15 Best Things to Do in Waitomo


The Must-Dos in Waitomo: A Subterranean Adventure Like No Other!

Let’s not beat around the bush. You came to Waitomo to see some glowworms! Sure that’s a great reason to visit this North Island hotspot, but why come all this way for a quick look at the glowworms? Stick around to discover there are more cave tours than you probably realised, a spectacular waterfall and glowworm bushwalks just a short drive from Waitomo Village. Visit some of the nearby towns, each with their own charms and quirks. Go to Waitomo informed with this list of the best things to do in Waitomo!

While you’re here, you might also be interested in 10 Fascinating Facts About the Waitomo Caves and The Complete Guide to Waitomo.

1. Walk the Ruakuri Bushwalk

Let’s begin with one of the most popular free attractions in the Waitomo area, the 45-minute return Ruakuri Bushwalk. By day, enjoy the walk among attractive forest alongside a river. The walk features small caves and limestone formations. By night, take a torch and try to spot the glowworms along the track. For a longer adventure, the walk can be combined with the Waitomo Walkway which links to Waitomo Village and takes you to a scenic lookout of the surrounding farmland. For more details, check out our 5 Best Walks in Waitomo.

Location: Tumutumu Road, 7km (4 miles) from Waitomo Village.

James Shook on Wikipedia© James Shook on Wikipedia

2. Do a Glowworm Cave Walking Tour

One of the best ways to see the famous glowworms of Waitomo during the day is on a guided cave walk. See spectacular cave formations and clusters of shining glowworms on the cave ceilings on one of the many spellbinding walking tours available. Some of our favourites include Discover Waitomo (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Cave World Waitomo (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Compare the companies in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.

Location: Cave World – 500m (547 yards) east of Waitomo Village. Discover Waitomo – 1km (0.6 miles) east of Waitomo Village.

Shaun Jeffers - THL© Shaun Jeffers - THL

3. Go On a Caving Adventure in the Waitomo Caves

Get ready for some of the most exciting and unique adventure activities in New Zealand! Abseil, climb, scramble and float through the complex cave networks of the Waitomo Caves. Your expert guide will lead you through the caves to see breathtaking limestone formations and colonies of glowworms. Book your tour with Waitomo Adventures, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Cave World Waitomo (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Learn more about these experiences in our 6 Ways to Take On the Waitomo Caves and, again, compare the companies in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.

Location: Black Water Rafting – 1.2km (0.7 miles) west of Waitomo Village, Cave World – 500m (547 yards) east of Waitomo Village. Waitomo Adventures – Waitomo Valley Road, 700m (766 yards) from Waitomo Village.


4. Visit the Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre

Learn more about Waitomo’s limestone processes, the lifecycle of the glowworms and challenge yourself to a cave crawl at the museum of the Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre. The museum is New Zealand’s only speleological museum housing important fossils. This affordable attraction is a great addition to any of your above or below ground adventures in Waitomo. The discovery Centre is also one of the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.

Location: 21 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Village.

rheins on Wikipedia© rheins on Wikipedia

5. Experience a Boat Tour of the Glowworm Caves

Our final mention of activities within the caves of Waitomo, the boat tours are for those looking for a relaxing way to see the caves without getting wet. Popular options include the Waitomo Glowworms Caves for its boat journey underneath one of the largest known displays of glowworms in the country – see Viator and Tripadvisor for more details. Alternatively, a raft boat tour is available with Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours. Start comparing tours in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.

Location: Waitomo Glowworm Caves – 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Village. Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours – 15 Waitomo Village Road (in the general store).

10 Waitomo Must-Dos© THL

6. Check Out the Mangapohue Natural Bridge and Piripiri Cave

For those willing to venture further beyond the Waitomo Caves, you’ll be rewarded with grand natural attractions like the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. Follow a five-minute walk alongside a spectacular river gorge until you reach a 17m (56ft) limestone arch crossing the river. A little further down the road is also the Piripiri Cave which has another short walk that descends down to a cave entrance with a viewing platform. For more endearing spots, check out the 8 Romantic Activities in Waitomo for Couples.

Location: Mangapohue Natural Bridge – State Highway 37, 25km (15.5 miles) east of Waitomo Village, Piripiri Cave is a further 4km (2 miles).

10 Amazing Things to Do in Waitomo©

7. Get a Photo of Marokopa Falls

Continue a couple more kilometres down the road from the Piripiri Cave and you’ll reach the walk to Marokopa Falls. Follow a short bushwalk to a viewing platform looking across the river at the majestic 35m (115ft)-high Marokopa Falls (it doesn’t always look as ferocious as it does in the below photo)! For more natural attractions along this stretch of road, check out our 16 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.

Location: State Highway 37, 30km (19 miles) from Waitomo Village©

8. Indulge in a Spa Day

After scrambling on one of Waitomo’s cave adventures and even long drives around New Zealand, a spa treatment feels all the more blissful. Luckily, Waitomo has its very own day spa at Waitomo Adventures. The spa offers a range of facials, body treatments and floatation therapy, which take place in their spacious treatment rooms with private courtyards. See more like this in the 9 Luxury Activities in Waitomo.

Location: 1227 Waitomo Valley Road, approximately 600m (650 yards) from Waitomo Village.

10 Waitomo Must-Dos© Pixabay

9. Drive All the Way to the Coast to Dig Your Own Hot Pool

It’s a must-do if you can spare the time to take the scenic route between Waitomo and Raglan or simply a day trip to the coast from Waitomo. The reason being that if you drive to Kawhia on the rugged and remote west coast, you’ll find New Zealand’s less-visited “hot water beach”. Kawhia (Te Puia) Hot Springs can be found on Ocean Beach where it’s possible to dig your own hot pool at low tide. Check out more hot pools around the country in the 7 Free Natural Hot Springs in New Zealand.

Location: Kawhia, 69km (43 miles) from Waitomo Village.

10 Waitomo Must-Dos©

10. Explore the Kiwiana Town of Otorohanga

Either on your way to or from Waitomo, you’ll pass through the characterful town of Otorohanga. The town is the self-proclaimed “Kiwiana Capital of New Zealand” celebrating all things about New Zealand popular culture. Learn more about it down the free Ed Hillary Walkway just off the town’s main street or even see a real-life kiwi bird at the Otorohanga Kiwi House (more on that below). Get more inspiration for your visit with 5 Fun Things to Do in Otorohanga.

Location: State Highway 3, 15km (9 miles) north of Waitomo Village©

11. See a Real Kiwi Bird and Other New Zealand Wildlife at the Otorohanga Kiwi House

Speaking of the nearby Otorohanga, a must-do is the Otorohanga Kiwi House. See kiwi birds in special nocturnal houses as part of conservation breeding programs, while New Zealand parrots, three-eyed tuatara and more natives are also available to see throughout the large aviaries and enclosures that you can even walk inside. Don’t miss the keeper talks where you often get to help feed the birds. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.

Location: Alex Telfer Drive, Otorohanga, approximately 17km (10 miles) from Waitomo Village.

10 Waitomo Must-Dos© Tourism New Zealand

12. Visit Te Kuiti, the Shearing Capital

Head south from Waitomo and you’ll reach another quirky town, this time it’s the “Shearing Capital of New Zealand” marked with a 7.5-tonne statue of a sheep shearer. Te Kuiti also has some attractive Japanese gardens, the picturesque Mangaokewa Reserve with a waterfall, as well as being a popular base before heading to the Timber Trail. Find out more in our 5 Fun Things to Do in Te Kuiti.

Location: State Highway 3, 18km (11 miles) south of Waitomo Village.

PhilBeeNZ on Wikipedia© PhilBeeNZ on Wikipedia

13. Visit Piopio with Waterfalls and a Hobbit Filming Location

Don’t underestimate the little town of Piopio and its attractions! First, stop by the town to sample one of the cafes, visit the art gallery and the museum. Then, head down the Mangaotaki Road to discover picturesque walks alongside limestone cliffs, to waterfalls and even a Lord of the Rings attraction at Hairy Feet Waitomo. See 10 Fun Things to Do in Piopio for more inspiration.

Location: State Highway 3, 41km (25 miles) south of Waitomo Village.©

14. Tackle the Multi-day Mountain Biking Experience, the Timber Trail

Finally, active travellers making their way in or out of Waitomo should seriously consider hitting one of the top bike trails in the country. The Timber Trail is a two to three-day trail in the remote wilderness of the Pureora Forest Park. Famous for its logging history, the park is now a protected area where native trees and birdlife thrive. Ride over the longest swingbridge in New Zealand and historic logging tramways that are slowly being reclaimed by nature. In the centre of the trail is the Timber Trail Lodge providing hotel-style rooms, as well as bike, meal, and transport packages to help organise the experience with ease. Learn more about Timber Trail Lodge on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Location: Shuttles to the trail depart from 26 Ongarue–Waimiha Road, 80km (50 miles) from Waitomo Village.

10 Waitomo Must-Dos©

[CLOSED] See the Animals and Stop for Dinner at Roselands Restaurant & Farm

Get the real Kiwi farm experience at Roselands. Famous for their frequent buffet schedules, such as their NZ$15 beef casserole nights, Roselands Restaurant is a popular stop for dinner and a New Zealand farm experience. See the farm animals on a 20-minute ATV tour of the 7,413ha (3,000-acre) farm. Groups can also book in for sheep shearing shows.

Location: Fullerton Road, 3km (2 miles) south of Waitomo Village.

jeffreyw on Wikipedia© jeffreyw on Wikipedia


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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