What is the Must-do in Waitomo?
Hiding some of the most awe-inspiring glowworm caves in New Zealand, Waitomo is a must-do destination in itself. But once you’re there, what are the Waitomo must-dos? You might be surprised to find out that there’s actually more to these rolling farmlands than glowworms and caves. We go through some of the top attractions in and around the area in this list of the must-dos in Waitomo.
For more trip-planning advice, be sure to check out The Complete Guide to Waitomo.
1. Do a Walking and/or Boat Tour of the Glowworm Caves
Of course, you want to see Waitomo’s famous glowworm caves but what are the best tours? For those looking for a relaxing way to see the caves without getting wet, there are walking tours and boat tours available. Popular options include the Waitomo Glowworms Caves for its boat journey underneath one of the largest known displays of glowworms in the country, while the Ruakuri Cave offers a good combination of glowworms and limestone features. Start comparing tours in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.
Location: Both tours depart from 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Village.
2. Amp Up the Adventure with a Caving Tour
Adventurous travellers might want to amp up the experience to the adrenaline activities that New Zealand is renowned for. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. has two popular caving tours, which you can read up on in What is the Best Black Water Rafting Tour in New Zealand? Alternatively, Waitomo Adventures offers a whopping six tour options. Both tour companies incorporate abseiling, ziplining, caving and tubing, so just choosing one is your biggest headache – the rest is pure cavey fun! Again, compare the companies in the 8 Best Waitomo Cave Tours.
Location: The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. – 585 Waitomo Caves Road, approximately 2km (1 mile) from Waitomo Village. Waitomo Adventures – 1227 Waitomo Valley Road, approximately 600m (656 yards) from Waitomo Village.
3. See a Real Kiwi Bird and Other New Zealand Wildlife at the Otorohanga Kiwi House
The nearby town of Otorohanga might be known for being the “Kiwiana Capital of New Zealand”, which you can learn more about how to experience in the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo, but 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.
4. Do the Ruakuri Bushwalk and Waitomo Walkway
A definite must-do are some of the walks in the area, not only because they are fun, but also because they’re free! The Ruakuri Bushwalk is a hit, a 45-minute stroll through the native bush with limestone formations and small caves to see along the way. Go after dark to see glowworms! 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.
Location: Waitomo’s short walk locations are listed in the 5 Best Walks in Waitomo.
5. Check Out Marakopa Falls
Take some time out from Waitomo’s adventures and enjoy some of the alternative natural attractions surrounding Waitomo. For instance, take a road trip down Te Anga Road and you’ll find a few interesting natural attractions along short walks. Marokopa Falls is a goodie, a 35m (115ft) high waterfall seen after a 10-minute walk through the tawa and nikau forest.
Location: Te Anga Road, approximately 30km (19 miles) from Waitomo Village.
6. Walk Under the Mangapohue Natural Bridge
Another one to add to your road trip when visiting Marokopa Falls, Mangapohue Natural Bridge is two giant rock arches towering over a picturesque stream. The 17m (56ft) high arch can be marvelled at along a 20-minute loop walk. It’s also one of the highlights we mention in the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.
Location: Te Anga Road, approximately 25km (16 miles) from Waitomo Village.
7. Take a Road Trip to Waterfalls and the Middle-earth Scenery of Piopio
While we already recommend a road trip to Marokopa Falls and the Mangapohue Natural Bridge as mentioned above, another excellent road trip is to the nearby town of Piopio. While the town itself is home to quaint cafes that are worth a quick stop, the highlight of your visit is along the Mangaotaki Road with more magnificent waterfalls, limestone bluffs providing amazing photo opportunities and Middle-earth magic. Hairy Feet Waitomo is an off-the-beaten-track Hobbit location experience that is, dare we say it, arguably better than Hobbiton. Find out more in the 10 Fun Things to Do in Piopio.
Location: Piopio, 41km (25 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.
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. 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.
Location: Shuttles to the trail depart from 26 Ongarue–Waimiha Road, 80km (50 miles) from Waitomo Village.