Blue Creek Canyon. Is This New Zealand’s Only Dry Canyon?

The trip started not like any other. Arriving late afternoon in the grassy car park, we could hear the buzzing from inside our van. Bees and wasps. Everywhere. I had started developing an aversion to them, reinforced after hurting my foot running away from wasps in a canyoning trip a few weeks prior. I know bees aren’t the same as wasps, but I wasn’t about to whip out a entomology book and start classifying which ones to befriend. I try to stay away from both. Now the air shimmered with hundreds of them.

Forgive me if I overdramatize any encounters with them after my accident, but there is no exaggeration in effect when I say our car was being hammered like hail. Like some delicious white flower, our van was the central focus of every bee within 1000 Km. OK, that might be an exaggeration. Or maybe not.

So after a few minutes trying the idea of a overnight camp there, my partner Lanna and I decided to head back a few minutes up the road to a confirmed bee/wasp free zone.

Our green zone of safety had turned into the lesser of two evils however. The air was saturated with sandflies. And if you haven’t met the New Zealand sandfly, I’ll let you do the googling on that one to find out more. Lets just say they suck bigtime.

Well, thankfully it was just making dinner that we had to contend with them. It’s quite unfortunate we don’t have the space to cook inside the van. It would have been real handy at that point.

So started our trip to Blue Creek Canyon…


Starting off on a wide track, it soon narrows and we pass the rusted relics of the failed gold mining operations lying in lush carpets of moss. They made for interesting stops learning a bit more about the area.

Tip: Click on the photo to enlarge!

Soon the well worn path turned to faint trail as we turned off the main way to reach the canyon start.

With the tree branches covered in tape, I zoned out in response, expecting easy navigation. But it wasn’t long before the terrain altered, turning into a steep gully.

Not what we wanted to see as we found out.

We had taken a wrong path and ended up at a random cave entrance. With marble the pre valiant rock type, the place is littered with sinkholes and caves. It’s also ankle breaker territory with the weathered rock creating sharp holes and channels in the ground, often covered by thin vegetation or dirt.

Retracing our steps, we found the correct trail and were soon matching the terrain to the guidebook description and topo map. We were close!


Blue creek canyon is unique for New Zealand in amongst the rest of the canyons due to its lack of water. Rather, I should say, the water is there, it just isn’t visible to you.

Taking a new path under the canyon, and worn away in that marriage of water and rock that creates wonders for explorers, Blue creek would resurge at the end of a long path underground.

This makes Blue creek one of New Zealand's few ‘dry’ canyons, capable of being descended year round. So far, it’s also the only known dry canyon, though I could say with certainty there may be another one somewhere.

There’s definitely so much unexplored potential in New Zealand!

Shallow knee-depth pools of water still accumulate in the canyon but wetsuits aren’t needed. We scramble around a few steep bits and find the first abseil into the deep, twisting hollows of the smooth grey walls.

The action begins!

As we continue on, drop after drop, it gets darker as we are swallowed up by the earth. There’s no turning back in canyoning. Finishing is the only escape.


With light now a rarity, we reveled in the odd beam of sunlight that pierced the cool depths. Small openings in the canyon ceiling made for spectacular scenery.

Green moss contrasted strongly with the steel grey walls and white marbled veins ran in waves to some unknown destination. You couldn’t help but run your hands over the stone and feel its silky texture.

It was magnificent! This is what I love about canyons. They may look like ominous gashes in the earth from above, but they hold so much beauty when you get down in there to explore them.

Tip: Click on the photo to enlarge!

But with beauty comes danger. Get trapped down there and you better hope you told someone where you were going. It’s important to know the skills to get past any obstacles you may find down there.

Of course our smooth sailing trip was marred by a small unpleasant event. While admiring our surroundings, a sneaky wasp had hitched a ride in Lannas long pants. Trapped in it’s own adventure, it did what any panicked wasp does. It stung her leg.

For once some soothing cold water would have been nice.


Our journey nearly over, we could hear the resurgence before seeing it. Laying eyes on it was something else though! Crystal clear water. I mean, you had to watch where you stepped. Was that a rock sticking out of the water or was it under the surface? You just couldn’t tell on some. Crystal clear, literally.

Back at the van we hastily jump in avoiding the bees and wasps making our acquaintance once again. They seemed to have missed me especially as I cautiously palm them away. Unfinished business, perhaps?


Everyone can do Blue creek canyon, even with no canyoning experience!

If you don’t know what canyoning is exactly, or how to get into it, have a read of THIS POST.

If you are ready to take on Blue creek canyon, the way to do it is on a guided trip with Abel Tasman Canyons. Their guides are some of the funniest (and funnest) around. And best of all, you can do it year round!

Have the skills and experience already? I recommend the Canyoning in NZ guidebook. It’s absolutely amazing and more importantly, has all the canyon info you need to make the trip happen.

Blue creek canyon is a unique experience well worth trying. Sporty with plenty of scrambles and abseils, some stunning scenery, it’s one I won’t mind doing again!


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Always remember this...

The environment is under threat from human impact! For your enjoyment and for future generations, please LEAVE NO TRACE! Respect natural places and leave them clean. You can learn more about the leave no trace principles HERE.