Whatipu Caves

Whatipu Caves

Whatipu Caves are a selection of caves at the south-western most point of the Waitakere Ranges.  Regardless of the weather the caves are a great spot to camp out at for the night.  The short 15-minute walk can be done as a hop, skip and a jump from the car park allowing you to carry that shopping bag full of delicious, wholesome food into the cave for the night.  Even if the weather is pelting down with rain, bag all your gear and make a quick run for the caves.  Further on from the largest cave described in this post is the official Whatipu Caves Campground where there is a long drop toilet, space to camp out in the open, and another cave tucked away.  If you’re not quite as adventurous there is a campsite right at Whatipu that is often used for camping by families over the summer months.


15 min


0.85 km





Deb resting up on an air mattress lugged in over the during section two of the Hillary Trail

37°02′24″S 174°29′57″E

In Detail

Depending on the temperature, humidity, and weather conditions you might come across hordes of sandflies and mosquitos that inhibit the caves.  A clever way to keep the critters away is by lighting citronella candles and lathering on a good amount of insect repellent on your exposed parts of your body.  Whatipu caves is extremely large with incredible size & depth of the caves.  You can easily fit a group of 100 people within the cave without any issues, the caves are seriously big.  If you’re staying anywhere near the caves or at the caves, ensure that you carry in water with you for cooking, drinking and any other necessary needs.  The closest spot to collect water will be back at the carpark’s campground.  Note that almost everything that you end up taking with you will at some stage get covered in sand.

Looking out from the entrance of the largest of the Whatipu Caves towards the sky on a clear night with Adil David

Getting to Whatipu

To reach Whatipu take State Highway 20 until you reach the Hillsborough Road turnoff then follow Route 15, turning on to Route 24 when you reach Titirangi Road.  At the Titirangi roundabout take the first exit onto Huia Road, following this until it ends and makes a hard right onto Whatipu Road. This is a gravel road to follow until you reach Whatipu.  Continue to the road’s end, identified by the beginning of a gentle descent towards Whatipu and the campground/lodge.

Whatipu Caves Route

The walk into Whatipu Caves is less than a quarter of an hour and follows a mixed path through to the caves. It begins from the Whatipu Car Park and follows along a now gravelled pathway to a bridge across a small stream that leads out to the sea. Cross the bridges and follow the trail through a small section of bush.  Here on the vegetation can be overgrown and the track is much more of a goat track but following your sense it won’t take you long to find your way to the caves.  The largest of caves is the second cave down the trial.  You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the caves even under the shining stars if you keep relatively close to the cliff side.
GPX file download for Whatipu Caves

Waitakere Ranges Weather

Weather in the Waitakere Ranges and Auckland is often variable throughout the day. Rain and wind can be expected in the winter months, but also commonly found are blue skies and a wicked sunset.  If you’re walking take a showerproof raincoat along with you and some water –- it never hurts to stay prepared. As far as bush walks go, however, this is a short one and you’d be hard-pressed to get lost even if the entire place was covered in fog.  Visiting the Whatipu Caves is an adventure that’ possible regardless of all weather conditions.

Whatipu Caves

We stayed the night in the largest of the caves at Whatipu.  Along the trail there are at least 2 other caves that you can visit along the way.  Each of them smaller than the one shown in the photo.  The furthest of the caves is large enough that you could sleep in it, although other caves are much smaller and would not be nearly as enjoyable to spend the night in.  From talking with a friend, the caves apparently do go relatively deep before closing.  Depending on your size, skill level and confidence there is certainly the opportunity to follow the caves deeper into the caves and explore.  From the caves there are few walking tracks that you can explore

Top: All the boys on the clean-up process after a lovely nights sleep in the cave
Bottom: While Jordy Anderson looks on the boys discuss how to clean up from our time at Whatipu Caves

Whatipu Caves Track

The trail too and from the car park has plenty of variety of a short 15 min walk to reach some caves.  Leaving the cave and working back towards the car park you’ll follow a narrow track through long grass along sandy marshland for the first (or last) section of track.  Before long you’ll re-enter the bush for a tiny climb and descent where the Gibbons Track begins.  This track forms section three of the Hillary Trail which is now unfortunately closed due to dieback.  You can check which trails are open and which are not on the Auckland Council kauri dieback map

Anti-clockwise from Top
Jacko looking out towards Whatipu beach after points out some of the sights along the track
One of the early signs along the trail into Whatipu Caves
The trail as you exit the bush and continue along the trail toward the caves
Jordy followed by Jacko, Jono and Isaac making their way back to the car park at Whatipu

Beyond the car park the track easily connects with the Omanawanui Track.  The track has incredible views out over Whatipu, the valley and out over the ocean and Manukau Harbour.  You’ll also find information boards close to the car park with directions and plenty of information about the biodiversity in the area along with activities and sights to see whilst you are in and around Whatipu.

Top: The once grassy lane that leads alongside the Whatipu Campsite that once was a bog, now transformed into a gravel pathway
Bottom: Jacko, Jono, Jordy and Isaac (L to R) walking across the wooden vehicle bridge back to the carpark

Whatipu Caves Crew

On three separate occasions I’ve stayed at Whatipu Caves, with each time being a unique experience.  The first time being on a Friday night with a good crew from the Upper Room where we had a wild night with the acoustic guitar being played from Caiomhe nachos and smoking out the entire cave.  Other trips have included a trip to the cave after hiking the Omanawanui Track with Adil and later hiking the entire Hillary trail with Deb. Many memories shared and gratefulness for the shelter provided by the Whatipu Caves.

Caimohe, Isaac, Jim, Jono, Jacko & Jordy (From L to R)