Harwood (or Harwood’s) Hole is a cave system located in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. It is one of several important cave systems in Takaka Hill, between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay. Starting at the surface as a 50 metre round entrance and descending 183 metres, Harwood Hole is New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft. Further in it connects with Starlight Cave. The long rope descent is considered one of the most spectacular parts of the caving experience at Harwood’s. Harwood’s Hole has an overall depth of 357 m.
Henry Harwood (1844–1927), with John Horton and Thomas Manson, opened up the Canaan Downs area and discovered Harwoods Hole, though it was not immediately entered. It remained untouched until cavers winched down in 1958. Upon completion of exploration in 1959, Harwood Hole became the deepest explored cave in New Zealand, a record that stood for many years.
Harwoods Hole Track
Harwoods Hole is at the end of the track. Children need to be supervised; the hole is a very dangerous place, extreme care required.
Only experienced cavers should enter the hole and they must know the Harwoods Hole and Starlight Cave guidelines
Harwoods Hole is not a suitable place to learn caving technique
- Everyone attempting the trip must have some prior vertical caving experience.
- Everyone must be capable of ascending the rope, should the need arise.
- Everyone must be capable of dealing with problems that might occur while on the rope.
- Use correct equipment. Rock climbing ropes and descenders are not suitable.
- All parties should include someone who knows the way through the cave or an experienced caver capable of route finding.
- The exit cave is cold, wet and strenuous and takes a minimum of 2 hours.
Time: 45 min one way
Distance: 2.9 km one way
From Canaan Carpark, a 45 minute walking track leads through beech forest with stunning limestone rock formations framing the track.
At a junction in the track, the right-hand branch leads to spectacular Gorge Creek Lookout with stunning views of the Takaka Valley and Gorge Creek. Care is required reaching the lookout as the track traverses very sharp limestone rock formations. The left-hand branch stops near the shaft; it is very dangerous to approach the edge of the hole. There are no barriers. It is not possible to see down the shaft.
From State Highway 60, near the top of the Takaka Hill, follow an unsealed 11 km side road to Canaan Carpark where there is a campsite, toilet, water and orientation sign.
Only for experienced cavers after making themselves familiar with the Harwoods Hole and Starlight Cave guidelines.
Mountain biking is not allowed on Harwoods Track, but mountain biking is allowed in close-by Canaan Scenic Reserve and on the Rameka Track.