The Wonderful RUAKURI BUSHWALK in WAITOMO New Zealand

The Ruakuri Bushwalk is a fun and varied nature walk located in the Waitomo area of New Zealand’s North Island. Although the Ruakuri Bush Walk is only a 2-kilometer loop track, the variety of caves, natural tunnels, a stunning forest, and a breathtaking gorge make up for the short hike. And there is one more surprise when you return at night! Glow worms will then light up the forest and create a magical, otherworldly atmosphere. Find in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Ruakuri Bushwalk, what to expect, the best time to go, and more facts! 

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How to get to Ruakuri Bushwalk

The Ruakuri Bushwalk is located in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, 2 km from the world-renowned Waitomo caves. So you can perfectly combine these two locations on a day trip to Waitomo. Once you arrive in Waitomo, follow the signs to the Ruakuri Bushwalk where you can find a big car park. There are also picnic benches which are perfect for a picnic after the hike. There are no public toilets available, however, at the visitors center of Waitomo caves, there are. 

Best time to hike Ruakuri Bushwalk 

Because the walk is mainly through the forest, any time of the day is great for this walk. The track is mostly shaded by the trees, so rain or shine, you are protected by the forest. 

If you’re coming for a free glow worm experience, then visiting the Ruakuri walk at night is a must. You will be able to spot many glow worms when it’s dark, and compared to visiting the Waitomo caves it’s a very budget-friendly activity. 


Ruakuri Bushwalk key facts 

Before we dive into the details about the Ruakuri Bushwalk, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you’re well prepared! 

Ruakuri Bushwalk distance and duration: The Ruakuri loop trail is 1.6 kilometers long and takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. It’s one of the easiest walks in Waitomo and a must if you want to enjoy this scenic and varied walk. 

Ruakuri Bushwalk difficulty and incline: It’s an easy hike with only 70 meters of incline over a very well-maintained path. Therefore it’s a great family-friendly activity and you don’t need hiking boots to do this hike. 

What to expect along the Ruakuri Bushwalk

Being such an easy walk, the Ruakuri Bushwalk is a great family-friendly activity and even has an educative part as well. Along the trail are plenty of information panels where you can learn more about the history of the landscape and how caves are formed. 


The very well-maintained path is mud-free with man-made stairs and a fantastic boardwalk that takes you along the chasm. You can do the walk clockwise or anti-clockwise. All the interesting stops are clearly signed such as the viewing platform for the cave and natural tunnel. 

One of the highlights of the Ruakuri Bushwalk is the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel. This is a limestone arch that was formed over thousands of years by water erosion. You can walk through the tunnel and admire its unique features, including the intricate patterns on the walls.


You will then get to a wooden boardwalk that takes you along the cliff edge of the gorge with the rushing water below. This is a truly magical place with all the lush forest around you. 


Another incredible highlight along the Ruakuri Bushwalk is the stunning gorge and river that flows into the cave. There are several spots where you can view the river or even get down close to the river.


And then there’s one spot in particular that is worth enjoying for a few minutes. It’s the viewing platform inside the cave. You’ll have to give your eyes some time to let them adjust to the darkness though. But it’s truly breathtaking to see this piece of art made by nature.


The trail then loops back towards the car park and gives you one last glimpse of the stunning river and surrounding forest. 


Ruakuri bushwalk at night for glow worms

The Ruakuri Bushwalk has a magical, otherworldly atmosphere at night. The forest will then be illuminated by thousands of glow worms! This is a great alternative if you don’t want to pay for the guided Waitomo glow worm tour. You can do the bush walk at night by yourself, just bring a torch and you’ll be fine! 

The glow worms can be found on the ceilings and in the crevices of all the little caves and tunnels along the trail. But you don’t have to walk the whole trail to see some glow worms. You can see them already just before the bridge that crosses the river which is only a few minutes into the hike.  

But the most magical glow worm experience is in the cave where they are on the ceiling and in the crevices. It’s a little bit further along the trail but worth it if you have the time! Make sure to go an hour or so after sunset when it’s dark because only then the glow worms will be fully visible. 


About the Waitomo cave system 

The Waitomo cave system is estimated to be over two million years old. The caves were formed by the gradual dissolution of limestone rock by acidic groundwater, which created a network of underground tunnels and caverns throughout millions of years. Waitomo area is known for its extensive and unique cave systems from which the Waitomo Cave is the most famous. But there are more cave systems in the area! Here are some of the most popular cave systems in the Waitomo area:

  1. Waitomo Glowworm Caves: The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are the most famous attraction in the area. These caves are home to thousands of tiny glowworms that light up the caverns with their bioluminescence. You can book a guided tour to explore the caves and learn about their history and geology.
  2. Ruakuri Cave: The Ruakuri Cave is another popular tourist attraction in the Waitomo area. This cave is known for its unique spiral entrance and intricate limestone formations. You can either explore the cave by yourself or take a guided tour to learn about its history and natural features.
  3. Aranui Cave: The Aranui Cave is a smaller, lesser-known cave in the Waitomo area, but it’s still worth a visit. This cave is known for its beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, as well as its underground streams and waterfalls.
  4. Cave World: Cave World is a private cave system that offers guided tours for visitors. This cave system features a variety of unique geological formations, including glowworms, underground waterfalls, and limestone formations.
  5. Mangapohue Natural Bridge: While not technically a cave system, the Mangapohue Natural Bridge is a popular natural attraction in the Waitomo area. This natural bridge was formed over thousands of years by water erosion and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of road. We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! 

The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies, and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen, and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connect you with nature.

We recommend booking your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

Where to stay in Waitomo 

Waitomo is a small town known for its extensive cave systems, which are a major tourist attraction in the area together with the Marokopa Falls. There are several accommodation options in Waitomo village, ranging from basic backpacker hostels to more upscale hotels and lodges. Check here the best places to stay in Waitomo. 

Be insured during your travels!

A slip can happen during hiking before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.

We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting insurance with them!

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Ruakuri Bushwalk on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome walk on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!

North Island 

25 best things to do in Rotorua – The Complete Guide

20 best photo spots North Island New Zealand

Best things to do in Coromandel – The Complete Guide

15 best things to do in Taupo – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in Whangarei – The Ultimate Guide

12 best things to do in Hawkes Bay – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in New Plymouth Taranaki – The Ultimate Guide

7 best KeriKeri waterfalls – The Complete Guide

South Island

30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Lake Tekapo – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

15 best walks in Franz Josef – The Complete Guide

Kaikoura whale watching – Everything you need to know

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