The Guide to Waitomo for Families© Hamilton - Waikato Tourism
The Guide to Waitomo for Families

The Travel Guide to Waitomo for Families

© Hamilton – Waikato Tourism

Plan a Family Trip to Waitomo

Under the lush rolling farmlands of this small North Island village is a vast network of limestone cave systems awash in stalagmites, stalactites and, most famously, glowworms.

While Waitomo might be known for its caving adventures, there’s actually a varied selection of activities that you can enjoy with the little ones. Plus, there’s more to Waitomo than glowworm caves, so discover the family-friendly attractions and accommodations in this travel guide to Waitomo for families.

It’s a must-do in New Zealand, whether you’re local or just visiting the country for a short while.

Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids

  • Do a walking tour through Waitomo’s limestone and glowworm caves
  • Or enjoy a gentle boat trip through the caves
  • Figure out the puzzles of the Troll Cave
  • Get a fun and educational experience at the Waitomo Museum of Caves
  • See the mighty Marokopa Falls
  • Do the walk to the Mangapohue Natural Bridge
  • See the filming locations of The Hobbit at Hairy Feet Waitomo
  • Visit the Kiwiana Capital of New Zealand
  • Meet a kiwi bird and more at the Otorohanga Kiwi House
  • Walk the Ruakuri Bushwalk to see caves and glowworms at after dark
  • Watch a New Zealand farm show at the Woodlyn Park Kiwi Culture Show or Big Bird Lifestyle Farm Show.

For more details on each activity, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.

The Guide to Waitomo for Families© CaveWorld Waitomo

Family Adventure Activities

Let’s waste no time in getting you lot into a glowworm cave! There are plenty of options for families with different ages of children depending on what sort of adventure you want to have.

An excellent option for families are the walking tours of Waitomo. There are no age restrictions for the Ruakuri Cave, a 1h15min tour through the breathtaking limestone caves with opportunities to see clusters of glowworms. Learn more about Ruakuri Cave on Viator or Tripadvisor. The Aranui Cave tour is a shorter tour in a more intimate cave network with colourful cave formations and weta (but no glowworms). Finally, the Footwhistle Glowworm Tour with CaveWorld Waitomo is a more off-the-beaten-track experience for families with children aged five and above. Learn more about the Footwhistle Glowworm Tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Another option focussing more on the glowworms are the Waitomo boat tours. A popular option is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves which takes you into the huge Cathedral Cave before embarking on a short boat journey to see a staggering colony of glowworms. See Viator and Tripadvisor for more details on the tour. Alternatively, Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours operates a longer tour including walking and a gentle rafting experience under a stunning array of glowworms in the Spellbound Cave and under the limestone formations of the Spirit Cave.

While exciting caving adventures with Black Water Rafting (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Waitomo Adventures are also available, children need to be over 10 or 12 years old depending on the company. Learn more in the 10 Waitomo Must-Dos.

The Guide to Waitomo for Families© Shaun Jeffers - THL

All-weather Family Activities

Although many of the cave tours in Waitomo can be enjoyed in most weathers, prolonged heavy rain can cancel some tours. With that in mind, there are some fun alternatives in and around Waitomo to please the crowd.

Learn more about the underground world of Waitomo, its glowworms and history at the Waitomo Museum of Caves. Kids get in free to this indoor activity with interactive exhibitions, a cave crawl challenge, a video show about the glowworms, and cave crystals, moa bones and fossils to admire.

Experience the caves in a unique way on the hilarious Troll Cave tour at Waitomo Adventures. After delving down an elevator, you are in the Troll Cave and it’s your mission to find “Tom”. Solve the troll’s puzzles on this one-hour adventure!

Finally, meet a real kiwi bird at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, just a short drive from Waitomo. See and learn about New Zealand’s unique animals and about the conservation efforts to protect them. There are daily keeper talks and feedings, which are a must with the kids!

For more activities like this, see the 10 Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids.

The Guide to Waitomo for Families©

Free Family Activities

Spend a little extra time in Waitomo to discover some of the amazing free attractions. For instance, the Ruakuri Bushwalk (Tumutumu Road) is a 45-minute return walk through native bush hiding small caves, limestone formations and even glowworms, which you can see after dark – make sure you take a torch.

Take a road trip down Te Anga Road and you’ll find a few interesting natural attractions on short walks suitable for children. Marokopa Falls is a goodie, a 35m (115ft) high waterfall seen after a short walk through tawa and nikau forest. Additionally, check out Mangapohue Natural Bridge consisting of two giant rock arches. Both walks take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

For more activities like this, see the 15 Free Things to Do in Waitomo.


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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