Are you planning a trip to New Zealand and want to check out some natural wonders? Find out the 10 best waterfalls in New Zealand that will blow your mind.
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Guest post by Louis F.
Want to know where you can find the best waterfalls New Zealand has to offer? You’ve come to the right place!
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with plenty of stunning waterfalls dotted all over the country.
On both islands, the dramatic mountain ranges give rise to falls rushing down cliffs and fairytale-like cascades emerging through the lush forests.
Officially there are 249 named waterfalls in New Zealand and 31 named rapids. Some are seasonal, but plenty of them are there year-round. That’s a lot of waterfalls for one trip! So, which ones are worth the visit?
Let’s jump right in with the list of the best waterfalls in New Zealand that you can’t miss!
Overview: Best Waterfalls New Zealand
Starting from the North Island to the South Island, here are the best waterfalls in New Zealand that should be on your itinerary:
- Wairere Falls, North Island
- Huka Falls, North Island
- Owharoa Falls, North Island
- Bridal Veil Falls, North Island
- Marokopa Falls, North Island
- Sutherland Falls, South Island
- Thunder Creek Falls, South Island
- Bowen Falls, South Island
- Purakaunui Falls, South Island
- McLean Falls, South Island
1. Wairere Falls, North Island
Wairere Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls on North Island, crashing down from the impressive 153m in two vertical leaps.
You’ll have to go on a hike to reach the waterfall as there is no direct road to it. The trail takes you through native forest to the viewing point (about a 45-minute walk). It takes another 45 minutes to reach the top of the waterfalls.
You’ll find Wairere Falls about 45 min from Tauranga, or 2.5 hours away from Auckland.
2. Huka Falls, North Island
Huka Waterfall is one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand. Even though it is just 11m high, it is extremely powerful due to the water flow of about 300,000 litres per second!
Huka Waterfall is famous for its unique, vivid turquoise colour. You can observe it from a picturesque footbridge crossing the river. For obvious reasons, swimming is not allowed in this waterfall.
Huka Falls is easily accessible, just a short walk from the car park. It is located about a 10-minute drive away from Taupo.
3. Owharoa Falls, North Island
Owharoa Falls could easily be one of the most picturesque waterfalls in New Zealand. This staircase waterfall cascades down in a series of hundreds of little streams.
Owharoa Waterfall is one of the best swimming waterfalls in New Zealand! The swimming pool at the bottom of the waterfall is large and perfect for hot summer days.
The waterfall is easily accessible as it is located just a short walk from the car park.
You’ll find Owharoa Falls about 70km from Tauranga.
4. Bridal Veil Falls, North Island
Bridal Veil Falls, also known as Waireinga Falls, got its more popular name thanks to its distinctive look. It is a stunning waterfall rushing down a 55-metre tall cliff.
The waterfall is easily accessible, with multiple viewpoints to observe its beauty. The first viewpoint is about a 10-minute walk from the car park. To get to the bottom of the waterfall, you’ll have to descend 250 steps.
Bridal Veil Falls is located about 15 min drive from Raglan, a popular beach town.
5. Marokopa Falls, North Island
Marokopa Falls are one of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand. This wide curtain waterfall rushes down 35m over a large cliff, emerging from the rainforest.
The trail leading to the falls is well-maintained, and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the viewing platform. If you want to go to the base of the waterfall, it gets more complicated as you’ll have to take a wet, muddy trail down.
You’ll find Marokopa Falls about 31 km west of Waitomo, and you can combine a visit with the popular Waitomo Caves.
6. Sutherland Falls, South Island
At 580m, Sutherland Falls was long believed to be the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. While there are two waterfalls taller than this one, with its size and power, it is one of the most impressive in the country.
This impressive waterfall starts as a lake on top of the mountain, crashing down the cliff in three vertical leaps through the lush forest.
The best way to see this waterfall is on a popular hiking trail – the Milford track. The full trail is 53.5 km long and is typically done over 4 days, so be sure to bring a decent backpack.
It is located on the South Island, near Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park.
7. Thunder Creek Falls, South Island
Thunder Creek Falls is a stunning waterfall of glacial origin. It’s a 28m tall waterfall tumbling and rushing down the cliff into the Haast River.
This is one of the most accessible waterfalls on this list, as it is located just 5 min from the highway. A 200 m-long, paved trail will take you straight to the lookout, so it is wheelchair accessible too!
Despite being close to the main road, it is tucked away in the rainforest and feels like a tranquil place to relax and admire nature.
Thunder Creek Falls is located within Mount Aspiring National Park, about 50km from Haast.
8. Bowen Falls, South Island
Bowen Falls, also known as Lady Bowen Falls, is another waterfall in the Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park.
There are many waterfalls in the Milford Sound, but Bowen Falls is one of the only waterfalls in the area that are visible year-round.
This could be the hardest-to-reach waterfall on the list, as the best way to see it is from the sea. Bowen Falls rushes down the cliff straight into the water.
However, seeing the waterfall is actually pretty easy when you realise that you just need to take a Milford Sound cruise or a ferry. A fun way to see the waterfall for the adventurous is on a kayak tour!
Bowen Falls is located in Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park.
9. Purakaunui Falls, South Island
Purakaunui Falls is a picture-perfect waterfall, so it should come as no surprise that it is the most photographed waterfall in the country.
This waterfall cascades down three layers, in a wide curtain over the large boulders. Usually, it is a very calm waterfall, but it can get much stronger after heavy rainfall.
The hike to the waterfall is rather easy, and it takes about 20 min return walk. The trail is well-maintained, with multiple lookouts to observe the waterfall.
Purakaunui Falls is located about a 1.5-2 hour drive from both Dunedin and Invercargill.
10. McLean Falls, South Island
McLean Waterfall makes its way down multiple rock terraces, changing direction as it descends through the lush green rainforest.
With different sections and cascades, McLean Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in the country.
To get to the waterfall, you have to go on a relatively easy hike. Mclean Falls Track takes you through a fairytale-like forest for about 40 min return on a well-maintained trail.
You’ll find McLean Falls about a 2-hour drive from Dunedin.
New Zealand Waterfalls FAQs
What are New Zealand’s highest waterfalls?
Located in Fiordland National Park, Browne Falls is considered to be the tallest waterfall in New Zealand, with a total height of 836 meters (2,743 feet).
Also located in Fiordland National Park, Sutherland Falls is another impressive waterfall in New Zealand. It has a total height of 580 meters (1,903 feet) and is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
Hunua Falls in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland is the highest waterfall in the Auckland region, with a total height of around 30 meters (98 feet).
What are the most beautiful waterfalls to visit in New Zealand?
While there are SO many pretty waterfalls in New Zealand, a few do stand out.
Milford Sound is a fjord located in Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. The sound is home to several beautiful waterfalls, including Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls, which are both known for their natural beauty and dramatic drops.
Located near Taupo on the North Island, Huka Falls is known for its powerful water flow and turquoise blue water. The waterfall is approximately 11 meters (36 feet) high and 20 meters (66 feet) wide, and is a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
Located on the South Island’s Otago Peninsula, Purakaunui Falls is a beautiful three-tiered waterfall that drops a total of 20 meters (66 feet). The waterfall is surrounded by lush native forest and is a popular spot for photographers and nature lovers.
Can I swim in the waterfalls in New Zealand?
Swimming in waterfalls in New Zealand is generally possible, but it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers and risks involved.
Some waterfalls have strong currents or slippery rocks that can make swimming dangerous, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer. Additionally, some waterfalls are located in cold or remote areas, which can make it difficult to access them safely.
If you do plan on swimming in a waterfall, it’s important to take precautions, such as wearing appropriate footwear, checking for signs or warnings, and avoiding swimming alone.
It’s also important to be mindful of the environment and to respect any rules or regulations in place to protect the natural surroundings.
Are the New Zealand waterfalls crowded with tourists?
he level of crowds at New Zealand waterfalls can vary depending on the location and time of year. Some of the more popular waterfalls, such as Milford Sound and Huka Falls, can attract larger crowds, especially during peak tourist seasons.
However, many of New Zealand’s waterfalls are located in remote or less-visited areas, which can offer a quieter and more peaceful experience. Additionally, visiting waterfalls early in the morning or during off-peak hours can also help avoid crowds.
What is the best time of year to visit the waterfalls in New Zealand?
The best time to visit the waterfalls in New Zealand can depend on several factors, including the weather and the level of rainfall.
In general, the best time to visit New Zealand’s waterfalls is during the country’s warmer months, which run from November to April.
During this time, the weather is generally mild, with comfortable temperatures and fewer rainy days. This can make it easier to access some of the more remote waterfalls, as well as to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming.
However, it’s important to note that rainfall can vary throughout the year in New Zealand, and some waterfalls may be more impressive during periods of heavier rainfall.
Additionally, some waterfalls may freeze over or have reduced water flow during the winter months, which can also impact their beauty and accessibility.
Best Waterfalls New Zealand Wrap Up
That concludes this list of the best waterfalls in New Zealand. You have 5 options in the North and 5 in the South of the country.
As you can see, you can find stunning waterfalls throughout both islands! From Wairere Falls in the north to Purakaunui Falls in the south, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
With so many options, you can add a day for chasing waterfalls to your New Zealand itinerary regardless of your route!
Whether it’s beaches, rivers, waterfalls or hot springs, Louis loves swimming in it. When he isn’t out travelling, he’s enjoying a dip in the backyard swimming pool. Read more over at his swimming pool and spa maintenance blog, Pool Advisor.