Patuna Chasm | A river walk like no other!

Patuna Chasm is a place I’ve been aware of for years and finally got around to visiting! Having admired photographs of Patuna Chasm for a while, and hearing rave reviews from anyone that’s ever visited, I was hoping my high expectations wouldn’t be let down. I had no need to worry! This incredible walk, through a fabulous labyrinth of fossil-rich limestone caverns, tunnels and crystal clear pools, home to eels and native birds, is around 5km and takes around 3 hours (due to two thirds of the walk being in a river, involving lots of wading and trying not to slip on rocks!).

Our daughters walking through the mossy walled, limestone chasm.

This is a walk with plenty of water, where shoes get wet – and pretty much stay wet – for a couple of hours.

Wading through the incredibly beautiful river, surrounded by limestone rocks, carved into all sorts of shapes.

Hundreds of small stalactites.

Near the end there is an option to back-track and return via a bush walk, or carry on and get a full immersion experience (of course we went full monty!). The swim at the end is only for a few metres and on a hot summer’s day it’s totally worth it. We finished with time to drip dry off a little, before getting picked up and returned to our vehicle (the ride back, on top of hay bales on the back of a truck, was a fun experience in itself!).

Wading in the river near the end of our adventure. Shortly after this we were swimming for a few metres!

The walk is only open over the spring and summer months, from November to the end of March, due to the obvious reason that ‘walking’ through a river for two hours in winter wouldn’t be a walk and it would put visitors at of risk hypothermia!

The walk started with a beautiful little bush walk, that took us through native bush and plenty of indigenous manuka bushes (there were bee hives at the beginning of the walk, but we didn’t see many bees around us – they were obviously too busy fetching nectar and making honey!). At the end of our visit we bought a large 500g tub of incredible UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) 16+ Manuka honey for NZ$60 (amazing value!) from a family that lives on the land.

Starting off with a bush walk

Following the path, enjoying the native bush, but also excited to see Wave Rock and get down to the river!

The bush walk took us to the first amazing sight of our experience – ‘Wave Rock’.

My husband (of nearly 22 years) and I, on Wave Rock!

The incredible wave rock.

We then descended down to the river, grateful for ropes and other things to hold on to, as the descent was steep in parts and would be very slippy in wet weather.

Descending to the river bed

Down to the river we go!

Following the river to a water fall.

We stepped into the river, quickly adjusting to the feeling of wet socks and shoes, and turned right, making our way up stream (before going down stream later) to see a mossy waterfall.

Walking upstream to the waterfall.

Bright green moss, glowing in the light that manages to filter down to the river bed.

Dan and I at the waterfall.

After enjoying this part of the walk, we retraced our steps, walking down river toward the chasm.

Taking a rest.

We had to navigate some deeper parts (only up to our knees and to look for orange triangle markers to follow the best pathway – to avoid a swim early on in our adventure!), as well as go down a ladder at a part with a split rock.

Down I go!

Some other visitors navigating down the ladder at split rock.

Here we stopped in awe to see sea shells and fossils.

So many sea shells!

Far from the sea, but evidence that this was all under the ocean once upon a time.

Natural history embedded in the rocks.

Parts of the walk, as the river flowed through the chasm, were quite dark, with little space light to seep through the amazing rock formations. The light that did get through illuminated the vegetation that clung to the rock face, making it glow with an ethereal like magic.

Light coming through the gaps in the rock formations, illuminating the vegetation.

The rock carved by water an illuminated by chinks of daylight filtering through the gaps.


Walking here felt like stepping through a magical wonderland.

It really did feel like we’d stepped into a magical, natural wonderland. Step into it with us, on this video.