The top 5 longest and deepest caves in New Zealand.


Nettlebed/Stormy Pot System

1,174m depth

Ellis Basin System

993m depth

Bulmer Cavern

755m depth

HH Cave

721m depth

Bohemia Cave

713m depth


Bulmer Cavern

74,319m length

Greenlink - Middle Earth System

43,290m length

Nettlebed - Stormy Pot System

38,252m length

Ellis Basin System

33,400m length


15,077m length



The vast majority of caves in New Zealand are formed in limestone, or in its metamorphic variety, marble. Other than this, there are sea caves in a number of areas, and some lava caves, formed in volcanic rocks as they cool, principally in and around Auckland city.

Virtually every part of New Zealand contains caves. The most important caving areas are at Waitomo, north-west Nelson, and the Buller District in north Westland.


Caves are found in both limestone and marble throughout north-west Nelson. The marble areas - Tākaka Hill, Mt Arthur, and Mt Owen - are alpine in character, with caves found up to 1700 metres above sea level. These three marble mountains contain all of New Zealand's deepest caves as well as the four longest caves - Bulmer Cavern (74 km) at Mt Owen, Stormy Pot - Nettlebed System (38 km) and Ellis Basin System (33 km) at Mt Arthur, and Greenlink system (43 km) on Tākaka Hill, as well as all of New Zealand's deep caves (over 250 metres deep).

There is an important limestone area with numerous caves, mainly easy and well-decorated, at Paturau, west of Collingwood, as well as significant areas of limestone in the Aorere, Anatoki, Tākaka, and Cobb Valleys of north-west Nelson. Tōtara Cave in the Tākaka Valley is over 10 km long.

The other major South Island area is in the Buller District of north Westland. Near Karamea are the 15 km Megamania and 13 km Honeycomb Hill caves, The latter with 70 entrances, plus New Zealand's largest limestone arches. To the west of the Paparoa Range, a band of limestone stretches from Charleston to Punakaiki, containing caves such as The Metro near Charleston, with eight kilometres of mainly large passage.

To the east of the Paparoa Range is a smaller area of limestone, with Profanity Cave at Inangahua of nearly three kilometres length.

Around Greymouth there are pockets of limestone with small caves, and one cave is recorded from Jackson Bay.

Along the east coast of the South Island there are only small cave areas; in Marlborough near Blenheim and Kaikoura; in Canterbury at Waiau, Broken River, and Pareora; and in North Otago near Palmerston.
The Dunedin coasts both north and south of Otago Peninsula hold a large number of sea caves, with the the nine longest in the world located on the coast at Waikouaiti, the longest being Matainaka Cave at 1540 metres.

In Southland there are minor caving areas at Clifden, Monowai, and in the Stuart Mountains. In Fiordland there are some significant caves around Te Anau (Aurora Cave, 6 km), in the Murchison mountains, and at Doubtful Sound .


In Northland, there is a small limestone block containing some popular caves at Waipu. Beneath Auckland City and environs are many basalt lava caves, formed as the cooling lava flowed from the volcano.

The region around Waitomo, extending southward to north Taranaki and to Te Anga near the coast, contains most of the North Island's best-known caves, including the longest, Gardner's Gut, which is 12 km long. Other major caves are the stream caves of Mangapu and Mangawhitikau, and the Waitomo Headwaters System.

To the south towards Awakino, the limestone block becomes narrower. Popular areas in north Taranaki include Puketiti, Matawhero, and Mahoenui, containing several caves more than four kilometres long.

On the East Cape is the Whakapunake area, containing the Te Reinga Cave, and the Mangaone Valley with the Mangaone Cave. To the south, between Coonoor and Makuri in the northern Wairarapa, there are numerous small caves.

Other small North Island caving areas include Pohangina (north of Palmerston North), Taihape, Martinborough, and Mauriceville.





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