Waikato
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Waikato Culture & History

Whitianga: 2-Hour Scenic Glass Bottom Boat Tour

1. Whitianga: 2-Hour Scenic Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Hop onboard this 2-hour guided boat cruise to explore stunning volcanic coastline, the amazing marine life as well as learn more about what you see and the history of the area. Visit Cathedral Cove, sea caves, towering rock formations and more. View an abundance of the marine life through the glass panels throughout your cruise. Meet the crew at the Whitianga Wharf to board the Glass Bottom Boat, then cruise out the harbour and learn about the history of Whitianga and abou Captain Cook's arrival. Once out the harbour hold onto your hats as the boat speeds up on the way to the stunning Shakespeares Cliff and Cooks Beach Blow hole.  Continue on into the marine reserve to get a first look at Cathedral Cove and to explore the surrounding bays. Enjoy some fantastic marine life viewing through the glass panels such as schools of snapper, reef fish, stingrays, crayfish and more. Learn all about what you see both below the surface, but also in terms of geological formations. Continue to view marine life while cruising along the coast line, stopping in bays to explore caves, rock pinnacles, and one of the tour highlights: the amazing Orua Sea Cave. The boat cruises right inside this magnificent sea cave full of fish and amazing acoustics. On the way back, there is a stop for more marine life viewing and the option to jump in the beautiful waters and have a snorkel or swim. Also keep and eye out for any passing marine mammals such as dolphins or orca as they are breathe taking to see in the wild. If you are lucky you may get to see them swimming under the glass panels. Sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning views as the boat cruises back to the Whitianga Wharf.

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Lake Taupo: 1.5-Hour Maori Rock Carvings 5:00 PM Cruise

2. Lake Taupo: 1.5-Hour Maori Rock Carvings 5:00 PM Cruise

Enjoy a summer evening cruising on Lake Taupo. Chris Jolly has been entertaining guests for 40 years, and his tour to the Maori Rock Carvings is known worldwide. Recently restored, these rock carvings were created in the 1980s and still tower above the water, truly a sight to behold.  With family friendly activities on board and split level comfort, this tour is a must for those visiting the region. Enjoy the full bar as you cruise around the Lake Taupo bays, learning onboard from the live commentary. With views of Tongariro National Park and spectacular scenery, this is one evening to be enjoyed by all.

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Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour

3. Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour

Explore Ruakuri Cave, New Zealand’s longest guided underground walking tour. Ruakuri Cave offers a captivating blend of Waitomo's most compelling subterranean experiences. Ruakuri Cave has displays of glowworms and is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years. Journey down through the spectacular spiral entrance, and marvel at the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries. Hear the distant thunder of the subterranean waterfalls and get up close to the glowworms. Major features include Holdens Cavern, named after James Holden who first opened the cave to the public, The Drum Passage, The Pretties, and The Ghost Passage. Your knowledgeable guide will bring the history, features and legends of the cave to life with their storytelling.  Many of the guides are local people whose parents and grandparents have guided in the caves. The experience will leave you open-mouthed, awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.

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Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

4. Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

Cruise through the crystal-clear, turquoise waters of Lake Taupo, taking in the vibrancy of Maori culture all the while. After boarding your cruise, explore the stunning surroundings of the lake, surrounded by rugged mountains and lush trees on the banks. As you glide through the lake on your deluxe Catamaran, you’ll come to a massive carving depicting the traditional facial tattooing of the Maori people. Inspired by centuries of rich Maori tradition, artist Matahi Brightwell carved the elaborate relief into the side of a cliff directly above the lake’s pristine waters in 1980. Depicting one of his grandmother’s ancestors, the carving represent a triumph of Maori artistry, and the continued preservation of indigenous culture. Perfect for the whole family, after taking in the carving, you can feed the ducks, and maybe even catch a fish. After 1.5 hours, you’ll head back to the dock to disembark.

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Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

5. Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

Discover Taupo's Maori Rock Carvings, possibly the largest of their type in the world and only accessible by boat. Enjoy sailing Lake Taupo at its best (and quietest) with New Zealand's only commercially operated fleet of electric yachts. Set off with a friendly and experienced crew who have been sailing to these carvings since 1983. Make yourself at home on a lovingly restored classic white sailing yacht, which set the scene for a wonderful experience on stunning Taupo Moana (Lake Taupo). Sit back and relax as your fun and experienced guides explain the 800-year-old cultural significance of the 14-metre high Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings.  Soak up the sun or roll up your sleeves; you can take the wheel, help hoist the sails or just sit back and enjoy the view. Equipped for all conditions - if the wind dies down, the eco-friendly electric engine will kick in, moving you noiselessly through the water. When the wind is up, you can enjoy sailing without salty sea-spray and noisy outboard motors. Snuggly warm ponchos are supplied for cooler days.

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Auckland: Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Small Group Tour

6. Auckland: Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Small Group Tour

The tour starts with pickup from Auckland city, where the adventure begins as you drive through the stunning Waikato countryside, the most extensive farming area in the world, on a fully guided journey to Hobbiton. Along the way, don’t forget to take advantage of the photo opportunities as you admire the stunning natural landscapes all around of beautiful mountains and farmlands. After the drive, arrive at Alexander Family Sheep Farm and Shire's Rest, the entrance to Hobbiton, and marvel at the thousands of sheep that live here. While you’re here, grab a bite to eat, a coffee, or enjoy an ice cream to cool off while your guide collects your tickets to the movie set. Next, hop on board one of the big green Hobbiton buses to depart on your two hour fully guided tour of this amazing 12-acre movie set with a professional Hobbiton guide to ensure you get the most out of your visit. During your tour trip into the lush pastures of the Shire, visit 44 hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear secrets and stories about the making of the movies and finish your LOTR experience with a cold beverage at the famous Hobbiton pub, The Green Dragon Inn. After your LOTR experience, it’s time to head west towards the stunning Waitomo region. Along the way admire the incredible hydro dams, beautiful farmland, race horses and the Kiwiana capital of New Zealand. Before arriving at the caves, stop by Waitomo homestead for lunch, and a little surprise too. Once in Waitomo, explore the ancient and amazing caves and marvel at the many cave formations including Stalactites, Stalagmites, and Lime Columns before descending even further underground for your Glowworm Grotto experience. Board your glow-worm boat for a cruise on the grotto river with thousands of glowworms sparkling above you. Unique to New Zealand for over 120 years, Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a must see for any traveler. On the guided trip back to Auckland the sights continue with New Zealand's longest river, Huntly power station and the Maori Queens’ burial site.

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Aranui Cave 1-Hour Guided Tour

7. Aranui Cave 1-Hour Guided Tour

Explore the ancient cave formations, high chambers and huge stalactites and stalagmites of Aranui Cave, one of Waitomo’s best kept secrets, on a guided walking tour. Set in the forest of the Ruakuri scenic reserve and just a 5 minute drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Aranui Cave is a magical, mystical place that is steeped in Maori myth and legend. It has a natural cave entrance and is the smallest and most delicate of Waitomo's three main caves. Departing from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre, your tour is led by an experienced guide who will bring the history, features and legends of the cave to life with their storytelling. Enter the cave and walk along safe boardwalks into narrow chambers. Discover the colony of cave weta, large insects unique to New Zealand, just inside the entrance.  Further into the cave you will discover the spectacular high chambers, magnificent limestone formations and the pale brown, pink and white shades of the huge stalactites. Tour groups are small to provide you with an up-close and personal encounter with nature and some magical memories to take away.

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Lake Karapiro: Evening Kayak Glowworm Tour

8. Lake Karapiro: Evening Kayak Glowworm Tour

Your guided tour commences in the late afternoon or early evening. As you paddle along the southern end of Lake Karapiro, crossing over the old submerged Horahora Village and power station that produced electricity for the early Waihi goldfields. Learn about local Maori and early European history of the area while enjoying the twilight and silence of being on the water as the day draws to an end. The magic begins as you paddle slowly up the Pokaiwhenua stream and through a spectacular canyon carved out by water over many hundreds of years. Native ferns and trees and bird life surround you and you may even hear brown trout breaking the water's surface. When darkness falls you will drift silently back downstream, surrounded by glow worms on either side sparkling like tiny Christmas lights.

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Auckland: Coromandel Scenic Flight with 2-Course Lunch

9. Auckland: Coromandel Scenic Flight with 2-Course Lunch

Travel to the Coromandel in the clouds for your own private delicious 2-course lunch with a drink included. Admire the incredible views of the Coromandel Peninsula from above and hear interesting commentary from your professional pilot. This is sure to become a memory of a lifetime. With an extraordinary combination of a unique bird’s eye view from above Auckland all the way to the Coromandel and a beautifully prepared meal you and your partner or group will be sure to have a treasured shared memory. An experienced pilot that has done over 100 scenic flights from Coromandel and back and will offer expert guidance of all the sights on the ground as you make your way to and from your destination.

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From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

10. From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

Enjoy the magic of Middle Earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set and delight in Maori culture at Te Puia Maori Village in Rotorua on a day tour from Auckland. Travel in comfort with a small group and an experienced local guide in a late-model Mercedes or a similarly configured the vehicle to provide extra leg room and space for your comfort.  After the pick-up from your hotel, journey through gorgeous Waikato scenery to Hobbiton. On arrival, set off on an official 2-hour guided tour through the picturesque twelve-acre site. Learn fascinating details of how a beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-Earth. At the end of your tour, savor a complimentary drink at the Green Dragon Inn.  Climb back into the vehicle for the 55-minute drive to Rotorua. Arrive at Te Puia Maori Village where you will have a freshly prepared hangi lunch featuring traditional Maori food. With plenty of time to explore, discover the Pohutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs, silica formations, and the iconic Kiwi bird. Visit the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. Then explore Rotorua, visiting the lakefront and the government gardens, before the return journey to Auckland. You can opt for drop off in Rotorua, just select this option when booking. 

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Other Sightseeing Options in Waikato

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What people are saying about Waikato

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 29 reviews

Venue was easy to find and staff were friendly, we did the Ruakuri tour and it was amazing. Touring with a small group makes a huge difference as there isn’t a-lot of room to move at times. Loved the long spiral walk down to the caves, there is limited lighting within the cave and path ways but that made the tour more exciting, make sure you have a good camera as you can not use your camera flash, and trust me you’ll take pics I definitely would recommend this tour to people of all ages and abilities

It was really amazing experience. We enjoyed a lot and cruise crews explained all the beautiful places and there history clearly. They are very helpful all the time. Thank you for giving opportunity to express my feelings.

The skipper was awesome, fresh blueberry muffin was a treat. Good information during the tour.

Very good. We were in a small group which made easy to hear the guide talk about the caves

Was amazing to see, awesome tour guide fulled with lots of knowledge and was lots of fun