Ngarua Caves

Useful Information

Location: Near Motueka, on Takaka Hill, near Takaka Hill Pass (800 m).
Open: All year daily 10-16, tours on the hour.
Fee: Adults NZD 15, Children (5-15) NZD 5, Children (0-4) free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave marble.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=45 min.
Bibliography: T. H. Worthy, R.N. Holdaway (1994): Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in Takaka Valley and on Takaka Hill, northwest Nelson, South Island, New Zealand, Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 24, Number 3, September 1994, pp 297-392. Worldonline
Address: Janet Morgan, 92 Martin Farm Road R.D.2, Kaiteriteri, Motueka, Tel: +64-3-528-8093, Mobile: +64-272-682115. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1884 discovered.
1970 developed by Hickmott Bros.


Ngarua Cave was discovered by bushmen clearing the hillside of scrub, after a bushfire had destroyed the surrounding bush. The early settlers visited the cave by horse coach. As visitors destroyed and removed stalactites and wrote their names on the formations, the cave was locked up for several years. The latest development of the cave is a second entrance, allowing one way tours through the cave.

In the cave several remains of the famous birds of New Zealand were found. A complete skeleton of a Moa is on display.

As people tend to touch speleothems, no matter if the guide tells them not to do so, there is a so called touch zone. This is a small part of a limestone formations, where visitors are allowed to touch. We find thats a very good idea, for people obviously have to touch things to grasp them. This way the damage for the fragile speleothems is at least restricted to a single spot. And the stain of the place also tells what happens when people touch stalagmites.

This area of Takaka Hill is also called Marble Mountain. The rock is marble, which is metamorphic limestone, altered by heat and pressure. The chemistry is still the same: CaCO3. But the limestone recrystallised which changed its grain and colour. The rock is about 450 Million years old. The marble is quarried near Ngarua Cave and was used to build several buildings in New Zealand: Parliament Buldings, the Beehive in Wellington and the Nelson Cathedral.

Takaka Hill was used as a setting of the movie The Lord of the Rings. The characteristic marble karst is the location for Chetwood Forest.