Getting out into nature is one of the top things to do in New Zealand. It is so picturesque that you’ll want to spend as much time outside as possible. Now, I like a good nature walk as much as the next guy. But I’m really not for those hikes that take hours and hours and leave you with achey legs the next day. If you’re like me, and you want some good nature hikes without having to huff and puff all day, check out these 3 perfect hikes in Waitomo, New Zealand!
All of these hikes can be found off Te Anga Road, which is the main road that leads through Waitomo. Navigation apps can be helpful in finding the hikes, but they’re not always accurate. Just keep a sharp eye out for the signs and you’ll have no problems.
Mangapohue Natural Bridge & Scenic Reserve
This is the longest of the hikes in Waitomo listed. It took roughly one hour to complete the full circuit, but that includes stopping for lots of photos. The trailhead is pretty easy to find. There is a sign by the road, and a gravel parking area where you can pull off and leave your car. From there, simply follow the trail.
Along with thick, green forest, Mangapohue has several gorgeous bridges which are excellent to photograph. We visited on a day that was grey and rainy, but this only added to the jungle-y feel of this hike.
You’ll follow along the river, as it cuts through the rock around you. You may have to push some branches out of the pathway, but it is worth it to keep trekking on.
Soon, you will get to the main event: The natural bridge. This is an area where there is a giant tunnel formed through the rock. It is believed that the whole gorge used to have this roof overhead, but as it expanded the roof caved in.
Take the staircase up, and see an even more magnificent view of the cave.
Exiting this area, you’ll find a small staircase that leads you over a fence. This opens up to a green field area, which I believe is used to transport cattle from one grazing field to another. You could see the hoof marks in the mud. This is a really fun area to run around and enjoy the greenness of New Zealand.
You’ll want to follow the path left by other hikers (and probably also the cattle.) It’s a little faint, so I’ll tell you that it leads upward, toward the right, just before the big rock formation. This path will lead you up hill a ways and through more green fields. Eventually, it spits you out back at the start of the trail.
There are bathrooms at the beginning of this trail, so take advantage of that. There’s not much in the way of public bathrooms this far into Waitomo. Maybe bring some toilet paper in with you, just in case…
I also recommend wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. You may find yourself trudging through a good bit of mud.
Piripiri Caves Scenic Reserve
The Waitomo region of North Island is well known for its caves. If you’re unsure whether or not the cave atmosphere is right for you, I highly recommend taking the short hike to Piripiri Caves. There is a sign off the road, leading to a small parking area. Follow the trail upwards.
This trail is even more lush and green than the last. The twisted, moss covered trees make you forget you are in New Zealand, and seem to convince you you’re a real jungle explorer.
You’ll come to a set of stairs that lead upwards. Follow these stairs until you reach the mouth of the cave. Now, if caves freak you out a bit, this one is a great introduction. It is large enough so that you don’t feel claustrophobic, but deep and dark enough to give you the cave vibe.
Take the stairs that lead into the cave. Don’t worry, they don’t go too far inside. You will feel the temperature drop significantly as you descend deeper inside. Every sound echos off the walls and you can hear the drip, drip of water dropping from the roof. Once you’ve gotten your fill of cave, simply turn around and follow the same trail back to your car.
You will want to make sure you bring a good flashlight to help you see inside the cave. We tried to rely merely on the flashlight on our iphones, but it was not quite enough to see far into the cave.
Bringing a light rain jacket is beneficial as well. The interior of the cave is cold and wet, so the jacket will help with that.
Last, and probably most rewarding of the hikes in Waitomo, is the hike to Marokopa Falls. Again, this trailhead is well-marked with a parking area to the side of the road. The trail begins at the far end of the parking area.
Another green and jungle-y trail lies ahead of you. The trail is a slow slant downwards, making it an easy walk to the falls. You will definitely hear them before you see them.
These thundering falls await you at the end of the trail. A viewing platform stops you from getting too close. Yet you’ll be close enough to feel the mist of the falls on your face. This is one short hike that is highly rewarding. The viewing platform can get pretty muddy from all the mist in the air. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.