Waitomo Caves


By Orla O Muiri

3 minute read

Get hold of your free New Zealand Trails brochure here

If you want to explore New Zealand's North Island glow worm caves, then you’ve come to the right place to learn all about these fascinating creatures! New Zealand glowworms have to be experienced to be appreciated. Whether you choose to walk or float beneath the incredible constellation of ‘stars’, we promise your adventure in this subterranean world will be a highlight of your New Zealand adventure. We take you to explore the Waitomo Caves and shower you with the weirdest and wonderful glow worm facts on our Sweet North tour.

Come and see New Zealand North Island glow worm caves

Float beneath an incredible constellation of ‘stars’ with Spellbound through New Zealand's North Island glow worm caves.

Glow worm facts

  • Arachnocampa Luminosa is a glowworm that is endemic to New Zealand.
  • The Maori name for glowworms is Titiwai which means ‘lights that reflect on water’.
  • The New Zealand glowworm is actually a fungus gnat which glows in their larval stage to attract prey.
  • Glowworms are at their brightest when they are hungry. The female also glows brighter than the male to attract a mate.

The New Zealand glowworm experience

There are so many ways to experience New Zealand's glow worm caves, but a guided tour of the subterranean world is the best.

Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tour

On our Sweet North tour, we take you to explore the majestic glowworm caves with Spellbound. You will board an inflatable raft and glide downstream beneath the galaxies of glowworms and wander through stunning limestone caves and landscape. The bioluminescence-illuminated cave is a wonder to behold. This cave tour allows you to take in the brilliant spectacle before your very eyes in complete serenity.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

If you seek a more adrenaline-fuelled experience, another option is a black water rafting experience in Ruakuri Cave. You’ll float down an underground river and jump off incredible waterfalls in a thrilling adventure. If you want to stay dry, you can also go for an abseil into the abyss or zipline through the twinkling caves!

Glow worm facts in New Zealand glowworm caves

Admire the stalactites and stalactites of the caves and learn some interesting glow worm facts!

Other things to do in Waitomo

There are a lot of incredible things to do in Waitomo above the surface too!

Visit the Marokopa Falls

The walk to the Marokopa Falls is a beautiful little stroll. It’s just a 600m return track through native nikau forest right up to this stunning 35m high waterfall.

Mangapohue Natural Bridge walk

For another short stroll, there’s the 700m loop known as the Mangapohue Natural Bridge walk. The track passes through a limestone gorge and underneath a 17m high natural arch. Look up at the stalactite-like formations as you pass beneath, and further along the track, you can see 25 million-year-old fossilised oysters exposed in the limestone outcrops.

Waitomo walkway

Weaving through farmland and forest, the Waitomo Caves walkway is the perfect day hike. Taking around 2hrs 30mins one way, it’s a great way to take in some of the incredible limestone and karst formations for free!

Go and see a kiwi bird

As both nocturnal and endangered species, it’s difficult to spot a kiwi bird in the wild. The best way to see some of New Zealand’s rarest birds in Waitomo is to take a trip to Otorohanga Kiwi House. This charity runs an active brown kiwi breeding programme on the North Island. In their Kiwi House, they have brown kiwi, great spotted kiwi and little spotted kiwi.

Visit the Denize Bluffs

Lord of the Rings fans won’t want to miss a guided tour of the Denize Bluffs. The stunning area was used as a filming location in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Cycle the Pureora Timber Trail

If you want a good leg workout, then spend the day(s) cycling a section (or the entire route) of the 85km (52.8miles) Pureora Timber Trail. The route travels through the incredible Pureora Forest Park and over New Zealand’s longest suspension bridges.

Explore the glowworms New Zealand

Time to go and explore the glowworms in New Zealand!

Best time to visit Waitomo

Waitomo and New Zealand's North Island glow worm caves are great places to visit year-round. However, the best time to visit the caves is autumn through to spring (October to April) as the caves can get quite cold in winter.

Visiting the Waitomo Caves with New Zealand Trails

On the final day of our Sweet North tour, we’ll explore the hidden depths of the Waitomo glowworm caves, marvelling at the limestone formations, crystal tapestries and thousands of glowworms that illuminate the cave system.

If you want to find out more about the incredible 5-14 day hiking tours we run in New Zealand, you can request a free copy of our brochure here.


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