Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.
Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on one of our purpose-built scenic cruise vessels.
At the entry to the caves at Cavern House, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you join your guide underground. On the tour of the caves, our friendly guides will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history.
This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. By geological standards the caves are very young (12,000 years) and are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall.
Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.
For many years, these caves were lost in legend. Their presence was hinted at only by the ancient Maori names for the area – Te Ana-au – which means ‘caves with a current of swirling water’.
They remained hidden until their rediscovery by explorer Lawson Burrows in 1948.
Glowworms don’t like loud noises – so remember shhh! when you are in the grotto.
The light emitted from the glowworm has been estimated to be equivalent to one thousandth of a millionth of a watt (one nanowatt) in intensity.
The Te Anau Glowworm caves are approximately 12,000 years old. The Glowworm caves are part of the ‘youngest’ section of the greater Aurora system.
Due to youth, the caves are considered 'high energy', the risk of flooding and low stalactite and stalagmite growth are a sign of this.
Te Anau is about a 2.5 hour drive from Queenstown and around 5 hours from Dunedin.
Trips to the Glowworm Caves depart from the Real Journeys Visitor Centre in Te Anau.
Non-slip shoes/boots, waterproof jacket, warm sweater/fleece jacket (It’s always cold in the cave 8 - 12ºC), sunscreen/ sunglasses, insect repellent and camera.
Note: photography and video filming are NOT permitted inside the cave.
Note: Some bending is required at the caves entrance and steps are involved.
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
From Queenstown to Te Anau by car or coach takes around 2 hrs 45 mins and from Manapouri around 30 minutes. For more information refer to our Driving Times webpage.
Photography and video cameras are not permitted in the Glowworm Caves because flash lights affect the glowworms and visitor acclimatisation to the dark.
Inside the caves the temperature is a fairly constant 8 - 12ºCelsius, so bring a warm sweater/fleece jacket.
At the entrance to the caves there is a large rock overhang and bending is required to pass this section.
There are steps and often the walkways are wet, so care is required in the subdued light.
All prices and transactions on the Real Journeys website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions.
We have a portable defibrillator on board each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator).
In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations:
• Milford Sound Visitor Terminal
• Real Journeys Visitor Centre, Manapouri
• Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves)
• Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak
• TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship
• Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff).