Abbey Caves

Photo of a limestone rock outcrop at Abbey Caves.

Abbey Caves Rāhui (restriction of access)

The Abbey Caves Reserve features dramatic limestone outcrops, sink holes and three significant caves: Organ, Middle and Ivy. 

A well-established native forest includes particularly fine specimens of puriri trees.

There is a toilet block at the entrance to the reserve. 


Lay-by and roadside parking area is available on Abbey Caves Road. 

What to expect

  • Prone to flash flooding – check weather forecast
  • Grass paths may be muddy and slippery after rain
  • Steep stile and steps at the entrance
  • Large rocks to be negotiated in places
  • Wear appropriate footwear and take torches
  • Seasonal grazing by livestock
  • Electric fencing (marked)

Abbey Caves walkway

Grade:        3
Time:          40 minutes
Distance:   1162 metres 

Access is over a steep wooden stile and down a series of box steps onto a circular walkway of mown grass. The three caves are signposted and lie just off this walkway.

Only experienced cavers should enter the underground caves, as there are risks from rapidly rising water and roof falls. The Organ Cave entrance is dangerous due to a roof fall.

The walkway comprises of naturally sculptured limestone outcrops, sink holes and three significant caves, Organ, Middle and Ivy. 

Along the walkway, you will see two distinct areas of native bush, podocarp-hardwood forest, specimens of puriri trees, and site of the historic house of Nathaniel and Amelia Clotworthy.

Hazards on-site

Please be aware of the following hazards and risks on-site:

  • Changing water levels – water levels can rise from rain, be fast flowing or be very shallow in dry conditions or aerated with reduced buoyancy.
  • Slippery conditions – the damp nature of the caves creates a very slippery environment.
  • Getting assistance – the caves have limited access and often involve constricted space that can make emergency evacuation difficult.
  • Lack of communication – cell phones may not have reception in the cave environment.
  • Cold temperatures – cold air or water temperatures can lead to safety issues for participants.
  • Lack of natural light – lack of light can lead to falling of ledges or hitting objects. It can lead to getting disorientated and lost or separated from the group.
  • Falling objects – Falling objects are a significant hazard in caves with the potential to injure large numbers of people without warning.
  • Changes to hazards – natural events such as floods, rock fall, cave roof or formation collapse may impact on known hazards or create new hazards.
  • Protecting caves – cave environments can easily be damaged. Please protect our natural environments.
  • Exposure to edges and falling – the caves have high slippery ledges and falling may cause harm.
  • Rapid changes in water depth can be present and not always visible so don’t assume the depth is consistent.

Cave maps and details

Abbey Caves are completely natural, undeveloped and unguided. Entry is at your own risk.

A circular track of 1300 metres leads you to the three caves: the Organ Cave, Middle Cave and Ivy Cave. All are long and narrow with glow worms and rock formations and stalactites.

The climb down into the caves can be difficult. Once into the caves, it should be level walking but you may need to climb over slippery rocks and will need to travel through very cold water that varies in depth from ankle to thigh to waist height. You may see, and feel, tuna-eels and koura freshwater crayfish in the stream.

Diagram showing shape of three caves at Abbey Caves.

Organ cave

The entrance to the Organ Cave requires a short down climb between the cave wall and a large boulder on the right-hand side of the entrance, followed by a short descent to the cave floor. There have been rock falls at the entrance within the last few years.

The Organ Cave only has one entrance/exit so care needs to be taken and always have a contact person. Once in the cave the main passage is high and most people should be able to walk upright most of the way in this approximately 300m cave. There is a section that may have waist deep water. The walls feature stunning stripped patterns and ends in a 17ft domed cavern covered in glowworms.

There are a small number of side passages, these can become tight quite quickly and should only be attempted with the appropriate experience and equipment.

Ivy cave

The Ivy Cave is the last cave along the stream. The descent towards the cave entrance is down a stone ramp which can be slippery. It is best to keep to the left-hand side and take your time. The cave entrance itself requires you to crouch and navigate your way through. It is approximately 200m long and is made up of two main passages. The lowest is a water filled passage with a muddy floor and the water can be chest deep in places. This leads to a downstream exit that pops out in a small ravine. There is no formed track from this exit and can be quite overgrown.

To access the upper level of the cave requires a short climb up a muddy ramp from the lower passage. Care must be taken in this upper passage as there are holes in the passage floor to the passage below. Navigating this upper passage will eventually lead you to the upper dry exit. There is no formed track from this exit.

Middle cave

The Middle Cave is the simplest of the three caves to access and move through. From the sign post, follow the short track to the cave entrance. The entrance itself is wide and is relatively easy to walk down. Once inside the cave floor is flat with ankle deep water. While the Middle Cave has several entrances it is recommended to enter and exit the cave from the main entrance.


71 Abbey Caves Road, Whangārei 0175  View Map

Google Map