With dramatic limestone formations, gigantic stalactites and stalagmites, and subterranean river, New Zealand's Waitomo Caves hold adventure at every turn. This network of underground caverns is one of the best places in New Zealand to spot glowworms, and the glittering creatures provide a magical backdrop to the caves' natural wonders.
The Waitomo Caves can only be visited by guided tours, which typically include a walk through the caves and a boat ride through the glowworm grotto. Tours typically run from Auckland or Rotorua, and are often combined with other Waitomo attractions, such as the Hobbiton film set from The Lord of the Rings.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Only guided tours can access the caves.
- Facilities at the Waitomo Caves Discovery Center include restrooms, a café and restaurant, and free Wi-Fi.
- It can get cold in the caves, so bring a warm jacket and wear comfortable shoes.
- Cameras and GoPros are not permitted inside the caves.
- The caves are not wheelchair accessible and access might be tricky for those with mobility problems. However, the nearby Ruakuri Cave offers wheelchair access.
How to Get There
The Waitomo Caves are located in Waitomo on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The nearest international airport is in Auckland, roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the caves, or 2.5 hours by road. Tours also run from Rotorua, 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of the caves, or two hours by road.
When to Get There
The Waitomo Caves are open year-round, but summer (December through February) is the most popular time to visit. It can get busy, so be sure to book in advance and opt for an early morning or late afternoon tour if you want to avoid crowds.
Tours and Activities in Waitomo
Along with the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, visitors can explore nearby Aranui Cave, Ruakari Cave, and Marokopa Falls. Adventurous types can get their adrenaline fix by black water rafting, abseiling (rappelling), cave tubing (gliding along the river in a giant inner tube), or canyoning through the caves.