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Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand | Complete Guide

Glowworm Caves New Zealand

he Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. The caves are at Waitomo on the North Island and contain millions of glowworms.

These bioluminescent creatures light up the cave walls. As you travel through them on an adventure tour using a small boat or inner tube, depending on your preference.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are open year-round.

But there are certain times of the year when it is best to visit them if you want to avoid crowds.

So let’s dive into these caves! And what makes them one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

What are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo cave is a large system of caves on the north island of New Zealand. And one of the most visited tourist attractions because of the limestone formation and magical glowworms.

Why are there thousands of glowworms in Waitomo Caves?

Glow worms are a type of insect known as an arthropod. They produce their light and use it to attract mates and food.

The glow worms found in the Waitomo Caves are native to New Zealand.

And we do not find them anywhere else on earth, except nearby Australia. Glow worms were once widespread throughout New Zealand’s forests.

The caves were first explored by Tane Tinorau a Maori Chef. Chief Tane explored these caves in 1887.

Why is there limestone inside the Waitomo Caves?

The limestone formations you see inside the caves were created over millions of years.

Mainly through water erosion that carved out large underground areas from soft rock. Leaving behind calcium deposits that hardened over time into stalactites, and stalagmites.

And other cave structures like arches or columns. These formations have been formed by minerals such as calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Which dissolve when exposed to water and then build back up again into larger crystals when exposed to air again. This process can take thousands or even millions of years. Depending on how quickly the water runs off through cracks in rocks.

Why do Waitomo Caves glow?

The glow worms are bioluminescent and a type of Arachnocampa Luminosa, which translates from Latin as “glowing spider.”

They’re very tiny and they live in the Waitomo Caves, so they can only be found there.

They glow to attract a mate and then lay their eggs on the ceiling so that their hatchlings don’t get eaten by predators like birds or bats. When you see them glowing, it’s like seeing stars in your backyard! Imagine that, floating down an underground river in ancient caves, and looking up at hundreds of glow worms that look like a starry night. 

Where are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

This underground cave is around the small town of Waitomo. On new Zealands north island.

Waitomo has a small population, around 50 people, and is close to Hobbiton. Most famous for the hundreds of thousands of tiny brilliant blue lights of the glow worms. The lights illuminate the walls and ceilings of the many caves that dot the countryside.

This award-worthy production is created by the spectacular glowing worms.

However, don’t be fooled by their daunting and eerie beauty, for these lights are deadly!

Can you visit Glow Worm Caves?

You can visit Glow Worm Caves. You can visit a few different sites in New Zealand that feature glow worms.

Waitomo caves have the most spectacular glow worm activity because the caves are enclosed and have very little natural light. The glowing creatures are hanging from the ceiling and look like stars in the night sky.

Tautari (Black Water) Cave is near Rotorua. And another area with lots of geothermal activity because of its proximity to Mount Ngawaka (Mt Tarawera).

This cave has a huge colony of glow worms. That hangs down from the ceiling. Like icicles made from silk strands with tiny lights at the end that shine brightly when touched by torchlight or candlelight! It’s quite incredible how many there are!

How to visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The first step is to travel to the Waitomo area. If you’re staying in Auckland, it’s a 2-hour drive south. Once you arrive at your hotel or hostel, book a guided tour through the Waitomo Caves. Tours last three hours and depart daily at 5:30 pm (although they can also be booked at different times).

Your guide will pick you up from your accommodation in an air-conditioned van (or bus) with other guests. And take you to Waitomo Village, where they will give an introduction about glowworms before driving out to the caves themselves.

The cave itself has two levels. And a lower level accessible only by boat trip along underground streams that flow out into Te Koki River. The tour includes both levels of exploration. And includes an expert guide through the cave systems. 

My Expereince At Waitmomo Glowworm Caves

I loved my time from the first step into the cave entrance until leaving! It is an amazing adventure, that is not to expensive. Beside Hobbiton it is one of my favorite things to see on the North Island.

What is the best way to see the waitomo glowworm caves?

I have done both tours. The rafting tour, and the walking tour. I preferred seeing the Waitomo glowworm caves tubing

You can read my full glow worm experience here.

What is the best time to visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “when is the best time to visit Waitomo to see the magical Glow worm Caves?”. It’s a good question, but it’s difficult to answer because there are so many variables involved.

The weather

Rain will make not make a difference to your experience as you’ll need a warm waterproof jacket and pants since it is cold in the cave, anyway.

How much time you have

If you’re in transit between Auckland and Wellington, then you won’t have enough time. But if you have more time on your hands. Then perhaps staying overnight at Te Kura Rau Awhina Hotel.

Or even driving down here from Rotorua could work well for exploring other attractions nearby. Like New Zealand’s Te Anau Glowworm Caves or Scenic World Cableway. It is near Nelson Lakes National Park (both within about 1-hour drive) which offers amazing views of the New Zealand landscape when night falls!

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Tour Options

There are several tours available, including:

The Waitomo Glowworm Cave Tour.

This is the most popular option and includes a boat ride down the Waitomo River before you enter the cave. The caves themselves are illuminated with glowworms that create an eerie blue glow on the ceiling above you.

The Glowworm Caves & Ruakuri Cave Tour.

If you’re not confident in your swimming abilities, this is a good option for you as it includes both activities in one package.

You’ll also get to explore an additional cave called Ruakuri Cave. Which has some beautiful formations and other interesting features like fossils inside!

The Waitomo BlackWater Rafting Adventure Tour

This one takes advantage of some impressive New Zealand riverside scenery! If you’re looking for something more active than simply floating around ponds filled with glowing worms.

Then this will certainly be right up your alley! Hop into an inner tube, and you and your tour guide float down the rapids in the cave, enjoying the famous Waitomo glowworm cave as you go.

At certain points, you come to a glowworm grotto where the cave ceiling is completely covered.

Head to their website for additional info.

Waitomo Glow Worm Cave Prices

How much does a Waitomo tour cost?

The basic Glow Worm Cave tour costs $55 NZD for adults and $25 NZD for children. But prices vary depending on which add-ons you choose.

You can also pay extra to see Waitomo Caves’ other attractions, including Marokopa Falls and Kawhia Hot Springs, similar to Las Grutas Tolantongo Mexico.

Are the Waitomo glow worm caves worth visiting,

Are the Waitomo glowworm caves worth visiting?

Glow worms are one of the most spectacular sights when backpacking in New Zealand, so if you’re planning a trip downunder. Then be sure to include them in your itinerary.

For tourists who don’t want to spend too much time outside of Auckland or Wellington, Waitomo glowworm caves are a must-see. If you’re traveling with kids (it’s a great place for families).

Then these underground caverns are an excellent choice for anyone looking for an adventure away from home.

Other Places to Visit Near Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Other places to visit near Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

There are several other places to visit and things to do in the Waitomo region after you’ve had your fill of glow worms. Or head south and visit Queenstown, one of the top 10 places to visit in the world.. You could also plan on spending over one day in this remote part of New Zealand, which is rich in natural beauty.

The Ruakuri Walk

Ruakuri Walk is a great way to explore some nearby caves while seeing some spectacular views.

Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi National Park has many hiking trails that weave through lush rainforests. And it is offering plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings (including glow worms).

And if you want even more glow worm action, two other places have them-Te Ana-au Caves near Rotorua and Gouland Downs near Nelson!

Visit te kuiti

You can also this nearby small town, and get some good views. It is also an excellent base for staying near Waitomo.

Visit Hobbiton

Around an hour from Waitomo, you have Hamilton. Another small town, but also the base to see some places where Hobbit was filmed. And of course, Lord of the Rings.

How many glow worm caves are in NZ?

In New Zealand, there are many glow worm caves.

The most famous are.

  • The Waitomo Glowworm Caves in the North Island
  • The Oparara Basin in the South Island
  • Te Anau Glowworm Cave is located on the south side of Fiordland and accessed by boat.
  • Aranui cave
  • Waipu caves
  • Cathedral Cave

Things to Pack Before Heading to Waitomo Caves

  • Warm clothing
  • Comfortable shoes (Non-slip shoes)
  • light jacket
  • life jacket (provided with the tours)

Places to See Along the Way to Waitomo Glowworm Caves

  • Whakarewarewa Forest
  • Waitakere River
  • McLaren Falls Park
  • Paparoa National Park
  • Kawiti Caves

Which is better rakakuri or waitomo glowworm caves?

The most famous, and best place to see these tiny glowworms is Waitomo Glowworm Caves. With its huge number of glow worms and many different tour routes. While you can take an hour-long tour through the cave. We recommend staying overnight to experience all that this beautiful place has to offer. And to fully enjoy seeing the thousands of Glow Worms. 

How far is waitomo glowworm caves from auckland, North Island?

It takes around two and a half hours to get from Auckland to Waitomo. But it is sort of a famous drive in New Zealand. With a lot of places to see along the way to this limestone cave tour to see the epic glow worms. There are nearby lakes, like the shimmering lake of Mclaren lake (Lake Mclaren). Or the natural wonders of Lake Te Anau.

How to get to waitomo glowworm caves

New Zealand is a country to drive! So I would suggest renting a car! Or taking a tour, like my Haka Tour. If you want to get there yourself you can always take a bus.


The Waitomo glowworm caves new Zealand are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. For many people, it is their first stop on a trip to the country, and for good reason!

The caves are beautiful, fascinating and a must-see for anyone who visits. With so much history behind them, there’s no doubt that they will continue to draw people in for years to come.

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