Tag Archives: Whangarei

Glow Worm Stars

The unmarked entrance to one of the three Abbey Caves.
The unmarked entrance to one of the three Abbey Caves.

One popular attraction in New Zealand is the glow worm caves. In Whangarei, where we were cow-sitting, there was a free, city-owned reserve with three caves (zoom the map below for the exact location). The trails leading to the caves are well marked but the caves themselves are off the beaten path and undeveloped. It’s even a bit of a challenge to find the entrances to the caves since they’re not signed and are somewhat hidden.

The hundreds of fine rock layers paint beautiful walls.
The hundreds of fine rock layers paint beautiful walls.

We climbed down into the Organ Cave over huge boulders and followed the stream of water into the belly of the cave. The interior of the cave was striped with many fine layers of limestone rock. The rich color of the layers fascinated us. As another travel author described the orange layered stone, it was like being on the inside of a Bengal tiger. Wading through the water, we came to a cavernous space which gave the cave its name. Large stalactites hung from the ceiling and walls like an old church pipe organ. When we turned off our headlamps and our eyes adjusted to the dark, we were mesmerized by the stars of pale blue bioluminescence, the glow worms twinkling above us.

Glow worm stars in the Abbey Caves.
Glow worm stars in the Abbey Caves.

Glow worms are not actually worms. They’re the larvae of a particular fly that loves damp places. The popular fire fly is its cousin.

Distinct stone outcroppings make the Abbey Caves hike interesting.
Distinct stone outcroppings make the Abbey Caves hike interesting.

The nice thing about the Abbey Caves reserve is that the trails are a nice nature walk void of any crowds. There are hammocks of native bush and large outcroppings of stone. There are rock chimney remains of the original settler’s home on the property; a pioneer family in the late 1800’s.

Or you can visit the famous Waitomo Glow Worm caves, a standard tourist attraction teeming with tour buses, entrance fees, souvenir shops and groomed trails.