INSIDE: Looking for Things to Do in Waitomo with Kids? We recommend this Cave Tour.
From time to time, we find a tourist attraction or activity with that extra special something.
An unexpected surprise is the spark that sears the place into our brains permanently, long after most holiday memories have faded.
I honestly didn’t expect to find this happen at Waitomo Caves, but it did.
- 1 Waitomo Things to Do? Take The Waitomo Caves Tour
- 2 Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
- 3 Waitomo Caves Souvenirs
- 4 Waitomo with Kids
- 5 The Inside Scoop – Waitomo Glow Worm Caves New Zealand
- 6 Waitomo Caves Prices:
- 7 Waitomo Caves Map
- 8 Toadstool Rating – Things to See in New Zealand
- 9 Looking for More Things to Do in New Zealand for Kids?
Waitomo Things to Do? Take The Waitomo Caves Tour
Waitomo Caves is a highly polished, glossy tourist operation, with expensive entry tickets, and overpriced food in their on-site cafe and restaurant.
It’s clinical and impersonal, despite the grand entranceway, and if we hadn’t already booked the tickets, I probably would have walked straight back out. The stench of money-grabbing opportunity was strong.
There’s a spiel, and our tour guide could hardly disguise his boredom, taking yet another group of tourists on a quick in-and-out Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour in exactly 45-minutes (and not a moment longer).
I was hardly surprised when the tour exited through the obligatory souvenir shop. (Yawn)
But despite all this, our experience on the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour rates as one of the best things we did in New Zealand this last trip.
I definitely don’t want to give it away, and spoil the surprise of what’s in store.
What I will say is that you should take the kids.
The Waitomo Caves Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a glow worm cave from a DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE, in complete darkness, and silence.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
As far as tour spiels go, this one was above average too, despite our host’s gloomy demeanour.
I did not know much about glow worms, full stop.
I definitely did not know that glowworms catch their food by dangling sticky mucus-lined threads of silk from their mouths to trap tiny insects and pull the threads upwards until the prey is close enough to nibble.
I definitely had not SEEN these silvery threads in real life. (WOW factor 10 out of 10!)
(I also definitely had not been in a cave with a tiled floor. My jaw hit the ground – our nature experiences are usually natural!)
Waitomo Caves Souvenirs
Glow Worm fanatics can also buy a Glowworm soft toy in the souvenir shop. It’s a bit odd, but definitely a talking piece.
Waitomo with Kids
The Waitomo Glowworm caves were first explored in 1887 by English Surveyor Fred Mace, accompanied by local Maori chief Tane Tinorau. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.
130 years later, we can head in too.
The Inside Scoop – Waitomo Glow Worm Caves New Zealand
Correct at time of publication. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of.
Waitomo Caves Address: The Waitomo Caves are located at 39 Waitomo Village Rd, Waitomo Caves. Drive through town and around the corner to find the Waitomo Caves Tourist attraction. It is 550 metres past the iSITE tourist information centre, on the left. Parking is on the right.
Telephone: +64 7 878 8228
NZ Freephone: 0800 456 922
Website: Click here
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm
Waitomo Cave Tours:
There are three main tours you can join at Waitomo Caves.
- The Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour is a good introductory cave experience for busy tourists with limited time. Marvel at Mother Nature’s light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto by boat! (This is the surprise. Don’t tell the kids!) Tours depart every half hour daily from 9am-5pm daily from 01 April – 31 October and from 9am to 5.30pm from 01 November – 31 March. Allow 45 minutes.
- Aranui Cave is a magical, mystical place that is steeped in Maori myth and legend. It’s Waitomo’s smallest, most delicate cave and it’s dry, with no river running through it like the others. Regular tours run daily from 9:00am with the last tour at 4pm (bookings are recommended). Allow 1 hour.
- The Ruakuri Cave Tour is New Zealand’s longest underground tour at 2 hours duration. Suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. Tours depart daily at 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm & 3:30pm.
Waitomo Caves Prices:
- The Waitomo Glowworm Caves price is $51 per adult, $23.50 per child, $127 per family of four, and $17 per extra child.
- The Aranui Cave tour price is $50 per adult, $23 per child, $124 per family of 4, and $17 per extra child. Add the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour for the whole family for $35 extra (subject to change)
- The Ruakuri Cave tour price is $74 per adult, $29 per child, $180 per family of 4, and $19 per extra child. Add the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour for less than $20 more* (subject to change)
- Rates are in NZD and are inclusive of 15% GST.
- Child prices are for 4 -14 years old inclusive (proof may be required).
- Children under 4 years of age are free.
Waitomo Caves Deals: Check the website for seasonal discounts and package deals. They often offer 2-for-1 deals, or 50% a second tour when you buy one.
Waitomo Caves Discount? Call in and ask the friendly staff at the Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre at the Waitomo iSITE tourist information centre at 21 Waitomo Village Rd. They may have current brochures with discount coupons.
How to get there:
- Auckland to Waitomo Caves: The drive takes 2.5 hours from Auckland, a distance of 197 kilometres, via State Highway 1 and State Highway 39
- Rotorua to Waitomo Caves: The drive takes 1 hour 50 minutes from Rotorua, a distance of 147 kilometres, via SH 5
Parking: There’s onsite parking for free across the road. Stay safe by using the underground walking tunnel to cross the road. Cars and buses speed around the bend and accidents do happen.
Where to stay in Waitomo:
- We stayed at the 100 year old Waitomo Caves Hotel, a grand historic hotel that despite having seen better days, was a delight! Read more here.
Waitomo Caves Map
Nearest takeaway coffee and/or food options: Onsite cafe and restaurant
Toilets: Yes including baby change table
Disability access: Limited
Waitomo Caves was last reviewed in September 2018.
Toadstool Rating – Things to See in New Zealand
A delightful conclusion to the Glowworm Caves Tour makes the detour worth every km.
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