Waitomo caves what to do nearby
Adrenaline fuelled underwater adventure or a leisurely cruise on an underground river Waitomo offers choices on how to experience the massive underground geological wonder. Waitomo nearby offers visitors epic short walks, waterfalls found at the end of mossy fern gullies and extraordinary examples of ingenious ideas from tunnels to access a beach to a town celebrating all things kiwana. Find out what makes the place one of New Zealand’s internationally renowned tourist attractions. Captivating Waitomo is not just a subterranean cave rather it’s a lush, natural world weaving holiday magic for over 150 years and counting. Remember to check Hamilton travel guide for tips what to do nearby.
THRILLS, ADRENALINE AND CHALLENGE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Spelunking, abseiling and black-water rafting. Get the feet wet and perhaps a bit more. The ultimate thrill with Black Abyss tours is encouragement to abseil to the depths of various caves and crawl into their underground passages. If you like zip lining, the Lost World and St Benedict Caverns tours will be right up your alley; if you don’t mind getting wet and muddy, the Black Abyss tour combines spelunking and abseiling with an epic black-water rafting expedition.
WAITOMO MUSEUM OF CAVES
WANT TO FIND OUT WHY? The local visitor centre is home to the local museum. The Museum of Caves has interactive exhibits describing the geological forces that created the cave system. The cave’s glow worms are a highlight, Arachnocampa luminosa. There are fossils, photographs documenting exploration history and the life cycle of glow-worms. The adjoining visitor centre has a small gift shop focused on New Zealand souvenirs, brochures and pamphlets about the area.
UNDERGROUND RIVER CRUISE
Glowworm Grotto is where cruises depart every 30 minutes. Invisible tracks gently guide the boat past New Zealand’s unique Arachnocampa luminosa glow-worms illuminating limestone rock faces of the Waitomo caves. In peak periods expect to be a waiting period as queues for the cruise create a backlog. This is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the cave experience.
Arriving early morning will avoid extensive queues for an underground river cruise.
WAITOMO CAVE WALKING TOUR
Ruakuri Cave is home to New Zealand’s longest underground cave tour. The tour is wheelchair-friendly; with zig zag routes descending past crystallised rock sculptures, limestone formations and dripping water. Kids in particular will enjoy the increasing sound effects of rumbling water as you walk the trail.
WHAT TO DO NEARBY WAITOMO CAVES?
WAITOMO CAVE WALKS – RUAKUARI BUSH AND SCENIC RESERVE
HIGHLIGHT FOR FAMILIES & KIDS
- Attractive forest & gorge walks
- Tunnels with glow worms at night
- Cave formations in a twilight world
- Picnic tables and toilets for day trip
The Department of Conservation (DOC) describes the reserve as ‘Ruakuri offers a limestone landscape, picturesque native forest and an opportunity to study a threatened species – the long-tailed bat.’ In places the walk is In places it is cantilevered above rushing water.
Access is free and there are glow worms at night. DOC helpfully provides a very detailed schoolchildren guide for kids (of all age groups) that will keep boredom at bay.
Five minutes from Waitomo Cave Village
WAITOMO CAVE WALKS – WAITOMO LOOKOUT POINT
This walk is a detour on the Waitomo Walkway. A steady climb gets walkers to the lookout. There are views of the Art Deco Waitomo Hotel with its Edwardian splendor, rolling farmland dotted with sheep and the outcrops of karst landscape. It is picturesque and the short 600m climb.
- Length: 600m steep elevation
- Grade: Can be slippery in wet weather
Carpark, toilets and picnic tables.
WAITOMO CAVE WALKS – WAITOMO WALKWAY
Visitors are privileged to have access to pathways across private farmland. There are orange markets indicating the route. There are stiles to cross and the track is largely a rough walking track on farm grassland. Suspension bridges cross streams with the walk finishing at the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve car park.
- Length: 3.5km (one way) return by same route or arrange pickup at Ruakuri carpark
- Duration: 1 ½ hours
- Grade: Easy
- Start: Waitomo Domain opposite caves museum (signposted)
OPAPAKA PA ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE
The pa (village) was occupied in the 1770’s and the site of significant battle with afterwards the village being largely abandoned. Defence structures (trenches) and kumara pits are evident at the pa site. The walk is through native forest with trees bearing species identification and traditional use notes. The walk does not have steps however it is steep up to the site and crosses private farmland. The stiles onto the private land are clearly marked with orange markers. There could be stock in the paddocks being crossed.
- Start: Waitomo Adventure Centre
- Duration: ½ – ¾ hour (one way)
NEARBY WAITOMO CAVES – WEST COAST BEACHES
Waitomo Caves what to do nearby, follow the road beyond the tourist circuit and locate a beach where access is a tunnel built to move livestock along the beach. There is a magnificent waterfall Marokopa Falls Walk on an easy short track to find the Mangapohue Bridge Walk. This is another geological story with moss draped tracks leading to a natural rock bridge. Nearby is the multiple day Waitomo Great Walk, a guided two- to three-day journey commencing in Tawarau Forest and traverses the Tawarau Falls, Marokopa Falls and Waipuna Bridge before contouring the Waitomo Stream and dropping into Waitomo Village. For inspiration check out What’s so great about Marokopa.
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TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- Tawarau Forest tramping tracks: Tawarau Conservation Area, Waikato region
- Waitomo means stream that flows into the hole in the ground. Waitomo Village is home to tour operators and employees of the same.
Check the Waitomo King Country What’s so great about:
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Our editors independently visit tour operators, purchase tickets, pay for accommodation, and rate products and places. We are not paid to go on a tour or visit a place. We only make money if you decide to purchase a product through our website links. We promise to never accept free products from manufacturers in return for boosting their products. Read more about our affiliate programme in the terms and conditions HERE.