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Mesmerized by the Glowworms at Waitomo Caves in New Zealand

Waitomo Caves Review
Photo Credit: Expedia New Zealand

One of the most highly recommended activities in the North Island of New Zealand aside from The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour (post coming soon!) was the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. As you may assume from the name of it, yes, it’s a cave full of glowworms. If you’re looking for things to do in New Zealand, I highly recommend it!

A quick disclosure if you're wondering why I only have outdoor photos and credited photos, it's because there's absolutely no photography allowed in the caves. In fact, I saw someone getting walked out because they were trying to be sneaky and get a photo with their phone! 


Waitomo Caves Review







Where is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves? 

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is located on the North Island of New Zealand, about 2 hours south of Auckland. Since a lot of other people will do the same as did we, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is about 1.5 hours from Matamata which is where the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is located. Despite the total 3.5 hours of driving we did between getting to Matamata and then to Waitomo, the drive back directly from Waitomo to Auckland was only a little over 2 hours. Something to keep in mind! As the name suggests, Waitomo is the small town the Glowworm Caves is located. 

What is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves? 

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves was founded by a local, Chief Tane Tinorau who owned the land and a visiting Englishman, Fred Mace. Long story short, the local had not explored through the cave prior since the caves were considered the underworld. But once they figured out the magical caves with the glowworms, they knew it would become famous. They gave their first public tour in 1889 and the rest is history. To this day, the cave and the company is family owned and run, so almost every employee you encounter is a descendant of Chief Tane Tinorau! 

Waitomo Caves Review

What is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour like? 

We took the basic Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour which was approximately $50 NZD. It’s a guided, walking tour which lasts for about 45 minutes. It starts off by going through the caves and learning about the history of the rock formations. Then, it moves onto seeing a few of the glowworms and their stringy traps for food. The highlight is the silent boat ride that takes you through the caves that are lit with thousands upon thousands of glowworms. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping! They glow in a soft neon blue shade and they’re lit up like stars in the sky. Nature never ceases to amaze! Upon the end of the boat ride, the tour is over. 

If you’re curious, this tour is not ADA friendly and consists of a lot of walking as well as going up and down steep stairs.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Review

Are there other activities at the Waitomo Caves? 

Yes! The glowworm tour is not the only activity to be enjoyed at the Waitomo Caves. If you’re feeling extra adventurous or want something in addition to the glowworm tour, there are other ways to explore and enjoy the caves. A few options are: 

  • Tubing
  • Black Water Rafting
  • Ruakuri Caves Tour
  • Aranui Caves Tour

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Review
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Review

My final thoughts on the Waitomo Glowworm Caves... 

Simply put, we had a wonderful time. While reviews don’t weigh heavily in my decision-making, I couldn’t help but notice reviews as well as other Travel Bloggers saying that it isn’t as great as they expected. I’m not sure if that set lower expectations subconsciously but I couldn’t disagree more. The caves are fascinating and the glowworm boat ride was ridiculously magical. I wish I could have stayed on the boat for a longer time! 

I do have a suggestion I would make in regards to planning your visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. If you’re coming from Auckland like I did and also doing the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour (which you should, whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not), do all the driving and both activities in one fell swoop. We were too cautious and drove down to Matamata for the Hobbiton Tour, stayed over night and continued south to Waitomo and stayed a night there. It’s completely unnecessary and we regret wasting time. I highly recommend going straight to Waitomo for an early cave tour, then head up to Matamata for the Hobbiton Tour, spend the night in Matamata if you’re doing the banquet option, then head back to Auckland. 

Information: 
Waitomo Glowworm Caves 
Address: 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Caves, Otorohanga, New Zealand, 3943 
Website: http://www.waitomo.com/Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves/Pages/default.aspx
Parking: Plenty of free parking in the parking lot


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Waitomo Glowworm Caves Review

9 comments

  1. That sounds like such a nice experience though, and kinda sucks that photography is not allowed!

    Teesh ♥ Adventures of Cupcake Girl

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    1. It was amazing! It's just one of those things you need to see yourself, I suppose! :) Thanks for stopping by as always Teesh! xo

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  2. I LOVED seeing glowworms in NZ!! We went to the caves near Te Anau, but I have heard that the Waitomo caves are even better! One of my friends did a tour where she absailed into the cave before exploring. That sounds amaaaaazing!

    I don't think it matters too much that you can't take photos, I mean they would not come out very well anyway. Everyone just has to get to Kiwiland to see it for themselves!

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  3. The reason for no flash photography is that it endangers the limestone. Good opportunity to be in the moment. Lovely to read more about our country.

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  4. This looks amazing and definitely somewhere I would put on my list! Looking forward to your Hobbiton post too! #flyawayfriday

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  5. What a cool place to take a tour! I wonder why they don't allow photography inside, and if it has anything to do with flash and the glow worms? I'd love to go tubing in there! #FlyAwayFriday

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  6. Wow, what a cool experience! Hope to make it to New Zealand one day and if so will put this on the list, for sure! #FlyAwayFriday

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  7. I love, love natural phenomena like these! As a matter of fact, we have bioluminiscent bays in Puerto Rico and you can see shiny organism at night if you move the water. Interesting to learn some people are not wowed by the cave. This may be a matter of personal taste. #FlyAwayFriday

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  8. This looks like so much fun! Great tip on going to the caves and Hobbiton Movie set in the same day. Kinda sucks they don’t allow photography inside though. #FlyAwayFriday

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