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Waikato

Nature & adventure

Our most recommended Waikato Nature & Adventure

Waitomo Caves: Labyrinth Black Water Rafting Experience

1. 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. 

Whitianga: Cathedral Cove 2 Hour Boat Cruise

2. 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.

Waitomo: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour by Boat

3. 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.

Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour

4. Ruakuri Cave 1.25-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.

Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

5. 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.

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 Caves Black Abyss Ultimate Caving Experience

7. Waitomo Caves Black Abyss Ultimate Caving Experience

Go on the ultimate caving adventure at the Waitomo Caves. Satisfy your inner adrenaline junky on this guided tour into the depths of Ruakuri Cave. Zipline through otherworldly glowworms, and splash through underground waterfalls. Check-in in Waitomo where your guide will ensure you are properly equipped and offer some technical instruction before you descend into the underground network of the Waitomo Caves.  Practice abseiling with your guide to ensure you feel confident before abseiling down 35-meters into the seemingly bottomless black depths of the glowworm-studded Ruakuri Cave. Descend deeper with a flying fox zipline that passes through an area that is abundant with glowworms. Prepare to be awed by stunning stalactites and stalagmites that decorate the cavern walls as you traverse through the dark water.  Enjoy adrenaline-fueled fun as you clamber down, float through the canyon, and scramble up waterfalls before resurfacing into daylight. At the end of your exhilarating journey, enjoy a hot shower, hearty soup, and a bagel.  End at the Long Black Café, a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the high energy atmosphere as excited visitors depart and arrive from their various expeditions. Internet access and merchandise are also available at this point. 

Hukafalls: 30-Minute Jet Boat Experience

8. 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.

From Auckland: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Day Trip with Lunch

9. 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, in 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.  Afterwards, 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 Cove, 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.

Taupō: Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

10. Taupō: Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

Discover Taupo's Maori Rock Carvings, possibly the largest of their type in the world and only accessible by boat. Enjoy sailing Lake Taupo at its best (and quietest) with New Zealand's only commercially operated electric yacht. Set off with a friendly and experienced skipper. Make yourself at home on a lovingly restored classic white sailing yacht, which set the scene for a wonderful experience on stunning Taupo Moana (Lake Taupo). Sit back and relax as your fun and experienced guide explains the 800-year-old cultural significance of the 14-meter high Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings.  Soak up the sun or you can take the wheel, help hoist the sails or just sit back and enjoy the view. Equipped for all conditions - if the wind dies down, the eco-friendly electric engine will kick in, moving you noiselessly through the water. When the wind is up, you can enjoy sailing without salty sea spray and noisy outboard motors. Snuggly warm ponchos are supplied for cooler days.

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What people are saying about Waikato

Overall rating

4.9 / 5

based on 37 reviews

One of the best experiences I’ve signed up to. Matt and Luke were entertaining instructors who made us feel safe throughout the experience. Highly recommend this activity. Seeing the glow worms on a raft as you go through is a must.

The vessel had just the right amount of people to make it a comfortable tour and not so small as to be potentially rough while travelling across the bay. Liam our driver and guide was entertaining and knowledgeable.

This was such a beautiful experience! I loved how much New Zealand culture our guide told us about on the way too. It was absolutely worth it and I would do it again!

Moi was very informative and interactive and the caves were absolutely incredible

Had an Awesome experience. Cory was a fantastic tour guide thank you very much