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Weekend break or romantic escape, Waitomo is the perfect place to head for an adventure-filled getaway.
An easy drive from Auckland, take a break from the big city and explore all that Waitomo’s caves and countryside have to offer. We’ve put together a two day itinerary that packs in the best bits of this region. Marvel at Waitomo’s must-do’s, go underground for the ultimate adventure and discover the region’s hidden gems. Round up your mates, whisk away your lover and get ready for a completely unique weekend break.
4pm: Head for the Hills
If you’re driving down from Auckland, skip the traffic (and the last hour of work!) and hit the road for Waitomo. Over the Bombay Hills the cityscapes fade out, replaced by Waikato’s dairy-farming fields and countryside charm. Allow about 2.5 hours to cruise your way into Waitomo.
7pm: Cosy comfort, Waitomo Accommodation
Drop off your bags, get the weekend started. There’s a whole range of accommodation options in Waitomo.
The Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park has long been a favourite for groups of friends and families. Right next to Waitomo village, their spotless motel units and cabins make a great weekend base - complete with outdoor hot tub to wind-down the day. For countryside tranquility without straying too far from the village centre try Te Tiro’s cottages. Set on a 1600 acre farm, these cosy cottages have panoramic views over the farmland and mountains. For a luxury romantic weekend, Kamari Cottage pulls out all the stops. This boutique 5-star farmstead is the ultimate in chic countryside accomodation, plus a deliciously gourmet breakfast is provided.
8pm: Friday Fine Dining
Once you’re settled in, Waitomo’s favourite bistro, Huhu Cafe awaits. Regional cuisine at it’s freshest and most flavoursome, expect a modern twist on classics using local produce and choice cuts of meat. Save room for dessert - well worth splashing out on, the options are decadent and delicious.
8am: Charge the Caffeine Batteries
A big day of cave exploration calls for some strong coffee and quality eats to kick off the day. Waitomo Homestead’s large, light-filled eatery serves up a solid Big Breakfast for some protein packed goodness. If the sun’s out, enjoy al-fresco on their expansive terrace. If your idea of breakfast is a more a quick muffin and flat white, Black Water Rafting’s Long Black Cafe cabinet selection is made for pre-cave eats.
9am: Get Down in the Dark
A jumpstart to your caving escapades and probably the most fun you’ll ever have in the dark, get ready for Black Water Rafting.
Abseiling, climbing waterfalls, flying along ziplines and splashing through crevasses are all part of this epic adventure. The team will get you geared up (thick, warm wetsuits included!) and prepped for action before you descend into the dark. Between the adrenaline filled moments you’ll also get an up-close and personal glowworm viewing. Lie back in your rubber tube, float slowly downstream and gaze at the glittering display. Whether you choose the three hour or five hour option, time flies underground and you’ll be tumbling back out into sun-lit native forest before you know it. Finish up with complimentary hot soup and bagel, and most importantly nice hot showers to keep the adrenaline buzz going.
2pm: Starry-Eyed Cave Gazing
A slightly more chilled pace after the morning’s adventures, next up is the town’s most famous attraction Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
These are caves like no other and never fail to wow. You’ll be guided down the two levels that form this huge underground structure, each one with its own fascinating features and limestone formations. The guides here know their stuff and bring to life the caves fascinating history - many of the guides are descendants of the local Maori tribe that first discovered the caves in 1887. If you’re hanging out for the glowworms, hold tight until the end of the tour. Gently floating along by boat, you’ll arrive under the vast cave ceiling that glowworms have transformed into a sparkling galaxy.
7pm: Glow in the Dark Walk
Just before you call it a day, rev up your adventurous spirit for this special after-dark walk. The Ruauri Walk is one of Waitomo’s best short walks, turning into glowing forest at night when the resident glowworms become visible. Once the sun goes down, stroll along this bush-clad track (torch in hand) until you get to the main bridge. Turn off your torch to spot the glowworm clusters either side of the track, a serene way to finish an epic day.
8pm: Fill Up, Wind Down.
With exploration done for the day, a hearty pub meal is in order for dinner time. Popular with locals and tourists alike, The Tomo Bar and Eatery serves up tasty renditions of kiwi favourites. The likes of braised lamb shanks and fish and chips will fix all hunger pangs. If you’re not ready to fall into bed after dinner, stick around here - Waitomo’s local often gets quite the crowd for a village pub.
9am: Lazy Sunday Sustenance
With Waitomo’s must-do’s under you belt, spend a chilled Sunday checking out Waitomo’s lesser-known spots. Ease into the day with a leisurely breakfast at Waitomo General Store. The eggs benedict is a top pick and coffee is consistently good.
10am: Waitomo’s Best Kept Secrets
Start the day with Aranui, the smallest and most perfectly formed of Waitomo’s caves. Overlooked by many tourists, you’ll get an up close and personal experience with what are undoubtedly Watiomo’s best limestone formations. Packed into its contours are millions of delicate stalactites, coloured beautiful shades of pale brown, pink and white. This is a one of a kind cave and the guides will recount the Maori mythology, flora and fauna that surround it.
The final stop on the cave bonanza is New Zealand’s longest underground walking tour, Ruakuri Cave. An immense maze of a cave system, this is the same cave where Black Water Rafting takes place. No abseiling required this time around, wind your way down the spiral walkway before heading into the cave’s depths. The underground river rushes along below and beautifully still pools reflect the limestone surroundings, the tour shares the best of this fascinating cave. For the LOTR fans, Ruakuri has its own Middle-Earth connection - get your guide to let you in on its Trilogy of secrets.
2pm: Waterfall Wonder, Ancient Arches
Back out into the daylight, don’t leave Waitomo without checking out two of Waitomo’s best free activities - the Marokopa Falls Walk and Mangapohue Natural Bridge. These natural wonders only require a short stroll before you stumble on their awe-inspiring beauty.
The Marokopa Falls is one of New Zealand’s finest waterfalls, tucked a 10 minute walk off the main road. The Marakopa River tumbles down the 35 metre drop, framed by dense deep green native bush to create an impressively misty beauty.
Back towards Waitomo Village, let Mangapohue Natural Bridge be your final souvenir of Waitomo’s amazing cave system. The boardwalk traces along the sharp limestone gorge, before you arrive the natural bridge - a towering limestone arch structure. Step into the cave underneath for an even closer view of these ancient limestone relics.
4pm: Wind up the Weekend
With Waitomo’s wonders all wrapped up, don’t let the Sunday evening blues creep in. On the way back up to Auckland you’ll find one of the best ice cream stops around - Pokeno is famed for its huge multi-scoop cones. Or if for an afternoon tea treat try Te Kuiti’s Stoked Eatery, just outside of Waitomo. Their delicious coffee and jam donuts will keep the endorphin buzz going that little bit longer. Ready to plan out your own Waitomo weekend getaway? Buy your tickets online and book your accommodation for this magical subterranean destination.