The name Waitomo comes from wai (water) and tomo (hole or shaft). Dotted across this region are numerous shafts dropping into underground cave systems and streams. There are 300-plus mapped caves in the area: the three main caves – Glowworm, Ruakuri and Aranui – have been bewitching visitors for over 100 years. Many have amazing stalactites growing down from the ceiling and stalagmites growing up from the cave floor. The cave walls are also decorated with galaxies of native glowworms.
The easiest way to see the caves is with a walking or boat tour. If you’re into adventure, try the unique experience of blackwater rafting - you'll crawl, swim and float through the caves on a rubber tube. Or you could abseil or zip-line through the darkness. However you choose to explore Waitomo Caves, you're bound to agree they're a wonder of nature.
There is as much to see and experience above ground as there is below. Enjoy good cafes and walks as well as natural wonders such as the beautiful Marokopa Falls and limestone Mangapohue bridge. A walkway beginning near the Waitomo Museum of Caves leads through farmland where you'll see fascinating rock forms and strange fluted outcrops.
For a quirky insight into rural New Zealand life, take in one of the local farm shows, or go exploring on a guided horse trek. If you'd like to visit some New Zealand’s rarest birds, including our national icon, the kiwi, head to Otorohanga Kiwi House in Otorohanga. Nearby, the Pureora forest provides some great short and long hikes suitable for all levels. Hunting and fishing tours are also on offer in the area.
South of Waitomo is Piopio. This rural area is making a name for itself with great walking trails, cafes, golf, and Hairy Feet Waitomo, which was the filming location for Staddle Farm and the Trollshaw forest in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.