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Things to do in Waikato

Our most recommended things to do in Waikato

Waitomo: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour by Boat

1. Waitomo: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour by Boat

Discover New Zealand's natural wonder of Waitomo Glowworm Caves on a guided boat trip. Glide by boat through this underground complex, watching millions of tiny bioluminescent insects lighting up the rocky limestone. Explore this cave complex, including a chance to visit the Cathedral Cave on foot. The caves were formed over 30 million years ago and comprise 2 levels. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave and formations known as the Catacombs, the Pipe Organ, and the Banquet Chamber. On the lower level are stream passages and the Cathedral. Begin on foot as your local guide brings the caves to life with stories about their history. Then, board a boat and marvel at the light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto.

Waikato: Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour Ticket

2. Waikato: Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour Ticket

Take a guided tour of Hobbiton Movie Set in the heart of the Waikato region. Step into the stunning landscapes of the Shire, as seen in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Take a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the only set that remains intact from the movie trilogies. Wander the rambling paths of The Shire and see the Hobbit Holes in the rolling hillsides. Follow your guide around the set as they show you the most famous locations and explain how the movie magic was made. Walk around the 12-acre set, past Hobbit Hole and the Mill. Then, step into the world-famous Green Dragon Inn. Sample an exclusive, specially brewed beverage to conclude your own Middle-earth adventure.

Hukafalls: 30-Minute Jet Boat Experience

3. Hukafalls: 30-Minute Jet Boat Experience

Your thrilling adventure will take you along the beautiful Waikato river environment, lined with native bush, sheer rock cliff faces, and natural hot springs. Enjoy the best water-level view of Huka Falls from the unique vantage point on the jet boat. The manoeuvrability of the Hukafalls jet boat is legendary. Be in awe at the speed and precision in which you torpedo gracefully down the river to play in the tail of the mighty whitewater of the Huka Falls. Pass by clouds of steam rising where a hot stream joins the river. See the Huka Prawn Park, the Wairakei Geo-Thermal Power Station, and the Aratiatia Dam. Zoom past sheer rock cliffs with just centimeters to spare, exhilarated and secure in the knowledge that your driver is an expert.

Waitomo Caves: Labyrinth Black Water Rafting Experience

4. Waitomo Caves: Labyrinth Black Water Rafting Experience

Float down an underground river, slip into fast waters, jump off a small waterfall and take in the magic of the glowworm grotto of Ruakuri Cave on this Black Labyrinth adventure. Put on your gear and learn from professionally trained guides that will take you ziplining, rafting, and caving.  Check in for your black water adventure in Waitomo. Get all your equipment and instructions from your guide before you begin the subterranean journey. Leap over cascading waterfalls and weave and climb through a glowworm-studded wonderland. After an energized trip, float serenely down the underground river. Enjoy the glow worm show on the vaulted limestone galleries up above. Ride a stream that twists and turns through a canyon, and tumble down a hidden waterfall and rock slide before emerging into the sun-dappled Waitomo forest. The rafting base is located a short distance outside Waitomo Caves village. This is the booking and assembly point for all black water rafting expeditions. It is also the home of the Long Black Cafe, where you'll find delicious food, coffee, and friendly Kiwi service. 

From Auckland: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Day Trip with Lunch

5. From Auckland: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Day Trip with Lunch

Join this tour to visit two of New Zealand's most iconic and famous attractions, the Hobbiton Movie Set and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, on a day trip from Auckland. After pickup from your central Auckland hotel, travel south over the Bombay Hills for panoramic views of the Waikato Region and the scenic Hauraki Plains. Arrive at The Shire's Rest in Matamata, the home of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Your guide will help you skip the crowds so you can explore the Movie Set on an official 2-hour tour. Be escorted through the 10-acre site and learn fascinating details of how the Hobbiton Movie Set was created. See Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, and The Mill. Savor a complimentary specially-brewed beverage at The Green Dragon Inn.  Afterward, travel to the mesmerizing Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where you'll enjoy a Kiwi-style lunch at The Homestead in Waitomo. On the way, share stories from Hobbiton and interact with your fellow travelers.  Glide silently by boat in the world-famous caves and be amazed by the thousands of magical glowworms.  Your guide will likely be a descendant of the Maori Chief who originally explored the Caves and can share with you the remarkable history of the area. Walk through the majestic Cathedral Cave, famous for its acoustics. The return trip takes you through some of New Zealand's most beautiful countryside before following the majestic Waikato River northwards part of the way back to Auckland. You will pass Taupiri with its very sacred Maori burial ground. The day concludes with your return to your accommodation.

Lake Taupo: 1.5-Hour Māori Rock Carvings Scenic Boat Cruise

6. Lake Taupo: 1.5-Hour Māori Rock Carvings Scenic Boat Cruise

Admire beautiful Māori rock carvings set against a stunning mountainous backdrop on a 1.5-hour journey around Lake Taupo's waters aboard a boat that features live audio commentary. Relax and enjoy coffee or tea and a homemade muffin as you admire panoramic views of New Zealand, picturesque mountain tops, and historic rock carvings inspired by centuries of rich Māori tradition and art. Explore the open decks that allow you to feel the cool outdoor breeze or cozily snuggle into one of the indoor booths, and enjoy a trout fishing demonstration by the crew — you may even get a "taste of Taupo" if all goes well.

Waitomo: Ruakuri Cave 1.5 Hour Guided Tour

7. Waitomo: Ruakuri Cave 1.5 Hour Guided Tour

Explore Ruakuri Cave, New Zealand’s longest guided underground walking tour. Ruakuri Cave offers a captivating blend of Waitomo's most compelling subterranean experiences. Ruakuri Cave has displays of glowworms and is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years. Journey down through the spectacular spiral entrance, and marvel at the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries.  Hear the distant thunder of the subterranean waterfalls and get up close to the glowworms. Major features include Holdens Cavern, named after James Holden who first opened the cave to the public, The Drum Passage, The Pretties, and The Ghost Passage. Your knowledgeable guide will bring the history, features, and legends of the cave to life with their storytelling. Many of the guides are locals whose parents and grandparents have guided in the caves. The experience will leave you awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.

Tandem Skydive Experience in Taupo

8. Tandem Skydive Experience in Taupo

Start your day in style with a complimentary pick-up from your accommodation in a stretch Hummer. Head to the drop zone, a 10 minute drive from the town center. On arrival, let the experienced and friendly team look after you. Go through the safety briefing and the available video/photo options. Be kitted up with all the equipment you need for a safe experience. You even get a free buff headband to wear during the jump and have as a keepsake.  Your skydive begins with a scenic plane ride up to 12,000ft, 15,000ft or 16,500ft (depending on the option you choose). You’ll begin to get incredible views of Lake Taupo, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe – also known as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. Once you’ve reached altitude, the doors will open, you’ll sit on the edge of the plane with your tandem master seated behind you. After exiting the plane you will free fall at speeds of 200 kilometres per-hour for 45, 60 or 70 seconds. At 5,500 feet your tandem master will deploy the parachute and you can catch your breath while taking in the stunning views of the Lake Taupo area. You will then float back to earth with a relaxing parachute ride with your tandem master, arriving safe and soundly back at the drop zone. Once back on the ground it’s time for a high five and a hug. Check out how nervous you look in your exclusive Jump Photo before being dropped back to Taupo. 

Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

9. Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

Cruise through the crystal-clear, turquoise waters of Lake Taupo, taking in the vibrancy of Maori culture on a cruise. Explore the stunning surroundings of the lake while surrounded by rugged mountains and lush trees on the banks. Enjoy an optional fishing demonstration. As you glide through the lake on your deluxe Catamaran, you’ll come to a massive carving depicting the traditional facial tattooing of the Maori people. Inspired by centuries of rich Maori tradition, artist Matahi Brightwell carved the elaborate relief into the side of a cliff directly above the lake’s pristine waters in 1980. Depicting one of his grandmother’s ancestors, the carving represents a triumph of Maori artistry and the continued preservation of indigenous culture. After visiting the Maori Rock Carvings, watch as the crew gives a trout fishing demonstration by setting some fishing lines and talking about the various fishing options allowed on Lake Taupo (if option selected). At the end of the trip, you’ll head back to the dock to disembark.

Whitianga: Cathedral Cove 2 Hour Boat Cruise

10. Whitianga: Cathedral Cove 2 Hour Boat Cruise

Based in Whitianga, this scenic boat cruise showcases Mercury Bay’s stunning coastal paradise at its very best. Embark on a 2-hour journey across the rugged volcanic shores of the bay and explore its beautiful beaches including Hahei and Lonely Bay. The highlight of the tour is the world-famous Cathedral Cove at Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve. The site has a rich Maori heritage, attracts around 150,000 visitors per year, and was used as a filming location for the blockbuster movie Narnia. Sit back and relax as you sail around the bay, and marvel at its stunning natural landscapes that stretch across the peninsula. Along the way, listen to your guide share entertaining live commentary about the bay and the wildlife that lives here. Make sure to keep an eye on the water too, as there's always a chance to see dolphins, whales and orcas in their natural habitat.

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What people are saying about Waikato

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 8,084 reviews

This was such an amazing day which our whole party enjoyed (family with two teenagers). I had read reviews that the tour moves too quickly, but we found that it moved at a good pace. We had plenty of time in the gift-shop and plenty of time to take photos of all the hobbit holes. Yes, you have to keep moving but we didn't feel rushed. The lunch was amazing - there was so much food! Our guides were great - both the bus driver from Rotorua who gave us commentary on the area during the trip, and the Hobbiton guide who was entertaining and made sure we had time for photos.

I had made this reservation months ago and didn't recall that I made it for Ruakuri Cave and not Waitamo Glow Worm Cave. So when I checked in, I asked if I could switch but there was no availability. Well, this ended up being just fabulous! This cave was beautiful, with many gorgeous formations, and yes, it did have many glow worms too! Zack, our guide, was humorous and informative and respectful to those who came before to this land. Very worthwhile tour!!

Travelling took part in a very spacious, very comfortable van / minibus. Edson, our driver, was a delight and very knowledgeable. Hobbiton is a must for every Lord of the Rings fan. It’s been an unforgettable experience.

Absolutely fantastic, I highly recommend people taking the time and visiting you will not be disappointed. Well worth the money. Our guide Merlin is a real asset to their team.

Well worth the time and money to get there. The attention to detail was amazing. You felt like a hobbit would come over the hills at any moment.