Just off SHW6, the Nile Valley in Charleston is a well kept secret. Plus, it provides an alternative access point to the Paparoa National Park.

Paparoa National Park sign from Nile Valley, Charleston

Look out for this sign to access the Paparoa National Park from Nile Valley, Charleston.

As well as being a natural spectacle, it is also home to Norwest Adventures Ltd. The company was started up by some enthusiastic locals who were interested in caves and in helping members of the public view them.

The caves remain and the company offers a variety of tours to suit all members of the family.

All of the tours begin at the new base building in Charleston itself — you cannot miss the quirky looking building, which has only recently been completed. There’s lots of free parking, and you can enjoy a coffee at the café after your trip.

Underworld Adventures sign

Don’t miss the café.

You will be kitted out with the necessary equipment, including helmets and lamps; those brave should who are doing the “Underworld Cave Rafting” will also get wetsuits. You will then be whisked off up the scenic Nile Valley with your guide. Soon, you’ll see one of the highlights of the valley: the ancient limestone cliffs.

Limestone cliffs.

The limestone cliffs are a highlight of any visit to the area.

Part way up the valley, you transfer to the company train and then complete your journey to the mouth of the cave on foot.

The company train.

All aboard!

Two visitors pose in front of stalactites and stalagmites.

It’s a little eerie inside.

Two visitors stand under a shaft of light entering from the cave ceiling

A glimpse of light.

Once inside the cave you should prepare to be amazed by one of the largest displays of glow worms in the southern hemisphere. Remember that this is all natural — no zoo here — the glow worms are just happy to be there!

A visitor stands under a ceiling covered with glow worms.

Glow worm City.

If you chose the wetsuit option, soon it’s time to hop into the water with your inflated rubber tube and let the gentle river current take you downstream. The river exits the cave and you find yourselves in bright sunshine still floating gently down the river, surrounded by stunning rugged scenery and many more limestone cliffs.

Several visitors float down the river in inner tubes.

There’s nothing like floating out of a cave on an inner tube.

Those of you who opted for the ‘dry’ tour (the Gloworm Cave Tour) will continue and complete the trip on foot inside the cave along with your guide. This option is a photographer’s dream so don’t forget your camera!

Guests ride the train back to base.

Back on the train.

Then everyone heads back to base for hot showers followed by a light snack, a hot meal, homemade soup and barista coffees. And the best homemade sausage rolls I have ever tasted!

A delicious sausage roll sits on a plate.


If anyone is interested in seeing the valley but not the inside of a cave there are two options.

The train

Norwest Adventures will sell you a ticket for the train so you get a ride up and then back out again. This is a great option for people who are not so mobile or for those travelling with very small children.


You also have the option of taking your vehicle to the end of the road in the Nile Valley. Park, lock your vehicle and walk up the valley following the train track and footpath signs where indicated. In summer you can take a dip in the river if you wish!

A footpath sign nestles among the ferns.

Look out for this sign.

A visitor walks towards the train tracks.

Follow the tracks.



Pebbles in the foreground, white cliffs in the background.

The view is worth the trip.

Native New Zealand Forest

Stunning ancient trees are throughout the Nile Valley

see a wide range of ancient native trees

Train ride through ancient native West Coast New Zealand Forrest

And finally, you’ll need to find somewhere gorgeous to stay after your adventure in the Nile Valley, Charleston — look no further. Click here.

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