Ruakuri contains a fascinating combination of natural features and cultural history. The 114 ha of native bush and limestone provide a variety of recreational and educational opportunities. The car park and large picnic area is the starting point for the Ruakuri Walk and the end point for the Waitomo Walkway. The picnic area has two electric BBQ's - a $1 coin gives 25 mins of use.
The original 75 ha of Ruakuri Caves Scenic Reserve was protected in 1905, with the balance of 39 ha added between 1906 and 1908. The reserve caters for up to 90,000 visitors per annum and is managed by the Department of Conservation in consultation with local iwi so that visitor impacts are kept to a minimum.
Things to See
The reserve contains beautiful native bush, classic limestone outcrops, caves, tunnels, gorges and cantilevered walkways high above the rushing water. It is also a place of strong historical, cultural and spiritual significance. A 30-minute loop walk from the carpark will take you to the Ruakuri natural tunnel, including an unusual 'side view' of the stream and tunnel entrance. Native fauna in the reserve includes the NZ falcon and long-tailed bats. The reserve is also the site for a locally run "Black-Water Rafting" adventure trip, while the adjacent Aranui and Ruakuri Caves are popular destinations for visitors and tourists.
It is 2 km from the World-renowned Waitomo glowworm cave and 17 km from the King Country town of Te Kuiti.
From the main Te Kuiti - Hamilton Rd (State Highway 3), take the Waitomo Caves turn-off (signposted 11 km north of Te Kuiti/8 km south of Otorohanga). Drive through Waitomo Village and turn left at the roundabout into Tumutumu Rd. Follow that road for about 2 km and turn right at the sign-posted access to Ruakuri car park. Alternatively, you can walk from the Waitomo Village to Ruakuri, following the Waitomo Walkway, which starts opposite the Waitomo Museum of Caves. This walk traverses farmland where sculptured rocks and fluted outcrops are a natural and fascinating part of the landscape. The walk takes 1 hr 30 min one way, and 2 hr 30 min return.
Bird and Wildlife Watching
A number of native birds fly through the scenic reserve, around the carpark, and over the roads leading to the reserve. More commonly seen forest birds include kereru (native wood pigeon), tui, piwakawaka (fantail) and tauhou (wax eye). Karearea (New Zealand falcon) are often seen and heard from the carpark. Be sure to take a pair of binoculars and a camera with you.
Child/Family Friendly Activities
The grassed area near the Ruakuri Caves carpark offers picnicking opportunities for families. The area contains picnic tables, a grassed area for children to run around, and toilets. There is also a coin gas BBQ on site - $1 for 25 mins of BBQ use. The area is open year round to visitors.
Limestone and karst appreciation The Ruakuri Scenic Reserve features classic limestone outcrops, caves, and tunnels alongside beautiful forest. The Ruakuri Walk is an easy way to experience the beauty of the area. Be sure to carry a camera with you.
Places to Stay
There are no places to stay in the reserve, but accommodation is available in the nearby village of Waitomo and the town of Te Kuiti.
Slips on track and BBQ out of use Slips have occurred on the Waitomo Walkway along the Waitomo Stream between Te Anga Road and the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. Special care is needed when crossing these areas. The barbecues located in the amenity area are temporarily out of use while repairs are undertaken.
Plan & Prepare
Keep to the formed tracks and walkways. The path follows the Waitomo Stream - do not let young children wander on ahead. The metalled track is open all year round, apart from times of exceptional rain or flood conditions. Fill up your vehicle with fuel at Otorohanga, Piopio or Te Kuiti as there are no service stations from Waitomo west. Dress for the weather and be prepared for it to change.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.