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Waikato

Culture & History

Our most recommended Waikato Culture & History

Lake Taupo: Maori Rock Carvings 1.5-Hour Scenic Cruise

1. 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.

Ruakuri Cave 1.25-Hour Guided Tour

2. 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.

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

3. 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 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 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 the 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.

Auckland: Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Small Group Tour

4. 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.

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.

Lake Karapiro: Evening Kayak Glowworm Tour

6. 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.

From Auckland: Two-Day Rotorua, Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves Tour

7. From Auckland: Two-Day Rotorua, Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves Tour

Join this overnight all-inclusive tour from Auckland and experience the Central North Island's most iconic attractions at a leisurely pace.  Take guided tours of Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves. Discover the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland and the thermal areas and geysers of Te Puia. Experience a Maori cultural evening with a meal and concert.  At the end of the two days, you will return to your hotel in Auckland or a different location in the central area, if specified. Most of the transport is supplied in Mercedes minibuses with luxury seating. Your driver guide will take the time to make sure you enjoy your time on the tour. The largest vehicle seats 15 passengers, but on most occasions your group will be 12 people or less.

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. 

Auckland: Hobbiton and Rotorua with Te Puia Tour

10. Auckland: Hobbiton and Rotorua with Te Puia Tour

Your tour begins as you are collected from your hotel in a comfortable modern mini-bus. From there, travel through the beautiful Waikato countryside - New Zealand's most extensively farmed area, on a fully guided tour to Hobbiton. During the trip south, encounter stunning scenery, great photo opportunities, and beautiful mountains, as well as several different farm animals along the way. Following your drive, arrive to the Alexander Family Sheep Farm and Shire's Rest, the entrance to Hobbiton. There you can see thousands of sheep, grab something to eat, get a coffee fix, or enjoy an ice cream as your guides arrange your tickets to the movie set. Next, board one of the green Hobbiton buses to depart on a fully guided 2-hour tour of this amazing 12-acre movie set with an expert Hobbiton Movie set guide who ensures you get the most out of your visit. During your tour, step into the lush pastures of the Shire, visit 44 different hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear the charming secrets and stories about the making of the movies, and finish your Lord of the Rings experience with a cold beverage at the famous Hobbiton Pub, the Green Dragon Inn. After your Lord of the rings experience, travel back through the Alexander Family Sheep Farm before heading south to the active geothermal area of Rotorua. Throughout your trip, pass through the unique town of Tirau - the corrugated iron sculpture capital of the world, and the stunning Fitzgerald Glade, seeing many more stunning landscapes as you head over the Kaimai ranges. Once in Rotorua, travel with your guides as they show you around the historical sites including Lake Rotorua, the Government Gardens, the Blue Baths, the Thermal Springs, and the Polynesian Spa. From there, head to one of the most famous attractions in New Zealand, the Te Puia Geothermal Park. Once inside the park, stop for lunch, where your guides highly recommend the traditional Maori Hangi buffet meal. Following lunch, set off for a fully guided tour around the surreal park to see it's geothermal and cultural wonders. Observe the Pōhutu Geyser (the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere), Māori Architecture, the National Māori Arts School, geothermal craters, and geothermal events. There's even the chance to view a kiwi bird in the kiwi viewing house, before you travel back to Auckland with your guide.

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

The tour is fabulous! Visit several of New Zealand's North Island's top tourist attractions with engaging commentary from your guides. The staff of the company is most charming! If there is any problem on any of the days of the tour with any of the activities that are planned, they reorganize it so that you can enjoy each of them. In addition, they make your vacation as easy as possible by picking you up and dropping you off wherever you ask them! Regarding the tour itself, transportation is in very comfortable minibuses. The accommodation is in a wonderful hotel, with all the comforts you can expect (it even has a spa, although it is not included in the tour). Each and every one of the activities that are included are unforgettable experiences and I could not keep just one. Spectacular landscapes and adorable people! In general, many incredible emotions running through your body at the same time! One of the best tours I've booked in my entire life!

It was a great trip starting with on time pick up from the driver. The bus was comfortable with phone charger. Hobbiton was so beautiful, Te Puia was interesting with geothermal spring and the Maori culture. Highly recommended.

Due to Wai O Tapu was closed, we end up doing just the Hobbiton Town. The tour was fantastic, prompt pick up, the driver was really friendly n we all had a wonderful tour.

Well planned and executed trip. A good mix of people on the trip doing various things. Very good for solo travel.

Well worth a visit. Cave was amazing loved the entrance