We Aucklanders are missing out on all that amazing glowy, wormy stuff our fellow Waitomo dwellers take for granted. Not wanting to be left out of the fun any longer, we’ve found some epic caves to lurk in and around Auckland with the kiddos (keep an eye out for creepy crawlies, Sméagol, and the star of the show … glow-worms!).
Glow Worm Walks, Totara Park, Manurewa
Sometimes kids seem nocturnal: bedtime stories are drawn out, the wee small hours are loud and large, and all that shushing and hushing is putting you to sleep rather than the kids. Is it time to find a way to embrace it? Take your little monsters on a trip to visit other night creatures at Totara Park. Gawk at the glow-worms, eels and other creepers. The walk is free and guided (not pram-friendly), but bookings are essential.
This nightlife feature is on for a limited time (Tuesday and Thursday nights in the school holidays, 7pm – 8pm, although summer holidays will be later in the evening and there are more tours running), so book in quick by emailing GAH@clmnz.co.nz including the date you prefer, the number of adults (including children 13 years +) and the number of children 12 years and under.
Freedom glowing in your local parks: Shakespear and Torbay
Bundle up in something warm and wait for the glow-worms to start their shine at Shakespear Regional Park, and as an added bonus you can listen to the new Kiwi at the site. Get a group together (safety in numbers) and head to the Waterfall Gully Track (also called the Heritage Trail) after nightfall, and remember to always park your car in the Army Bay car park (as the Waterfall Gully car park is chained at night!) . Or, if Torbay is closer to your crib, glow-worms light up Awaruku Bush Reserve waterfall after dark. Awaruku is buggy and wheelchair-friendly.
And just a short drive from Auckland…
Nikau Cave and Café, Tuakau, Waikato
Release your inner caveman – or cavegirl – at Nikau caves. This trek takes you back to those Neanderthal roots as there’s a 12-metre length that must be crawled through … great for the kids, but maybe a little stressful for claustrophobics. The Nikau caves also offer personal, unrushed tours so you can take your time on the tricky bits and the best bits. Rewarding your escapade with the beautiful sight and a hot cuppa at the café is well worth the 90 minute drive southwest of Auckland. Check out the website for bookings and café hours.
Waipu Caves, Northland
Have you got yourself a pint-sized space invader or Star Wars enthusiast? Stop and stare at the galaxy of glow-worms at the Waipu Caves. This will truly be an adventure, as you’ll have to make your own way through the caves. Make sure you pack a torch to sleuth it out. Panoramic views of the Whangarei Harbour greet you on the other side of the track (and McLeod’s Pizza Bar is conveniently close by too). These caves are a two hour drive from Auckland (did someone say road trip?). As Buzz would say, to infinity and beyond! More details about the track are on the webpage.
Lake Karapiro, Cambridge, Waikato
If you’re in it for the long haul, Cambridge houses a one-of-a-kind experience. Kayak under a glow-wormy, starry, starry night even Van Gogh would have been proud of. This kayaking adventure sets sail at sunset along the Waikato river, glides under the glow-worm canyon, and docks at a campfire site. After a cup of NZ’s finest (wines or hot chocolate, age-dependent), jump in the boats, and kayak back by the light of the glow-worms. Two hours out of Auckland, this expedition offers a variety of tours to choose from.
Still looking for some extra nooks to spot a glow-worm or two?
By Olivia Stanley
Image: Nikau Cave by Joseph Michael
More Auckland activities with kids from tots to teens: