Day 2: Auckland - Waitomo
200 kms3 hours
Drive through the Waikato region and admire the rural landscapes around you.
On your way you'll pass through the culturally important town of Ngaruawahia, the Waikato's oldest settlement and the meeting place of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers. Ngaruawahia is the heart of Waikato Maoridom and the location of Turangawaewae Marae where the Maori King resides. Lying under the shadow of the sacred burial ground of Taupiri Mountain Ngaruawahia is also linked to many important Maori political movements and leaders.
About 1.5 hrs south of Auckland is Hamilton. With a population of approximately 159,000, Hamilton is New Zealand's largest inland city, connected to the ocean by the mighty Waikato river. If you have time to stop, check out its themed gardens and the location zoo which has the largest free flight aviary in the Southern Hemisphere - an excellent chance to find out about New Zealand's distinctive native birds.
From Hamilton take a detour off the Thermal Explorer Highway on to State Highway 3 to the small village of Waitomo, stopping on the way at Otorohanga, home to the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park where you'll see New Zealand's largest live Kiwi collection. The village of Waitomo is a popular tourist spot where you can take a guided tour to discover the magic of the glow-worm caves.
Massive subterranean caverns are adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and as you glide silently through the darkness on a water-borne barge, glow-worms overhead create the effect of an eerie underground sky. But, if that is not exciting enough for you, vast caving channels provide the thrill of blackwater rafting, caving and abseiling.
Above ground activities include 4WD biking, horse riding, a kiwi culture show, Angora rabbit shearing show, wildlife park and drive-yourself jet boats.
Extensive bush surrounds the district, providing scenic attractions that include the natural Limestone Bridge, Marokopa Falls and many bush walks.
- Otorohanga Kiwi House
- Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves