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Waitomo Glowworm Caves: Day Trips and Tours from Auckland

Estimated to be close to 30 million years old, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves make for an exciting and educational day trip from Auckland. With several caves to choose from, visitors can easily spend several hours exploring.

Known for their thousands of glowworms and magical grottos, these caves are a must-do for those hoping for a fun jaunt from Auckland.

How to get to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland?

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are located approximately 200 kilometers south of Auckland. The closest large city nearby the caves is Hamilton which lies over 70 kilometers to the north.

From Auckland to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves by car

The journey from Auckland to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves takes approximately two hours and 15 minutes by car. After leaving the city, head south on Highway 1 until reaching Hamilton. From here, take Highway 39 towards Otorohanga. The caves are located just a quick drive from here.

From Auckland to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves by bus/public transport

You can take a bus from Auckland to Hamilton, which takes around two hours. From here, get on a bus to the Waitomo Township, which is where the caves are located. This is not the quickest way to reach the Waitomo Caves and it may be worth renting a car for the day instead.

Guided tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland

Visitors can join a guided tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which is available on arrival. Since the caves are only open on weekends, it’s highly advisable to pre-book this experience though.

A guided tour, including transportation from Auckland, is the best choice for those looking to join a group of like-minded travelers without having to worry about the planning or the journey.

How much does the entrance ticket to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves cost?

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are only accessible with a guided tour, and some of the caves may have different entrance fees. Tours take place several times per day, from 9:30 AM to 4 PM, although availability may change depending on the season.

A Waitomo Glowworm Caves or Aranui Caves tour takes approximately one hour. The Waitomo Caves tour includes a 10-minute boat ride through the grotto. The two destinations have the same prices per person or group.

  • Adults: NZ$55 (US$35)
  • Children (aged 4 to 14): NZ$25 (US$16)
  • Children (under 3): free
  • Family pass (including two adults and two children): NZ$140 (US$88)
  • Additional child for family pass: NZ$20 (US$12)

Ruakuri Caves tours take approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The total distance covered will be 1.6 kilometers inside the cave. This tour is wheelchair accessible.

  • Adults: NZ$79 (US$50)
  • Children (aged 4 to 14): NZ$30 (US$19)
  • Children (under 3): free
  • Family pass (including two adults and two children): NZ$190 (US$120)
  • Additional child for family pass: NZ$20 (US$12)

There are also combo tickets available if you plan on visiting several of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves during your excursion.

What is the typical itinerary of a day tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland?

Begin your jaunt to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves early in the morning as you wait for your hotel pickup. The drive will be comfortable and fast in an air-conditioned bus or minivan.

You’ll be taken to the famous Hobbiton Movie Set, where your tour guide will be ready to share fun anecdotes and stories about the filming process. Some tours may also include a stop at Rotorua, where you’ll visit a natural geyser.

After a quick lunch, it will be time for the final part of the journey to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. You may have a choice between visiting different grottos, or if there is time, you could even visit all three.

A tour of the main Waitomo Glowworm Cave even includes a boat ride through the magical underground lake. Marvel at the thousands of glow worms that are native to these caves and spot other rare animals that call this place their home.

Your tour guide will accompany you every step of the way and be happy to answer any questions you may have.

In the late afternoon, you’ll begin your journey back to Auckland, as your Waitomo Glowworm Caves day trip comes to an end.

What kinds of tours are available to go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

Guided tours to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland

Experience an excursion to one or several of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in this fun trip from Auckland. Your experienced guide will be ready to tell you all about these incredible caves and how they were formed. Some tours may include pickup and drop-off at your hotel.

Private tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland

Make the most of your journey to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and join a private guided tour to this incredible natural landmark. Enjoy the undivided attention of your guide and have a say in how much time you want to spend in each cave.

Two-day tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland

Join the ultimate New Zealand trip, including an extended stop at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. On this 2-day tour to Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you’ll depart in Auckland and head to several stops before arriving at the famous cave system. Accommodation and meals may be included depending on the type of tour.

Day trip to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves plus the Hobbiton Movie Set from Auckland

Aside from the magical Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you’ll visit the famous Hobbiton Movie Set, which was a film location for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies.

If you want to make the most of your time in New Zealand, a Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves combo tour is the best choice. You’ll be joined by a group of like-minded travelers, giving you plenty of opportunities to make new friends.

Day trip to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves plus Rotorua from Auckland

This day tour first takes you to the famous Te Puia geysers in Rotorua before heading to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in the early afternoon. A Rotorua and Waitomo combo tour is ideal for nature lovers.

Day tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves plus Rotorua and Hobbiton Movie Set from Auckland

Combine some of the best attractions close to Auckland into this exciting day trip. Spend time at the natural geysers in Rotorua, the Hobbiton Movie Set and, of course, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. With so much to see and do in one day, this trip will be unforgettable.

How much does a tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from Auckland cost?

Cave tours departing from Auckland cost between US$170 and US$280 per person. Tickets to the caves without transport can cost as little as US$35 per person, making this an affordable alternative if you’re organizing your own transport.

Expect to pay between US$200 and US$320 for combination tours involving other attractions such as Rotorua or the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Multiday excursions from Auckland to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and other attractions are priced between US$600 and US$1,000.

What will you see and do at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

An excursion to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves will take you to one of three caves which are part of a larger system.

The main Waitomo Cave is home to a magical grotto with an underground lake. Each tour includes a 10-minute boat ride during which you’ll be able to spot the famous glowworms.

The Aranui Cave is known for its stalactites and stalagmites which form impressive formations. This is also where you might be lucky to spot cave weta, rare insects that live underground.

The Ruakuri Cave is one of the more adventurous in this underground system. A visit involves a hike through narrow passages and spacious caverns. This is one of the best places to see glow worms up close.

What are the opening times?

Visitors can access the caves on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 9 AM and 4 PM, and on public holidays. The Waitomo Caves Museum and Visitor Information Center have the same opening hours, but are closed on Christmas Day.

When is the best time to visit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

You can visit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves year-round. It's better to book a guided tour if you want to avoid having to wait to enter the caves. Sometimes tours may be available at night which increases chances of spotting glow worms.

Are there any tours to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from other cities in New Zealand?

Yes, there are other tours departing from several other cities in New Zealand:

Travel tips

  • Children under the age of 4 are free to enter the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, but will still need to obtain a ticket. Let your tour operator know before arrival if young children will be participating.
  • There is no photography permitted inside the caves. Leave any cameras at home or pack them away during your visit. You may be excluded from the tour if you break the rules.
  • It may get cold inside the caves, so make sure to pack a warm jacket or an extra layer for your visit. The ground may be uneven and rocky in some parts, so wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes. Avoid flip-flops or sandals.