Caves are found in both limestone and marble throughout north-west Nelson. The marble areas - Takaka Hill, Mt Arthur, and Mt Owen - are alpine in character, with caves found up to 1700 metres above sea level. These three marble mountains contain all of New Zealand's deepest caves as well as the three longest caves - Bulmer Cavern (67 km) at Mt Owen, Ellis Basin System (33 km) at Mt Arthur, and Greenlink system (26 km) on Takaka hill.
There is an important limestone area with numerous caves, mainly easy and well-decorated, at Paturau, west of Collingwood, as well as significant areas of limestone in the Aorere, Anatoki, Takaka, and Cobb Valleys. Moonsilver Cave in the Cobb is about five kilometres long.
The other major South Island area is north Westland. At Karamea is the 13 kilometre Honeycomb Hill Cave, with 70 entrances, plus New Zealand's largest limestone arches. To the west of the Paparoa Range, a band of limestone stretches from Charleston to Punakaiki, containing caves such as The Metro near Charleston, with eight kilometres of mainly large passage, and the Xanadu system near Punakaiki, which is five kilometres long.
To the east of the Paparoas is a smaller area of limestone, with Profanity Cave at Inangahua of nearly three kilometres length.
Around Greymouth there are pockets of limestone with small caves, and one cave is recorded from Jackson Bay.
Along the east coast of the South Island there are only small cave areas; in Marlborough near Blenheim and Kaikoura; in Canterbury at Waiau, Broken River, and Pareora; and in North Otago near Palmerston.
In Southland there are minor caving areas at Clifden, Monowai, and in the Stuart Mountains, as well as a more
In Fiordland there are some significant cave in the Murchison mountains and around Te Anau.