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13 BEST THINGS TO DO IN WAITOMO CAVES & SURROUNDS

INSIDE: The Ultimate Guide of Things to do in Waitomo Region for Families & Friends. 

Wondering what to do in Waitomo? 

Best known for cave tourism these days, but it’s also a Maori heritage hotspot that is full of farmland, and farming history. 

It’s a pretty spot for New Zealand sightseeing. 

Read our guide to the 13 best activites in town for the whole family, including toddlers and teens.

Find all the details below.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we may receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you. Main image credit: Ingolfson 

Photo- Waitomo caves for kids end of tour

Guide to the BEST Things to Do in Waitomo New Zealand 

The town is famous for the giant web of underground cave systems, home to millions of those little light up creatures, the glowworms! 

So of course, visiting a glow worm cave is a must do. 

Take a look at your options before you pick your Waitomo family activities! 

No.1: Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo Glow worm caves are the reason you head there, and they are the best Waitomo kids activities in town. 

There are lots of Waitomo Caves activities to choose from including:

Best Waitomo Caves Tour? 

But the original Waitomo Caves boat tour made our day! 

Book tickets here

For details on Waitomo caves prices, how to get there, where to eat, and a sneak peek inside the gift shop, see our guide to Waitomo Caves with kids. 

No.2: Ruakuri Cave Tours

Ruakuri Cave is the longest of the underground caves.

There’s waterfalls, a subterranean river, unique limestone formations AND more glow worms.

Book tickets here

black labyrinth black water rafting pic

No.3: Legendary Black Water Rafting Waitomo New Zealand

Head deep underground to explore the mysterious Ruakuri Cave on the original black water rafting tour adventure. 

You’ll float along in rubber tubes beneath glow worm covered ceilings, squeeze through tiny spaces, and and jump into cascading underground waterfalls.

Finish the tour with hot soup and bagels to warm up! 

Book tickets here

waitomo ziplining

No.4: Waitomo Caves Zipline Park

Take a zip line adventure through native trees and rocky limestone bluffs.

There’s 12 zip lines of increasing height and length to get through!

Book tickets here

lost world waitomo

Image credit: Lost World Adventures

No.5: Lost World Waitomo 

This is the best of the adventures for teens & young people, as well as adventurous adults.  

Abseil 100m into the surreal Lost World.

Descend slowly on the rappel line into the massive void below for an otherworldly experience, something out of Jurassic Park!

You’ll expect to see dinosaurs and pterodactyls any second. 

Climb out via massive craggy caverns, step ledges and ladders.

Adventurers must navigate the legendary 30m “stairway to heaven” on the way back to the surface.

It’s not for the faint hearted! 

Take a 1/2 day trip, a full day tour, or join a family friendly version through The Window. (From 10 years +) 

Hot tip: Families with young kids can visit the Troll Cave!  This looks like lots of fun. 

spellbound waitomo pic

Image credit: Spellbound Caves

No.6: Spellbound Waitomo Caves Tour

As you can see, there’s not just one cave you can visit, although the tourist brochures allude to that.

There’s two caves here:

  • Spellbound glowworm cave
  • Spirit Cave – Te Ana o te Atua

The best tour takes in both.

Hop into an inflatable raft to drift under the glow worms, wander the stunning limestone landscapes, and hear all about Maori history connected to this Spirit Cave.

Spellbound Caves is 500 metres away, at 15 Waitomo Village Road.

Book tickets in the general store and support a 100% locally owned, family business based in town.

waitomo playground slide pic

FREE Things to do in Waitomo 

No.1: Visit the Waitomo playground

The domain playground is the only playground in town.

Stop by after your cave visit.

Bring a picnic. 

No.2: Ruakuri Bushwalk

This is one of the best Waitomo walks for kids, a loop walk up a hill and back. 

 There’s a forest covered gorge and natural cliffs, plus elevated pathways and limestone arches on this 1km walk in the Waitomo Caves region.

Allow an hour.

Find all the details here.

Address‎: 205 Ruakuri Road
 
Hot tip: If you love your outdoor activities, visit Mangapohue natural bridge walk and see the two 17 metre high limestone arches. The bushwalk beginning is  30 minutes drive from the caves, on Te Anga road. 

waitomo walkway lookout sign pic by raghav abbhi

Image credit: Raghav Abbhi

No.3: Waitomo Lookout Point

Find the start of the bushwalking trail in the tourist attraction carpark (on the right hand side of the road.)

The trail is on the right of the carpark as you head in, and down the hill. 

The walk to the lookout takes around 15 minutes each way, and there’s bridges to cross and pretty wild flowers too.

Bring good shoes, as the track is steep, and you’ll be walking on grassy farmland.

Not so good after rain. 

Hot tip: There’s two timber platforms at the lookout. One has ladder access so you can climb up a few metres for a better view. 

Click here for directions to the lookout point. 

No.4: Waitomo i-SITE Vistor Information Centre (Waitomo Museum)

Spend an hour or so in the discovery centre museum.

Their collection of fossils, skeletons, caving tools, and photographs dates back to the earliest Maori explorations and more recent tourism in the three main tourist caves:

  • Glowworm
  • Aranui and
  • Ruakuri

otorohanga kiwi house by anne and david

Things to do around Waitomo

There’s three fun things to do in Otorohanga with kids too. 

No.1: Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park

Visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House to see New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi in real life.

It’s one of the few places you can see them.

Enjoy keeper talks, check out the other NZ birds and reptiles including the Tuatara native New Zealand reptile (older than the dinosaurs!)

There’s also NZ’s largest free flight aviary to walk through.

Just 15 minutes from the caves. 

Address: 20 Alex Telfer Drive, Otorohanga 3900, New Zealand

No.2: Kiwi Bird sculpture 

Head to the Main North Road in Otorohanga to see the two giant kiwi bird sculptures.

These brightly coloured birds are made from corrugated iron. 

otorohanga sign pic

No.3: Kiwiana Town Otorohanga

Check out the main street of Otorohanga, nicknamed Kiwiana Town, for a look back at all the things that made New Zealand unique

The symbols, icons, heroes, brands, food and history specific to New Zealand is called Kiwiana, and you’ll find it all here. 

  • Buzzy Bee
  • Pavlova
  • Marmite
  • The Kiwi
  • Sheep & Farm dogs
  • Weetbix 
  • Bell Tea
  • Edmonds Cookery Book
  • Jandals (thongs)

There’s even opportunities to eat famous Kiwi kai in the cafes and restaurants around town.

Do enjoy a Hokey Pokey ice cream, an L&P drink, and fish and chips with Watties tomatoes sauce smothered on top. 

Stop by the gift shop to collect all the best NZ souvenirs.

Be prepared for a laugh as you look back at these retro things all Kiwis love. 

Address: 27 Turongo Street, Otorohanga 3940, New Zealand  (State Highway 3, just 15 minutes north of the caves)

photo - waitomo caves hotel header

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Waitomo New Zealand

Correct at time of publication on Roam the Gnome. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of. All prices in AUD dollars, unless otherwise stated

Best Waitomo Accommodation near Waitomo Caves

The best Waitomo Caves accommodation for families can be found below. 

No.1: Waitomo Caves Hotel 

We vouch for this old but elegant hotel in the centre of town

Read our review here.

No.2: Woodlyn Park

Fancy staying in a Hobbit room?

How about inside a train carriage, or on a moored ship? 

This is the themed hotel to do this and more. 

Check latest prices here

No.3: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park

A popular choice for families, with a swimming pool and playground on site.

Check latest prices here.

waitomo park pic

Waitomo Weather 

New Zealand weather is temperamental at the best of times, so it’s always good to check the weather forecast before you go.

You may need raincoats, OR thermal underwear OR swimming costumes – but it can be hard to know what!

Take a look here for local weather today and this week.

Waitomo Hot Springs?

Unfortunately there are no hot springs in town.

The closest thing to it is the Kawhia Hot Water Beach, which is just over an hour away by car.

Otherwise, you need to head back to the Tokaanu thermal pools near Taupo or the hot springs in Rotorua. 

waitomo caves entrance 800 pic

How to get to Waitomo Caves? 

Where is Waitomo? 

It’s on the west side of the North Island, on a similar latitude as Rotorua, and about an hour south of Hamilton. 

Click here for directions by car via google maps.

How long does it take from Auckland to Waitomo Caves? 

The drive to the caves from Auckland takes 2.5 hours, a distance of 197 kilometres, via State Highway 1 and State Highway 39

How long does it take from Rotorua to Waitomo?

The drive takes 1 hour 50 minutes from Rotorua, a distance of 147 kilometres, via SH 5

How long does it take from Hamilton to Waitomo?

The drive takes around 55-60 minutes, depending on the route you take. 

PIN THINGS TO DO IN WAITOMO

Parking

There’s onsite parking for free across the road.

Stay safe by using the underground walking tunnel to cross the road.

Cars and buses speed around the bend, and accidents do happen.

Map of town

Toadstool Rating: Waitomo Activities

The best Waitomo attractions cost a bit to join in, so save some extra pennies so you can join the fun. 

waitomo caves review

Looking for More Things to Do in New Zealand for Kids?

Click the blue links for more NZ tourist attractions & tips

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