Three Wild Limestone Caves
NZ Gps: 35° 42' 30.4992" S 174° 21' 15.6276" E
This series of three separate caves, set amongst a neat limestone boulder garden, are one of the unheralded adventures that make this island so special. Except for locals and backpackers headed to the acclaimed “Little Earth Lodge” (which neighbors the caves), few people on the North Island seem to know about these caves. If you’re not very adventurous, then these caves will do little for you…you’ll just go in a bit and see a few glowworms and not much else…then hurry to Paihia. But for people who like to explore, oh man, these caves are a wonder of both exploration and beauty.
I really can’t say enough about Organ cave’s singular beauty…but let me try: striated limestone, faulted, upturned, and chiseled by stream flow into corkscrewing passages adorned with captivating dripstone formations. Way different than Waipu Cave, Organ Cave is like being in the bowels of a Bengal tiger—go see, the orange striping will amaze you! The stream that flows through all three caves is generally ankle deep, but often crotch-deep for short lengths. These caves make a half-day adventure if you like caving. If you don’t like caving too much, the limestone boulders and cave entrances are still pretty cool for an hour’s walk.
From the carpark next to Little Earth Lodge the first cave is ten minutes down the hill. The track makes a loop after visiting all three caves and meets back up at the “carpark/caves” sign.
Organ cave. Descend into the mouth then navigate upstream in the knee-deep streambed. Tour sculptured and colored swizzling tunnels, small waterfalls, and dripstone delights. This cave goes on and on…keep going…you could spend an hour in here.
Middle Cave. The easiest and shortest adventure…try this one first if you’re not sure you like caves.
Ivy Cave. Head downstream into twisting passageways in this highvaulted cave. The water can be deep, but keep going. Look for a rightside gully that heads up a mud slope to an archway. This gully will loop you out of the cave, but only after it takes you through the secret “signature room” where 1800s pioneers left their marks—whoa!