New Zealand is world-famous for its enchanting glowworms that live in damp, dark places like caves and forests. In Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, there is a place where we can have a barbecue gathering in a beautiful setting and WATCH GLOWWORMS FOR FREE at the picturesque McLaren Falls Park. 😉
Friends who have paid for tours to the famous Waitomo Glowworms Caves told us that the McLaren Falls Park glowworms sighting is way better and indeed they were right! It was my first time seeing glowworms and it was truly a magical sight! The amount of glowworms glowing on the Waterfall Track was astounding – it looked like millions of stars twinkling in the sky!
Picturesque McLaren Falls Park
The McLaren Falls Park is a beautiful, peaceful park located about 10-15 minutes drive from Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. The park is famous for its picturesque views and is a popular site for barbecue gatherings, camping, picnic, bush walks, trout fishing, kayaking, wedding photography and of course, the glowworms.
It is the home to Lake McLaren, several stunning waterfalls and one of the best botanical collections of trees in New Zealand. The McLaren Falls Park looks stunning all year round especially in spring and autumn. 😉 The park is open from 7.30am to 7.30pm (in summer), 7.30am to 5.30pm (in winter) and does not require an entry pass. Trout fishing however, requires a fishing license and camping fees apply to overnight visitors.
For your info, around 300 sheep – young and old roam freely through the park and boy, it was an fun sight! For that reason, dogs are not allowed into the McLaren Falls Park. The facilities available at the park include a café (The Falls Café), toilets, push button gas barbecues, camping, caravans and campervans sites, and even a hostel.
Fun Barbeque Gathering at Scenic Cherry Bay
A bunch of friends and I decided to have a scrumptious barbecue gathering at McLaren Falls Park while waiting for the sun to set in order to watch the glowworms on the Waterfall Track. We bought packets of food to cook over the BBQ stove such as marinated chicken nibbles, cheesy and barbecue-flavoured sausages and freshly collected tuatua from Papamoa Beach. 😀
No words could describe how beautiful and peaceful the park was – the views were simply surreal and looked like picture-perfect postcards! Besides sheep, ducks, pukeko (a type of native bird) and other wildlife were seen roaming the grounds of the park, especially near Lake McLaren.
The push button gas barbeques are free to use and are located at Top Flat, Bottom Flat and Cherry Bay. We had a pleasant time grilling our food and enjoying our meal at Cherry Bay while the sun sets in the horizon. After that, we excitedly made our way to the start of the Waterfall Track.
Enchanting Glowworms on the Waterfall Track
A popular activity at McLaren Falls Park is to walk the Waterfall Track and watch glowworms after sunset. The best part is, it is a FREE activity and does not require much effort. We found out that part of the Waterfall Track at McLaren Falls Track is also wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly. How awesome is that?! 😀
Armed with a torchlight or brightly-lit mobile phone in our hands, we began walking in the dark and carefully followed the marked path on the Waterfall Track. Do take note that there are no lights on the track – it is pitch black. The level of difficulty of the track is from easy to moderate and the track gets slippery after a rain or when nearing the waterfall.
It was not long before we saw the iconic bright-blue glow on either or both sides of the Waterfall Track. We switched off our lights and watched the place come alive! Mind you, it was not just a handful of glowworms, but millions of glowworms glowing brightly in the dark! In an instance, ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ by Coldplay instantly came across my mind. 😀
New Zealand Glowworms (Arachnocampa Luminosa)
All of us were delightfully surprised and deeply enchanted by the glowworms’ sheer beauty on the Waterfall Track in McLaren Falls Park. And the best part is we were able to observe the glowworms in action, up-close and personal! We did not just see the glowworms’ bright blue glow from afar; we actually saw how the glowworms look like too. 😀
The “worm” is in fact the larval or maggot stage of a fungus gnat fly. The adult fly looks a little like a mosquito. What we saw was an intricate network of fine silk threads that dangle from above, and each silk thread is lined with droplets of sticky mucus that is used by the glowworms to catch its prey/food.
The glowworms rely on its bioluminescent glow to act as a lure to attract and trap insects in its sticky silk thread. Fun facts: Glowworms can turn off their lights. They may do this when there is too much bright light (from the sun or a torch) or to ‘hide’ if disturbed and sudden loud noises often make them glow brighter. 😉
In a Nutshell
Even though we observed the glowworms at close proximity, we did not touch or disturb the glowworms in any way. All we did was observed their magical bioluminescent glow and took a lot of photos for memories. We did a return walk on the Waterfall Track and truly enjoyed the priceless experience.
Watching glowworms on the Waterfall Track at McLaren Falls Park is a highly recommended activity in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty. You will thank me for sharing this info and experience with you. Next, I look forward to my visit to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves to compare and determine which attraction is better! 😉