There are stunning regions in New Zealand! In tourism terms, some of these regions could be described as ‘underdeveloped’. For serious travellers, that’s a good thing. It means you’ll be away from mass market tourism in the more populated hotspots. The beautiful rural ‘King Country’ is one of those regions and has much to offer, including the Waitomo Caves. Here’s just a few tips on what to do in Waitomo area.
So, what to do in Waitomo: – at Waitomo, there are a number of different caving tours from Spellbound, to Black-Water-Rafting to 4 or 7 hour Abseiling tours. Now just imagine yourself doing this; hanging free in a massive underworld. You might bounce around a bit and turn a few times on the rope. But once you adjust and look around, straight ahead are the upper levels of a massive cave and giant spagatites. These spagatites look as though they’re from a pre-historic world. They’re weirdly beautiful structures that cling to sheer walls. To cap it all off, you have the roaring sound of the Mangapu river echoing up from caverns below. Now some of us will only do this once. But believe me, many get ‘hooked’ on this time of adventure for the rest of their lives.
It’s only an hour’s drive from Waitomo is Kawhia Beach and it really is a stunning beach! The dunes are full of beautiful tussock grasses swaying in the wind and beyond, you’ll get panoramic views of the life force which is the Tasman sea. The black-iron sand adds to the density of colour. Once here, you can fish, do boat trips and best of all, have a soak at Te Puia Hot Springs on the beach. But if you’re going to do this activity, Remember, go at low tide – then get a spade to dig your own hot pool!
The Hobbiton Village is nearby (1.5 hrs drive), but hidden away, is the less known Mangaotaki Valley site. There’s no jostling for space here folks. We found a great family owned company called ‘Hairy Feet Waitomo‘ tours. This is a small group tour and if you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ll love it. A full 20 minutes of the first Hobbit film took place right here. If you’re seen the film, I guarantee you’ll recognize the areas where so many scenes were shot. It really is quite an exciting discovery.
It’s only a 20-minute return walk to this spectacular 36-metre waterfall. It can be found , 2 kilometres past the Piripiri Cave off State Highway 37. The Marokopa Falls is one of the most beautiful in the country, so don’t forget your camera!
Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park – here’s your opportunity to see New Zealand’s iconic kiwi birds. And if you’re interested, there are daily talks by the keeper plus feeding displays (kiwi, kea & kaka, kakariki and longfin eels). It’s a nice way to wile away a few hours in a peaceful park setting.
Waitomo has it’s very own 5-star Farmstay . Kamahi Cottage Farmstay is located near the Waitomo Caves and the Village of Otorohanga. Owners, Liz and Evan, run a farmstay style cottage . The cottage is charmingly rustic on the outside but with with soft comforts inside. There’s a gourmet breakfast served every day of your stay. This is a great little find – a hidden gem owned by real New Zealanders in rural heartland.
At an additional cost, Evan from Kamahi cottage also takes visitors on a great scenic farm tour & drive through a family farm. If you’re lucky to be here in the Spring months from August to October, you’ll see lots of new-born lambs.
A ‘gallery’ of Kiwiana displays showcasing NZ’s popular culture, history, heroes and icons. This is a great free attraction right in Otorohanga’s main street.
Now Raglan is a charming seaside village and is a famous hang-out place for surfers. Surf-boarding is a thing here. There’s also a strong representation of artists here who love the surfing vibe. And because this surfing capital attracts fit young surfers, there’s also a vibrant cafe scene.
These are just some of the ‘highlights’ of What to do in Waitomo Caves area and the wider King Country. Staying a few days is highly recommended. You’ll be wowed by this beautiful part of the North Island landscape, plus you’ll get plenty of space to enjoy very special moments.