Underground Adventures at the Nikau Cave & Cafe

Nikau Cave & Cafe is one of the most incredible Waikato attractions and is definitely worth a visit. Located just an hour's drive from Auckland Airport it is the best place to see glow worm caves close to Auckland and is a great place to start your exploring or to finish on a high before flying out. If you're not worried about getting a little wet and muddy in order to enjoy two amazing natural spectacles, this is definitely a place to add to your list of things to do in New Zealand.

You can drive to Nikau Cave & Cafe through Port Waikato and take in the many impressive limestone outcrops or you can take the more direct route – only an hour from Auckland Airport or an hour and a half from Hamilton (their website also has directions from Matamata and Raglan).

GlowormsThe spellbinding NZ native Arachnocampa luminosa glowworms (Photo credit Nikau Cave & Café)

The Oligocene limestone of the region was formed over 30 million years ago when the area was still beneath the ocean, and when the earth movement caused the stone to buckle, bend and rise up out of the ocean causing cracks – allowing exposure to air and water to enter, the caves began to form. A visit to the caves is one of best things to do in Waikato for kids as it is not only lots of fun, it is also a great learning experience.

The larger caves developed over millions of years and the marvellous rock formations are made by the dripping water which leaves limestone deposits, which grow on average one cubic centimetre over 100 years. You will marvel at the weird forms of the stalactites which hang down from the ceiling and the stalagmites which grow up from the floor. In places, they meet to create pillars known as helicti which are twisted and entwined.

However, these incredible forms are not the only marvel of this magical place. Nikau Cave is home to thousands of Arachnocampa luminosa, more commonly known as glow-worms. A species unique to New Zealand, these tiny creatures live on the roof of the cave and when you turn off your torch their gentle glow looks like thousands of stars in the night sky. 

Stalactites The incredible stalactites of the Nikau Cave (Photo credit Nikau Cave & Café)

Nikau Cave and Cafe is privately owned and operated by a local family and has been kept as close to its original and natural state as possible. This means that the trip includes a short crawl along a stony stream bed, but the reward will make you forget everything except the incredible beauty and magic of this wonderful place. 

You are accompanied by an experienced guide throughout the 1-1/2 hour 1-kilometre adventure and you will be kitted out with a hard hat and flashlight. Remember to wear sturdy shoes and to bring a change of clothes. The oldest person to have enjoyed the cave was 93 years old, and the youngest just two, although seven is the recommended lower age limit.

The Nikau Cave and surrounding area is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy nature. In the café, you can enjoy a delicious meal made from fresh local produce and try a cup of their fair trade organic coffee, roasted onsite. There is even a choice of accommodations if you wish to stay longer and enjoy this very special place, as a visit to the Nikau Cave & Cafe is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Waikato. For visitors to New Zealand wishing to travel to the caves, collect your Auckland car rental from Omega’s Airport or city centre branches and enjoy the scenic drive south along State Highways 1 and 22.