Planning on visiting Waipu? What better way to begin a New Year than to experience the sights and sounds of the traditional Waipu Highland Games with clans, kilts and cabers, pipe bands and bagpipes, sports, stalls and Scottish dancing! Each New Year’s Day Waipu celebrates its Scottish and Nova Scotian heritage, as it has done for almost 150 years, by holding the games, now one of Northland’s most iconic events, with a range of activities for all ages. This year, we decided instead to rock up to another event that’s quickly gaining popularity – Waipu’s Art ‘n Tartan wearable arts show. The show is held in July, and we took the opportunity to look at what else was on offer during that weekend.

Ravioli Rose by Alarnya Ashby. (photo Peter Grant)

For years we’d driven past a couple of ‘Waipu Caves’ signposts on State Highway 1 near Waipu, always meaning to stop but never quite making it. So that weekend we drove 12km up a side road to the caves. While the well-signposted road is sealed for most of the way, the last few kilometres are narrow, winding and gravel-surfaced. Cross the paddock from a decent-sized carpark complete with basic port-a-loo toilets, walk about two minutes along a dirt track and you’re there! Entering the cave requires a bit of a stoop, but it opens to a roomy cavern where it’s easy to see many stalactites and several stalagmites, including one that is said to be 8ft high and 6ft in diameter. The caves are in three sections, the third one containing ‘a galaxy’ of glow worms, but that section is recommended for experienced cavers only. Being winter, with a fair bit of water about and the recent Thai cave rescue incident firmly in mind, we didn’t even consider going that far, but the first cave is pretty impressive, easy to access and completely free of charge. We walked most of the adjacent 2km track, but it was slippery underfoot and we turned back near the top. It would be better to walk the track in summer, or even in spring when the native epiphyte orchids are in flower. It’s an area that’s well worth a visit though.

Bush walk near the caves

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