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Waikato

Culture & history

Our most recommended Waikato Culture & History

Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour

1. 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 locals whose parents and grandparents have guided in the caves. The experience will leave you awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.

Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

2. 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 on a cruise. Explore the stunning surroundings of the lake while surrounded by rugged mountains and lush trees on the banks. Enjoy an optional fishing demonstration. 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 represents a triumph of Maori artistry and the continued preservation of indigenous culture. After visiting the Maori Rock Carvings, watch as the crew gives a trout fishing demonstration by setting some fishing lines and talking about the various fishing options allowed on Lake Taupo (if option selected). At the end of the trip, you’ll head back to the dock to disembark.

Taupō: Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

3. Taupō: 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 electric yacht. Set off with a friendly and experienced Skipper. 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 guide explains the 800-year-old cultural significance of the 14-metre high Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings.  Soak up the sun or 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.

Auckland: Hobbiton, Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu Day Tour

4. Auckland: Hobbiton, Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu Day 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 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 2-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 continue southwards towards the active geothermal area of Rotorua. During the drive, pass through the unique town of Tirau, the corrugated iron sculpture capital of the world, and the stunning Fitzgerald Glade. Upon arrival in Rotorua, enjoy a guided tour of the city’s most famous and historical sites including Lake Rotorua, The Government Gardens, the Blue Baths, Thermal Springs, and Polynesian Spa. Take some time to rest for lunch and then head to Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland considered one of the most surreal places on earth.  Here, admire Champagne Lake, Devil’s Bath, local mud pools, geothermal craters, and other geothermal wonders before a fully guided trip back to Auckland and the end of your tour.

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

5. 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.

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 2-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. 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, the Huntly power station, and the Maori Queens’ burial site.

Black Water Rafting Adventure in the TumuTumu Cave

7. Black Water Rafting Adventure in the TumuTumu Cave

Spend about 2.5 hours underground in the dark, the only light from glowworms, on this wet adventure through sections of the TumuTumu Cave. Put on a helmet, boots and a wetsuit to take on the world-famous Waitomo Caves on a fun off-the-beaten-track experience. The trip combines the best elements of blackwater rafting, walking, climbing, swimming and tubing. The friendly staff will equip you with all the gear you need and look after you along the way. You don’t need to be a good swimmer, as the wetsuits provide lots of warmth and buoyancy.

Tauranga: Hobbiton & Rotorua Geysers Shore Excursion

8. Tauranga: Hobbiton & Rotorua Geysers Shore Excursion

Join a small-group shore excursion from Tauranga to explore North Island's top attractions. Experience geysers, mud pools and steam vents with Maori culture and visit the real Middle-earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set. You will be picked up from Tauranga Port, dependent on your ship's arrival time, and journey to Rotorua. For centuries Whakarewarewa village has been home to the Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao people.This is a unique location with the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere and an official Maori guide will meet you for your visit. Encounter a strange landscape of sights, sounds and smells and marvel at the way the Maori's have tamed this land for their own purpose.  Here you'll get the chance to see the iconic Kiwi bird in a purpose made Kiwi bird enclosure. Admire boiling mud pools, native bush, and the National Schools of Wood Carving and Weaving. Then depart Rotorua and its geothermal wonderland to travel to the second venue of your tour, Hobbiton Movie Set!   Discover the magic on a guided tour with an official guide for an experience to tantalise your senses. Find yourself engulfed in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of The Shire, at the home of the Hobbits, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.  After your tour, enjoy a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon (either alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic ginger beer) that is included in your tour.  You will be returned to Tauranga Port, guaranteed to be back in plenty of time for your ship's departure.

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

9. 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. 

From Auckland: Hobbiton Movie Set Full-Day Trip

10. From Auckland: Hobbiton Movie Set Full-Day Trip

Enjoy a day trip from Auckland to the world-famous and magical Lord of The Rings Hobbiton Movie Set in the heart of Middle Earth. Get picked from your hotel in a comfortable 12-seater mini-bus and driven through the stunning Waikato countryside (the most extensive farming area in the world) on a fully guided journey to Hobbiton. During the trip south, encounter stunning scenery, great photo opportunities, beautiful mountains, and see several different farm animals along the way. After the drive, you will arrive at the Alexander Family Sheep Farm and Shire's Rest (the entrance to Hobbiton) where you can see thousands of sheep, grab a bite to eat, get your coffee fix, or enjoy an ice cream while your guide collects your tickets to the movie set. Next, you will board one of the big green Hobbiton buses to depart on a 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, step into the lush pastures of the Shire, visit 44 hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear the secrets and stories about the making of the movies, and enjoy a cold beverage at the famous Hobbiton pub "The Green Dragon Inn." After the tour, you will be guided back through the Alexander Family Sheep Farm for another stop at Shire's Rest for a spot of souvenir shopping and maybe a bite to eat before you begin your journey back to Auckland.

Frequently asked questions about Waikato Culture & History

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What people are saying about Waikato

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 29 reviews

I took out group of interns on this trip, and they had a great time. The crew were friendly and the captain did a great job making the trip interesting. One of the gals who helped with tea and baking the blueberry muffins also gave a great explanation of the meaning & history of all the carvings. We were blessed with a great day out on the lake - smooth as glass, even with a little rain the trip was very enjoyable. Watching the ducks fly up and eat out of my hand was a fun little highlight as well.

Wonderful experience. The skipper was so knowledgeable about the area and it's history which she shared with a lovely touch of humour.

John is the best tour guide I have ever had!!! He explained everything pretty good, I am 100% satisfy with his service.

Great tour. Max was awesome, welcoming and so knowledgeable. We took our 5 & 7 year olds & they liked it.

Honestly the best money spent, I truely would have spent more it was that good.