Visiting the glow worms is a popular activity for people travelling to New Zealand, with most choosing to go to the popular Waitomo caves, located 2 and a half hours from Auckland. However, not as many people have heard of the other fantastic glow worm experiences in the Bay of Islands and Te Anau. So how do they compare and which is best suited to your trip and your expectations?

Waitomo caves is the most famous place in New Zealand to see glow worms. Experience the starry glow worms above as a boat ride takes you through the grotto down the Waitomo River. With over 120 years of history, there is more to experience in the caves than the fascinating glow worms. Relax and take in the serene surroundings. You will be in awe by the tiny glow worms that light your path! The boat ride through the grotto is 45 minutes long. There are also options to walk through additional caves or if you are feeling adventurous, Waitomo also offers black water rafting. The black water rafting experience in Waitomo takes you through the incomparable Ruakari Cave. You will be taken by expert guides from New Zealand’s first black water rafting operator. Take the plunge and abseil, weave, jump, climb and float through the Waitomo glow worm caves. Step outside your comfort zone and leave with a huge feeling of accomplishment. For the more adventurous there is the Lost World abseil and caving adventures nearby. Having personally experienced these I can highly recommend them. You will see gloworms however nothing like the intensity of Waitomo. The trip is more geared around seeing the Lost World and caving which is equally spectacular albeit with less glowworms.

Location: Day trip from Auckland, Rotorua or Taupo
Price: Adult NZD $50, Child $23, Family $124 or upgrade to combo packages for multiple caves or black water rafting (at time of publication)
Duration: 45 minutes
Open: 365 days, 0830-1730 – Summer, 0900-1700 – Winter

Kawiti Caves

If you’re after a less touristy, more authentic experience, or your planned route doesn’t take you near Waitomo, the Kawiti Caves are an excellent option. The 30 minute guided tour will follow a wooden boardwalk through a 200 metre limestone cave system. Once inside, you’ll see thousands of glow worms spread across the ceiling surrounded by breath taking stalactites and stalagmites. Prepare to get close enough to see the intricate details of a glow worm, including it’s spectacular blue/green tail light. Then you will make the return bushwalk through pristine rainforest, and experience more of New Zealand’s natural beauty.

Location: Great if you are staying in the Bay of Islands or Kerikeri, Helena Bay etc.
Price: Adult NZD $20, Child (5-15 years) $10 (at time of publication)
Duration: 30-40 minutes
Open: Every day except Christmas, 0900-1600

Te Anau

Te Anau glow worm caves is the only glow worm experience in the South Island. More than just the glow worm caves as your excursion begins with a cruise to the Western shores of Lake Te Anau. As you venture into the caves, your friendly guide will share knowledge of the glow worms and the underground. The caves are still young at 12,000 years old, and are still being carved out by the powerful river flowing through them. Deep inside the caves you will experience the grotto, home to the thousands of glow worms. It is the longest experience of the three with 2 hours and 15 mins including the cruise. The Te Anau glow worm experience can be undertaken during the day or at night and is a wonderful family trip, suitable for all ages. Note that some bending is required at the cave entrance and steps are involved.

Location: Located in the South Island, it is in the perfect location for a day trip from Queenstown
Price: From NZD $81 (Adult)
Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes (incl cruise)
Open: Open all year, various daily departures

Luxury Adventures – Tailoring luxury travel in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific Islands since 1999.

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