The caves were carved by underground streams pushing through soft limestone over thousands of years. Many have amazing stalactites growing down from the ceiling and stalagmites growing up from the cave floor, pointy cones of layered rock formed over centuries by dripping water. The cave walls are also decorated with galaxies of native glow worms.
The easiest way to see the caves is with a walking or boat tour. If you’re into adventure, try the unique experience of blackwater rafting - you'll crawl, swim and float through the caves on a rubber tube. Or you could abseil or zip-line through the darkness. However you choose to explore Waitomo Caves, you're bound to agree they're a wonder of nature.
There is as much to see and experience above ground as there is below. Enjoy good cafes and walks as well as natural wonders such as the beautiful Marokopa Falls and limestone Mangapohue bridge. A walkway beginning near the Waitomo Museum of Caves leads through farmland where you'll see fascinating rock forms and strange fluted outcrops.
For a quirky insight into rural New Zealand life, take in one of the local farm shows, or go exploring on a guided horse trek. If you'd like to visit some New Zealand’s rarest birds, including our national icon, the kiwi, head to Otorohanga Kiwi House in Otorohanga.
Nearby, the Pureora forest provides some great short and long hikes suitable for all levels. Hunting and fishing tours are also on offer in the area.
South of Waitomo is Piopio. This rural area is making a name for itself with great walking trails, cafes, golf, and Hairy Feet Waitomo, which was the filming location for Staddle Farm and the Trollshaw forest in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.Waitomo township has a few shops and plenty of accommodation. It is easily reached by road from Auckland (3 hours), Rotorua (2 hours) or Hamilton (1 hour).
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves attraction is a cave at Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand, known for its population of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa. This species is found exclusively in New Zealand. They are around the size of an average mosquito. This cave is part of the Waitomo Caves system that includes the Ruakuri Cave and the Aranui Cave.
The name "Waitomo" comes from the Māori words wai, water and tomo, hole or shaft. The local Māori people had known about the caves for quite some time before the local Māori Chief Tane Tinorau and an English surveyor, Fred Mace, did an extensive exploration in 1887. Their exploration was conducted with candlelight on a raft going into the cave where the stream goes underground. This is now the exit for the cave. As they began their journey, they came across the Glowworm Grotto and were amazed by the twinkling glow coming from the ceiling. As they travelled further into the cave by poling themselves towards an embankment, they were also astounded by the limestone formations. These formations surrounded them in all shapes and sizes.
They returned many times after and Chief Tane independently discovered the upper level entrance to the cave, which is now the current entrance. Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti, by 1889, had opened the cave to visitors and were leading groups for a small fee. The administration of the cave was taken over by the government in 1906 after there was an escalation in vandalism. In 1910, the Waitomo Caves Hotel was built to house the many visitors.In 1989, the land and cave were returned to the descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and Huti. They now receive a percentage of the cave’s revenue and are involved in the management and development of the cave. These descendants encompass many of the employees of the caves today.