If you’re travelling on a budget and seeking some free things to do in the in the Waitomo region there’s a waterfall that’s said to be the most beautiful in New Zealand, as well as a number of interesting walks and getting on your bike.
The spectacular Marokopa Falls are a 35-minute drive from Waitomo Caves Village on the Te Anga Road that heads west. There’s a well-sign posted carpark with an easy trail leading through the native forest of nikau palms and tall tawa trees to the falls viewing platform.
Amongst the other free to view waterfalls in the area the Omaru Falls and Waitangruru Falls, both located near the small town of Piopio.
In the caves vicinity are a number of walks, most of them easy and all of them scenically splendid.
Nearby Piripiri Cave is one of the few free caves open to the general public. A five-minute walk goes through native forest past limestone outcrops and then descends a short staircase to the cave entrance where, standing on a specially constructed platform, you can see right into the cave. Take a torch to see the dark interior, which also does photograph well despite the gloom.
In Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, accessed via the Ruakuri Caves car park, there’s a one-hour loop walk that follows the stream to a forested gorge, past naturally sculpted cliffs and under low limestone arches, as well as the Ruakuri Natural Bridge tunnel which is home to a colony of the native pekapeka long-tailed bats.
At night glowworms illuminate the banks in the reserve and there’s a grassed picnic area near the car park.
Just before the Waitomo Caves is the Opapaka Pā Walk through native forest, farmland and up a steep track to the site of a small defensive pā where fighting trenches and kumara pits are evident. When crossing the farmland walkers are advised to keep to the fence line and be mindful of any animals in the paddock.
For a different kind of walk there is the Sir Ed Hillary Walkway, located in the nearby town of Ōtorohanga. The undercover walkway features displays of kiwiana, from pavlova and Vegemite to gumboots and buzzy bee toys.
The full 85 kms of the Pureora Forest Park Timber Trail, which stretches from Waitomo to Lake Taupo, takes two days of cycling and three-four days if you are walking. However, there’s also a range of shorter tracks weaving through this remarkable forest of native and exotic plantation trees.
Out on the coastline of the western Waitomo region is more free enjoyment for visitors including the chance to enjoy a natural hot water spa on Kāwhia Beach where, at low tide, you can dig your own relaxing pool.
The sunsets out over the Tasman Sea are gratis too.
Free things to do in Waitomo:
- Marokopa Falls
- Omaru Falls
- Waitanguru Falls Walk
- Piripiri Cave
- Ruakuri Scenic Reserve
- Pureora Forest Park
- Te Kuiti
- Kawhia Hot Water Beach
For more information about free activities and attractions in Waitomo visit www.waitomocaves.com