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Oceania > New Zealand > North Island > Waikato > Waitomo

Waitomo

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Waitomo is a district in the North Island of New Zealand whose main feature is its limestone caves and their glowworm inhabitants, a major tourist attraction.

Get in[edit]

The Waitomo Caves are between Otorohanga and Te Kuiti. It is 15 minutes drive (18 km) north of Te Kuiti, 1 hour (75 km) south of Hamilton, 2½ hours south of Auckland and 2 hours west of both Rotorua and Taupo.

Travelling south from Otorohanga and Hamilton on State Highway 3, turn right onto State Highway 37 at the Hangatiki roundabout. Waitomo Caves is 7 km up SH 37.

GreatSights operates premium sightseeing tours daily from Auckland and from Rotorua. Grayline Tours does a deluxe version of this tour.

Waitomo offers many different activities for all ages and fitness. There are around 16 different glowworm cave tours you can do from the following caving companies - Kiwi Cave Rafting, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, Waitomo Adventures (Waitomo Adventure Center), Spellbound, Cave World and Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The local I-site is a great place to go to get information about the different tours available.

Waitomo is a great place to cycle. This aspect is being developed more to meet the increasing popularity of the activity. There are animal petting farms for the children, an abundance of free bush walks with interesting rock formations and caves to explore as well as gardens. Scenic flights and golf. The museum of caves is a must-see in Waitomo.

There are lots of quirky places around Waitomo to stay with lovely kiwi hosts to top off your Waitomo experience. And Waitomo has many great places to eat ranging from cabinet food to fish n chips or pub food, to fine dining and a buffet restaurant.

The locals are friendly and accommodating so don't be afraid to stop for a yarn.

Overall there's more to Waitomo than just a glowworm cave, so come and explore this great destination for yourself!

Get around[edit]

There is a shuttle service that can transfer you from Otorohanga and from Waitomo Caves Village you can be picked up for cave tours. The Great Sights bus does transfers to Rotorua daily. Tickets can be purchased at the Information Centre (I-site).

There is lots of accommodation within walking distance of the Village too as well as a few bush walks.

Travellers with a car are able to enjoy more activities further afield from the Village.

See[edit]

The Cathedral in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Tickets can be purchased individually, or in packages (Feb 2019):

  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave and Ruakuri Cave: adult $94, child $35, family $204
  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave and Aranui Cave: adult $79, child $35, family $169
  • All three caves: adult $100, child $46, family $221
  • 1 Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of New Zealand's top tourist attractions. They are just outside the Waitomo Village. It is home to the famous Waitomo glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, tiny creatures that radiate their luminescent light. Formed over 30 million years ago, the caves have majestic and ornate cave decorations, deep limestone shaft known as the Tomo and the equally magnificent Cathedral cavern. The Cathedral is known for its superb acoustics, which are due to the enclosed shape and rough surface. Many famous singers, including New Zealand's own opera diva Kiri Te Kanawa, and choirs have performed here and have been delighted with the purity of the sound. The Tomo is one of the wonders of Waitomo, a 16-metre vertical limestone shaft which marks the course of an ancient waterfall which today only flows during heavy rains. The dramatic vertical drop is carefully lighted to show the scalloped walls and the layers of limestone. The Tomo was the last feature of the cave to be formed and links the upper level to the Waitomo River below. A 45-min tour. Adult $53, child $24, family ticket $131.
  • 2 Ruakuri Cave. Ruakuri, or 'den of dogs' as it literally translates into the English language, was first discovered by local Maori between 400 and 500 years ago. It takes its name from the wild dogs that made their home in the cave entrance. The cave entrance was used by Maori as a burial ground (wahi tapu) and it is this sacred area that has now been protected with the construction of the spiral entrance a safe distance away. Ruakuri cave is in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. A two-hour tour. Adult $76, child $30, family ticket $186.
  • 3 Aranui Cave (in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, 5 minutes drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves). Named after Ruruku Aranui, the local Maori man who first discovered this previously hidden gem back in 1910, Aranui has a natural cave entrance and is the smallest and most delicate of Waitomo's three main caves. As a dry cave without a river running through it, it houses very little life past its entrance. However, just inside the entrance is a colony of native New Zealand cave wetas and further into the cave is the most beautiful collection of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and decorative formations. It is one of the most richly decorated caves in Waitomo. There is very little of the ceiling in this cave that has not been decorated by the dripping water. A 45-min tour. Adult $53, child $24, family ticket $131.
  • Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre (centre of Waitomo Caves Village), toll-free: 0800474839, . Visit to find out about all the cave tour options.

Do[edit]

  • Black Water Rafting (Starts at Black Water Rafting Co.). Cave tubing or black water rafting offers an adventurous journey that falls outside the comfort zone to thrill. It involves the use of an inflated rubber inner tube as a flotation device to take you down river. There are two black water rafting tours available: Black Labyrinth & Black Abyss. Black Labyrinth is a 3 hour cave tubing excursion through Ruakuri Caves glow worm lit underworld universe. Black Abyss, on the other hand, takes a slightly more vigorous version to the same caves by mixing abseiling, climbing and cave tubing.
  • The Lost World. Abseil 100 metres through the collapsed roof of a cave to the floor below then walk through the caves, seeing glow-worms on the way. Either climb out if you are on the 4-hour trip or continue on through the stream and further caverns on the 7½-hour trip.

Buy[edit]

Eat[edit]

  • 1 Huhu cafe, 10 Waitomo Caves Rd, +64 7-878 6674, . Daily noon-late. Lunch sets $30, dinner sets $40-65.
  • 2 Roselands Restaurant Waitomo Caves (Roselands), 579 Fullerton Road (turn left onto Fullerton Rd just before Waitomo Caves Village, drive 3 km and turn right at the big Roselands sign under the tree), +64 7 878-7611, . Daily 9AM-late. A large facility with a barbecue and buffet restaurant, gift shop, gardens, function venue, and campervan parking on 20 acres of rural property with native woodlands. Meat portions cooked on the barbecue how you like it with a buffet of fresh home-made salads, sauces, bread and rice. A dessert buffet of traditional New Zealand cookies and carrot cake are available afterwards with tea and coffee. Small groups and large parties welcome. Get back to nature and enjoy exploring the bush paths and award-winning gardens. Plenty of bird-watching opportunities or get up-close and pet the friendly farm animals. Free Wi-Fi. Beef casserole with rice and potatoes $15, barbecue and buffet $36.

Drink[edit]

Sleep[edit]

Waitomo[edit]

  • 1 Kiwi Paka Backpackers, Hotel Access Road, +64 7 878 3395, . Qualmark rated 5-star quality accommodation in the heart of Waitomo Caves.
  • 2 Roselands Restaurant Waitomo Caves, 579 Fullerton Rd (Turn left onto Fullerton Road just before Waitomo Caves Village. After 3km turn right at the big Roselands sign under the trees.), +6478787611, . Check-in: 12:30PM, check-out: 10AM. Suitable to sleep one couple and two singles. This tidy little unit is fully self-contained with a toilet, shower, and kitchenette. The unit is on an elevated site between the restaurant and homestead. It is safe and secure with ample parking for large campers, suitable for extended family holidays. Only one chalet available, so book well in advance. $100 per couple, $15 per extra person.
  • 3 Waitomo Caves Hotel, School Access Rd, +64 7-878 8204, . School Road, Waitomo Caves Village. Imposing turn-of-the-century grandeur. Double $145, queen $155, triple $165.
  • 4 Waitomo TOP10 Holiday Park, 12 Waitomo Village Rd, +64 508 498 666.

Otorohanga[edit]

Otorohanga is approximately 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Waitomo, thirty minutes by car.

  • 5 Kamahi Cottage, 229 Barber Rd, Otorohanga, +64 7 873-0849. Self-contained cottage accommodates up to four, kitchenette, full breakfast. Bed & breakfast on a farm with panoramic views. SMS: +64 21 055-1818. $315 single, $355 double, $45-60/person extra for two-course or three-course gourmet dinner.
  • 6 Woodlyn Park, 1177 Waitomo Valley Rd, Otorohanga, +64 7 878-6666, fax: +64 7 878-8866. Novelty architecture Hobbit motel in hillside, novelty hotel rooms in a decommissioned train, aeroplane and World War II patrol boat. $285.

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Waitomo is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.