The 5 Best Things To Do In Waitomo Caves, NZ

things to do in waitomo caves nz
| 5 min read

The Waitomo Caves, which are caves formed by soluble oligocene limestone, have become a major tourist attraction in the northern King Country region of the North Island of New Zealand, 192 kilometers (119.3 mi) from Auckland. The name Waitomo is derived from the Māori language “wai,” meaning water and “tomo,” meaning a sinkhole.

Take a walk through the rainforest of New Zealand and explore the amazing magical caves each having its own mesmerizing character. Go tubing down streams, sign up for some amazing black river rafting, go trekking, or just hang around the narrow paths leading you to tunnels and waterfalls. When you are done with your adventures, visit the enchanted Middle World of the Hobbits on your way to Auckland. You have to be here in Waitomo to experience the magic. Read on to learn the best things you can experience in Waitomo Caves.

1. Black water rafting

Glow worms hig res 003
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Waimarino36 used under CC0

Enjoy the thrills and excitement of the black water caves of Waitomo. We recommended you hire the services of an experienced guide of black water cave rafting to show you around. Treat yourself to the joys of the beautiful scenery and increase the adrenaline experience of the adventure in this subterranean world. This spectacular tourism attraction gives visitors of all ​ages the chance to abseil, weave, jump, climb, and float through the glowworm-studded subterranean wonderland at Waitomo Caves.

Try the Black Abyss expedition package with the Legendary Blackwater Rafting Company for the most definitive and optimal caving expedition for adventure seekers in Waitomo. Go downhill into the unending twists and turns of the glow worm speckled Ruakuri Cave. The expedition combines descending the 35 metre (114.8 ft) sink hole, climbing, whizzing down a zip-line, and cave tubing beneath glow worms into one totally exceptional and mind-blowing environment.

Black Abyss Tour

Price: 240 AUD / ~183 USD

Duration: 5h

Book Now

2. Glowworm Caves

Deep below the hills of the North Islands, winds a labyrinth of caves that is home to a colony of magical creatures. However, they show themselves only in the dark. Look up to see millions of glowworms as they twinkle like stars in the clear night sky, with their soft glow giving an almost magic appearance while you glide on a boat, speechless and astounded by this visual treat in the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

At first glance you may be tempted to think you are watching an elaborate LED light show only to really realize that the light is emitted by the glowworms trying to attract their prey. One may also be forgiven for their comparison of the Glowworm Caves with the constellations due to the patterns they create. Ever wondered about the visual resemblance to the Tree of Souls from James Cameron’s movie Avatar?

The Waitomo Caves places high up in the New Zealand vacation to do list and is definitely a destination you cannot afford to miss on your trip.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Website: Waitomo Glowworm Caves

3. Ruakuri Cave

Spiral walkway
Source: Photo by user Kristina D.C. Hoe... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ruakuri Cave was first discovered around 500 years ago by a Maori boy. Legend has it that the lad was attacked by wild dogs near the entrance of the cave and hence contributing to its name “rua” meaning burrow and “kuri” meaning dog. The Ruakuri Cave is a remarkable instance of engineering and natural cave structure, offering amazing subterranean experiences even for tourists in a wheelchair.

Stroll through the spectacular spiral ramp and admire the limestone and crystal formations draping the cave walls like tapestries. Listen to waterfalls gushing through the caves while getting up-close with the celebrated residents of the caves welcoming you with their sensuous glow. Experience New Zealand’s longest guided subterranean journey while being enthralled and humbled by nature’s absolute splendor.

Ruakuri Cave

Website: Ruakuri Caves

4. Aranui Cave

Water pool in Aranui Cave close-up
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pseudopanax used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Aranui Cave, located 3 km (1.8 mi) from the Glowworm Caves, is an extra bonus. The beautifully delicate formation creates a place for a quiet contemplation and a time to reflect on the wonders of nature. There is a new surprise in every corner and every shadowy crevice. For spelunkers, New Zealand offers the most challenging and astonishing caving system in the world.

Aranui Cave also offers a network of more difficult cave exploration for more experienced and confident cavers. Experienced cavers can slide down wet rocks and dangle into deep ravines, swim under waterfalls, squeeze through canals, and walk along passageways filled with oyster shell fossils. There is some real risk involved and it is recommended to use the guidance of local climbing teams who are familiar with the caves and can offer you in-depth information and guide you to unravel stunning natural views that will dwarf you with their sheer magnitude of the limestone formations that have grown over the millennia.

Cave guides will take you through the safe areas and tell you what not to touch while on your expedition. If you love adventure, exploration, and a sense of achievement from having completed something amazing, then a caving trip here is just what you are looking for. The descent to the rock bottom will be just as thrilling as the ascent to the peak.

Aranui Cave

Website: Aranui Cave

5. Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Source: Photo by user Irwandy Mazwir used under CC BY 2.0

The Hobbiton Movie Set Tourist Farm is in Matamata, Hamilton Waikato, around an hour’s drive from Waitomo Caves. The Hobbiton Movie Set was a significant location in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit series. Once you enter the farm and look around, you understand just how huge the set is and if you are familiar with the films, you will instantly recognize the numerous hobbit holes and will want to search for your favorite hobbit hole.

The Hobbiton set was first built in 1999 for The Lord of the Rings trilogy; however, the set wasn’t built to last as it was made of light materials such as styrofoam, polystyrene, and plywood. However, the deconstruction was postponed for several months due to torrential rains during which time the first film released and the farm started getting visits from fans. Initially, Hobbiton was just 12 hobbit holes with white facades.

As soon as the Hobbit trilogy received the green light, they rebuilt the entire set with permanent materials. Currently, the hobbit holes might be around for 50 years or more, now that they are built with stronger materials. The home of Bilbo and Frodo are the most visited. While in Hobbiton you can indulge in complimentary beverages exclusive to Hobbiton as part of the tour. You can sip on the ales and non-alcoholic ginger beer in the Beer Garden while discussing the day’s event or contemplate while overlooking the enchanting village. Enjoy your drinks in a comfortable armchair by the fireplace. With such a leisurely environment, the chances of you leaving the inn soon is unlikely.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Website: Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Witness the magical world of Waitomo

Waitomo is a wondrous place to be, with its ancient limestone caves dispersed around the area, the magical underground rivers, and the enchanting New Zealand forest that will captivate you for years to come. Take the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air, become one with nature, and expand your horizons while you visit the fantastical creatures of the caves that will shed their glow and light up your life.

Don’t forget to bring your camera as you take pictures of these picturesque surroundings that will mesmerize you with their sheer magnificence, encompass you sceneries of the Waitomo Caves. Last but not the least, make it a point to visit the Hobbiton set and find yourself instantly transported to the magical land of your favorite Hobbit characters. Your trip to Waitomo is definitely going to be the one that you will cherish for many years to come.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Darryl Gonsalves is a serial entrepreneur and owns a business intelligence consultancy company and a web content solutions providing company both based in Mumbai, India....Read more

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