The most epic waterfalls New Zealand has – Don’t miss them

Discover 22 of the best waterfalls New Zealand has on offer with this comprehensive guide.

New Zealand is known around the world for its incredible beauty. Lush bush, stunning beaches, towering mountains and fiords – and of course, beautiful waterfalls.

To help you find the best waterfalls in the country, we’ve put this guide together for you. We recommend you include a few of them on your next Kiwi road trip.

The Best New Zealand Waterfalls

In order from north to south, these are the best waterfalls New Zealand has on offer – don’t miss them whilst travelling the country!

To avoid this article becoming too long, we’ve only gone into detail about the waterfalls marked in orange. The ones marked green are just as beautiful though and definitely worthy of a visit.

The Most Epic Waterfalls in the North Island

1. Whangarei Falls: Whangarei

The Whangarei Falls are beautiful and conveniently close to the township of Whangarei.

These falls can be viewed both from viewing platforms above and from the bottom (after a short walk), making them an ideal stop even if you’re short on time.

6 Ngunguru Road, Tikipunga, Whangārei 0173

The hidden Whangarei Falls surrounded by trees.

2. Waiau Falls: Coromandel

In the middle of the beautiful Coromandel Forest Park, you’ll find the stunning Waiau Falls. This waterfall is located next to the remote 309 Road that crosses from one side of the Coromandel Peninsula to the other. Park next to the road, and following a short path that will take you through the forest directly to the waterfall. It won’t be the biggest waterfall you’ll see in New Zealand, but it surely is a pretty one. 

Depending on the season and the recent amount of rainfall, the waterfall can be a soft and neat trickle or a thunderous load of water whirling down into the plunge pool beneath, after which the water cascades down over the rocks into a stream. 

The plunge pool can easily be accessed and is great for a refreshing dip in summer, and if you’re a bit of a daredevil, you can even walk around to get to the top of the waterfall. People have been known to jump into the plunge pool from the top, but the pool isn’t that deep in all places so do so at your own risk.

This is just one of many fantastic things to do in the Coromandel. Whilst there, we also recommend checking out Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach (which is just one of many incredible beaches in the area).

176/206 309 Road, Waiau 3581

Tom & Zi – Craving Adventure

3. Kitekite Falls: Piha, Auckland

Tucked away on Auckland’s wild and rugged west coast, you’ll find the Kitekite Falls.  There you’ll find a track that weaves through beautiful native bush before finding yourself at a beautiful cascading waterfall.

Few cities can claim a hike as beautiful and falls as impressive whilst still being so close to the central business district.

The Kitekite Falls Track is a multi-loop trail that allows for access in a number of directions.  You can choose to undertake the track from either direction and can also opt to walk up to the top of the waterfall (or not) and can take a slight detour in the bush also.

The falls themselves are 80m high and flow into a number of pools. The pools at the top and bottom are both perfect for swimming – albeit a little chilly. They are stunning up close and even more beautiful from a slight distance when enjoyed from the viewing platforms.

Whether you’re a local looking to get a dose of fresh air, or a visitor keen to see Auckland’s natural beauty, this easy tramp to Kitekite Falls should be on your to-do list.

Sarah Chant – Exploring Auckland

The narrow Kitekite Falls with its waters cascading down the steep rocks.
Photo: Auckland Council.

4. Karekare Falls: Piha, Auckland

A short bush walk from the car park, the Karekare Falls are impressive.

At 30 metres tall it’s the smallest waterfall in West Auckland, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The pool at the bottom of the falls is also the perfect spot for a midsummer dip.

Huia, Karekare 0772

The Karekare falls with grass surroundings.
Karekare Falls by Russell Street.

5. Hunua Falls: Hunua, South-East Auckland

The Hunua Ranges Regional Park is a popular spot for hikers visiting from Auckland – the falls are beautiful and easily accessible from a number of trails.

They’re also one of our favourite Auckland waterfalls.

If you’re short on time a view of the falls is available after just a 2-minute walk from the car park. If you have more time, we recommend taking the 20-minute Hunua Path which follows the Wairoa River to a second waterfall viewpoint.

The waterfall itself is 30m tall and grows increasingly wider as New Zealand approaches winter, although it is beautiful at any time of year. While the water will be cold, it’s possible to dip your toes in whilst sitting at the edge; swimming, however, is not advised. The tranquil 17m deep pool is a beautiful sight, but the sharp stones and unseen drops below the calm waters can be hazardous.

The surrounding walks, wildflowers, and waterfall more than make up for it though!

The Hunua Falls are also popular for picnics and sightseeing. As an added bonus, they’re also wheelchair-friendly.

This superbly scenic park ticks all the boxes.

Hunua Ranges Regional Park Falls Road, Hunua 2583

Cassie Bailey – Cassie the Hag

The peaceful Hanua Falls with its waters falling through the rocky edge.
Hanua Falls by Al404 (Flickr).

6. Bridal Veil Falls: Raglan

Bridal Veil Falls, also known as Waireinga Falls, is an impressive 55-metre waterfall. This stunning waterfall pours over the lip of a cliff edge surrounded by lush greenery. It’s simply stunning that it should be part of your to-do list in Raglan.  

Bridal Veil Falls is located on the North Island only a 15-minute drive away from the small town of Raglan. Raglan is known for being home to some of the best beaches in NZ, and many who visit unfortunately miss out on this gem of a waterfall. To find the falls, head out of Raglan on State Highway 23 – you’ll see it signposted after about 15 minutes.  

It isn’t just the waterfall’s beauty that makes it worthy of a visit either; the walk to the waterfall is also part of the fun. A series of boardwalks, viewing platforms, and stairs will take you to different viewpoints of the waterfall. This way, you can enjoy it from many different angles! Do be warned though, if you plan on walking down to the lowest viewing platform, just remember you have to walk back up – and there are quite a few stairs. 

You can just visit the first platform if you choose. The first of which is only a 10-minute walk from the parking lot (and it is wheelchair and stroller accessible).

Kawhia Road, Makomako 3895

Daniel Caracciolo – Destinationless Travel

The magnificent view of Bridal Veil Falls.

7. Okere Falls: Rotorua

Home to the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, the Okere Falls (which are on the Kaituna River) are best experienced on a raft! Not only that, the area near Okere Falls is an amazing swimming spot in Rotorua.

If you’d prefer a more scenic (and less exciting) viewpoint, there is also a viewing platform where it’s possible to watch the rafters take on this challenge.

Immersed in native NZ bush, this is a beautiful spot in Rotorua.

Tourists wearing helmets and life jackets while paddling on a raft in Okere Falls.
Rafting the Kaituna River by River Rats.

8. Tarawera Falls: Rotorua

The Tarawera Falls are absolutely breathtaking, thanks to the unique rocks in the catchment pool. These cause the water to flow in a multitude of directions, resulting in striking long-exposure photographs.

If you’re a keen photographer, you’ll definitely want to have your tripod and filters in hand for this waterfall!

The Tarawera Falls coming out of the rocks.
The stunning Tarawera Falls by Aura Accommodation.

9. Rere Falls: Gisborne

The beautiful Rere Falls are situated just out of Gisborne and down the road from the more-famous Rere Rockslide.

The Rere Falls are surrounded by farmland and a part of the Wharekopae River. Though the falls are only 5 metres tall, they are particularly wide, covering off an impressive 20 metres. It’s even possible to walk behind the wall of water – though you’ll want to be careful as the rocks can be slippery.

Right beside the falls, you’ll find a car park and lovely grassy area – this is the perfect spot for a picnic right beside the waterfall!

Pro tip: Whilst checking out the Rere Falls be sure to continue around the road to the Rere Rockslide! There you can literally slide down a rock waterfall on boogie boards and lilos. It’s a lot of fun and is highly recommended.

The Rere Falls forms like a thin curtain as waters run down the stream.

10. Huka Falls: Taupō

Located about 1.5 kms from the town of Taupō, Huka Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the North Island of New Zealand. This is also the most-visited natural attraction in the country and just one of the many fantastic free things to do in Taupo.

The Waikato River, which is almost 100 meters wide, passes through a hard volcanic canyon where its width is forced to reduce to only 15 meters. This sudden narrowing increases the water pressure thereby making it fall with great force. It really is a sight to behold!

The word ‘huka’ means foam in Te Reo Māori – aptly named due to the gushing flow. In fact, the speed of water flow is so high that it would fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in just 11 seconds!

A foot overbridge offers excellent views of turquoise-coloured Huka Falls and the lush greenery around it. There are jet boat rides and river cruises that take you to the base of the falls for a closer look too.

You’ll also find a few beautiful walking and biking trails in the vicinity, along with scenic lookouts. In particular, we recommend you check out Spa Park – this hour-long walk along the Waikato River includes a natural hot spring to relax your feet.

The best way to access the falls is by car, though there is also a bus service from the town of Taupo.

Wairakei, Taupō 3384

Jan Banerjee – Leisurely Drives

Turquoise waters of the turbulent Huka Falls surrounded by trees.

11. Waipunga Falls: Thermal Explorer Highway

This 40m waterfall is easily accessible from the roadside.

With three different sections (along with a companion waterfall), it really is a beautiful specimen.

The dividing brink of Waipunga Falls.
The cascading Waipunga Falls by Russell Street.

12. Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool): National Park

Nestled in the iconic Tongariro National Park, Tawhai Falls (pronounced Ta-fai) is a unique spot. It is perfect for lovers of nature or the world-famous Lord of the Rings series. Wait, what?

While this waterfall isn’t as stunning or spectacular as some of the others on this list, it has become part of the pilgrimage that LoTR fans make around New Zealand, hoping to see the iconic locations where some of the best scenes in the series were filmed.

This location in particular is the forbidden pool where Faramir and Frodo watch Gollum fishing below, before eventually capturing him!

The falls themselves are located about 500-metres down a gentle track off the main road to the Chateau Tongariro Hotel. Allow 15 to 20 minutes to walk the track return, plus some time to enjoy the falls themselves.

Exactly how long you spend here will probably depend on how big a fan you are of the LoTR series!

Louis Fredheim – Outdoor Explorer

Pro tip: If you are going in winter, be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes as it does get very chilly there.

A small and almost hidden Tawhai Falls surrounded by trees.

13. Dawson Falls (Te Rere o Noke): Taranaki

This 18-metre high waterfall is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest operational power generators and an important place for Māori.

In addition, it’s obviously beautiful and well worth a stop whilst in the region.

Tha Dawson Falls in the middle of the forest.

The Most Memorable Waterfalls in New Zealand’s South Island

14. Maruia Falls: Murchison

The Maruia Falls comes off of a flat rock wall along the Maruia river that exists primarily due to the Murchison earthquake of 1929. The flow over the falls is great year-round so you shouldn’t have to worry much about the season in which you visit.

There is a small parking/camping area nearby, a view from the top of the waterfall ledge near that area, and an easy 10-minute trail to view it from the riverbed and rocks below.

At the falls, there’s a lovely spot to sit along the riverbed – it’s perfect for a picnic or a BBQ. You’ll also find bathrooms in the car park.

Though this waterfall is stunning, there are a couple of points you’ll want to note on your visit. This is not a safe waterfall to swim in, as lives have been lost in the water below. Additionally, wasps and sandflies can sometimes be a nuisance – but we didn’t have an issue with them in February) even though it was prime season for them there). Whilst travelling the South Island, we recommend having insect repellant with you just in case.

When you’re finished at the falls, there’s a lot to see in the area. Murchison is a fantastic little town and you’ll find yourself close to the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge and the Buller Canyon Jet Boat too. Both are just a 15-minute drive!

Bradley John – Eat Wander Explore

The wide Maruia Falls that extends a few meters.

15. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall: Arthur’s Pass

The Devils Punchbowl Falls is without a doubt, one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand.

To access it, you’ll need to undertake a return walk (which takes approximately an hour) through beautiful bush. Be warned – there are a lot of stairs to climb but it’s 100% worth the effort!

The falls themselves are at the end of the walk (though you will enjoy glimpses throughout). They stand 131m high and are absolutely stunning.

Devils Punchbowl Walking Track, Arthur’s Pass Village 7875

16. Thunder Creek Falls: Haast

The beautiful Thunder Creek Falls is located in Mount Aspiring National Park, about 50 kilometres south of Haast, driving along State Highway 6. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the South Island, the area is well signposted and has car parking for your convenience.

Enjoy an easy track to hike on and just a 10-minute return walk from the car park.

As soon as you park, you will start to hear the loud roar of the rushing water, and once you arrive, it will be hard to hear anything else!

The falls are a single stream, standing about 28 metres (92 feet) high, dropping into a section of the Haast River. It’s covered in thick, lush vegetation and fed by melting glacier water that’s clear, pristine, and very, very cold. Depending on the depth of the river, you can usually get really close to the waterfall. Although standing from a distance is just as enjoyable to see and hear the full force of the tower of water.

It’s a 2-hour journey travelling from Haast to Wānaka (or vice versa) along State Highway 6. Brief stops at places like Thunder creek falls will break up the journey and help you to appreciate the raw beauty the South Island of New Zealand offers.

Chris Fry – Aquarius Traveller

The thunder Creek Falls that carves the rocks on its pathway.

17. Stirling Falls: Milford Sound, Fiordland

A perpetual favourite, Stirling Falls is one of only two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound (the second of which is next on this list).

Accessible only via a Milford Sound cruise, your captain will likely get you right in under the 155m Fiordland falls!

A boat at the foot of a waterfall with tourists looking at the majestic view.

18. Lady Bowen Falls: Milford Sound, Fiordland

With an average annual rainfall of 6,813mm (two to three times the rainfall of the Amazon rainforest, for reference!), it’s no surprise that Milford Sound boasts some impressive waterfalls. After the rain you’ll be able to spot a myriad of falls tumbling down the cliff faces, but there are actually only two permanent waterfalls in the fiord – Stirling Falls and Lady Bowen Falls.

Lady Bowen Falls, known as Hine Te Awa in Te Reo Māori, are 162m tall and they are actually the sole provider of electricity and water for the Milford Sound township. To see the falls without spending much there’s a short walk from Freshwater Basin on Milford Sound’s foreshore that will take you to a stunning viewpoint of the waterfall via native bush and a short boat trip ($10 for adults, $5 for kids).

You can also see them from a Milford Sound cruise, or if you want a more active adventure, one of the best things to do in Milford Sound is a kayak tour! A trip with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks will let you paddle up to the base of the Lady Bowen Falls and you’ll even get a refreshing spray to cool you down after a couple of hours of kayaking.

Regardless of how you check out Lady Bowen Falls, we recommend you make the trip.

Milford Sound Highway, Southland 9679

Alexx Hayward – Finding Alexx

A waterfalls coming out of steep rocks close to the lakes.

19. Humboldt Falls: Fiordland

The Humboldt Falls are one of the most beautiful in Fiordland and they’re easy to access too! To get to the falls, enjoy a 30-minute walk through native rainforest (just 1.2km return), from the end of Hollyford Road.

Once there, you’ll marvel at the waterfalls which stand 275m tall. It falls in three different drops – the largest of which is 134m high!

Humbuldt Falls falling between grassy cliffs in the middle of the forest.
Photo credit: Shellie Evans.

20. Sutherland Falls: Fiordland

The Sutherland Falls might just be one of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand. In fact, it is often ranked as one of the best in the world! It is the highest waterfall in the country at an astounding 580 metres tall. However, the Sutherland Falls are unfortunately very difficult to access.

You either have to go on a multi-day tramp or opt to see the falls from the air by taking a scenic flight. However, the journey is definitely worth it.

If you do decide to hike to the falls you should plan at least four days for the journey. The iconic Milford Track is not the easiest but is still manageable if you have some hiking experience. It’s around 54 kilometres in length but the height differences make it challenging in parts. The weather can be very unpredictable so be prepared to encounter rain along the way. The views along the way are absolutely incredible and make this trek absolutely worth it.

The Sutherland Falls are definitely the star of the show though. You’ll finally reach them on day four so make sure to pack your camera. We suggest not undertaking this trek in the colder months as parts will be covered in ice and snow.

Alternatively, hop on board a scenic helicopter flight to enjoy the Sutherland Falls from the air. Without a doubt, this is the easiest way to enjoy the falls!

Victoria Heinz – Guide Your Travel

The Sutherland Falls showing its water source which is a lake surrounded by huge mountains.
Amazing aerial view of mountain Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls on the scenic flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown, Fiordland, New Zealand.

21. Purakaunui Falls: Catlins

This multi-level waterfall in the Catlins is as beautiful in person as it is on camera.

The walk to the falls is an easy amble through native bush and forest. Upon getting close to the falls, you’ll find a number of viewing platforms, giving you excellent access to the falls from a range of perspectives.

It’s a must-see on your Catlins trip.

Cascading white waters of Purakaunui Falls that looked like stairs.

22. Mclean Falls: Catlins

Mclean Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand. This 22-metre-tall waterfall may not be the tallest in NZ, but it sure is beautiful. It is a large cascading waterfall that has two levels – you can even climb up to the first one if you dare! 

Mclean Falls is located in the Catlins region on the South Island. It is most commonly visited by people on a road trip between the southern cities of Dunedin and Invercargill. As one of the best places to visit in the South Island, it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular stops on southern road trips.  

You also must walk a short path to reach the base of the falls. This walk is rated as easy and takes most people only 20 minutes or so. The path is flat and would be suitable for families or even those with a stroller.

Once at the falls, you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view of them from below. If you’re looking for a little adventure, climb up the rocks and small trail to the right of the falls – from there you’ll have a fantastic vantage point.  

Mclean Falls is most impressive in the spring or after it’s been raining – at these times, there is a lot more water.  

Bailey Ann – My Queenstown Diary 

A man stands in front of the beautiful cascading waters of Mclean Falls.

No travels within New Zealand would be complete without visiting some of the stunning waterfalls listed above.

Which will you include in your itinerary?

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