you won’t need to venture too far into the caves to stars seeing small clusters of glow worms on the ceiling.
Whangarei is the main hub of the Northland region. Not only that, but some free glow worm caves are only 4km (2 miles) out of the city centre! Walk down the Abbey Caves Track through farmers’ fields filled with unusual rock formations until you reach the main attraction! There are three caves, Organ Cave, the Middle Cave and the Ivy Cave, all with their own displays of glow worms.
The most impressive displays of glow worms in Northland has to be at the Kawiti Caves. Just 20km (12 miles) south of the popular Paihia and the Bay of Islands, Kawiti Cave tours are a mix of cultural and glow worm experiences.
Check out more things to do in Northland in our Northland – Guide for Backpackers.
Glow Worm Caves in Waitomo
The most popular place to see glow worm caves in New Zealand is in Waitomo, a small farming district in the Waikato region of the North Island. Above ground, Waitomo is awash with rolling green hills. Underground, there’s a vast network of limestone caves filled with glow worms. There are many ways to experience the glow worms in Waitomo – just take a look at 6 Ways to Take On the Waitomo Caves.
For more specific Waitomo glow worm caves to check out, here are your options:
One option is a walking cave tour highlighting some mind-blowing limestone features along with tunnels filled with glow worms. Alternatively, take the caving and tubing tours through the Ruakuri Cave network for an adventure-filled way to see the glow worms. Find out more about the Ruakuri Cave on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Another walking cave tour option in Waitomo is the Aranui Cave. Although a few glow worm sightings are likely on this tour, there’s more of a focus on the impressive limestone features and other wildlife like cave weta. Find out more about the Aranui Cave on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Cathedral Cave (Waitomo Glowworm Caves)
Arguably the largest display of glow worms in the country, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour focuses mainly on the glow worms, where you’ll see their sticky lines close-up before embarking on a boat to float underneath what can only be described as a galaxy of glow worms. Find out more about Cathedral Cave on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Te Ana o te Atua Cave
This cave holds amazing displays of glow worms and limestone features and can be accessed on a half-day walking and boat tour. There’s a lot packed into this tour, including several awe-inspiring displays of glow worms!
St Benedicts Caverns
Abseil, zipline, climb, tube and do all sorts of crazy nonsense as you make your way through these beautiful caves. Be amazed by the jaw-dropping caverns and, of course, more glow worms than you can shake a stick at! Check out more things to do in Waitomo in the 10 Waitomo Must-Dos.
Glow Worm Caves in Tongariro
The Central North Island national park is more known for its grand volcanoes than its glow worm caves. Nevertheless, there is one free public cave to check out for the more adventurous explorer!
About 25km (15.5 miles) from National Park Village and in the Tongariro Forest Park lies the Okupata Caves. You’ll find small clusters of glow worms throughout the cave. This is a large network of unmarked caves so only go in with someone who knows the area or don’t venture too far into the cave in case you get lost. Additionally, don’t enter the caves during or after rainfall in case of flash flooding. One more thing, the gravel road to get to the caves is poorly maintained so a 4×4 is recommended.
Learn more about the Tongariro area in 10 Tongariro National Park Must-Dos.
Glow Worm Caves on the West Coast
On the South Island, the West Coast is famous for its glaciers and rainforests. However, hidden in the Paparoa National Park is a series of caves filled with, you guessed it, heaps of glow worms!
Nile River Caves
Join a walking or caving tour through the impressive Nile River Canyon to a network of caves. Access to the caves is an adventure in itself with a train ride deep into the wilderness. Either walk on dry tour options or get stuck in with wet tour options involving caving and tubing.
Check out more things to do on the West Coast at 10 West Coast Must-Dos.
Glow Worm Caves in Southland
The best place to check out glow worm caves in the South Island is in the southernmost region, Southland. You’ll find a mix of walking cave tours and free caves to explore.
Te Anau Glow Worm Caves
Embark on a journey across Lake Te Anau to some glow worm caves. As well as seeing waterfalls and young limestone features, you’ll enjoy a boat ride inside the cave underneath amazing displays of glow worms. This Te Anau Glowworm Caves tour is accessible from Te Anau town. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
If you’re not afraid to get off the beaten track, Clifden Caves provides an amazing adventure through a marked cave network. You’ll have close encounters with glow worms along the way, as well as seeing various caverns with limestone features. Do not enter the cave during or after rainfall in case of flash flooding. The Clifden Caves are around 16km from Tuatapere.
See more awesome things to do in Southland using our Southland destination category.