Bridal Veil Falls

8 Great Waterfalls

Aotearoa is lucky enough to boast some seriously stunning waterfalls. These natural features make any walk worth taking; Keren Sim hunted out some of the best waterfalls to keep an eye out for on your next adventure.

Huka Falls: Wairakei, Taupō

The thrill of seeing more than 220,000 litres of crystal-blue water per second rushing towards you is hard to beat, and explains why this is one of our country’s most popular natural attractions. The dramatic Huka Falls is located just a few minutes’ drive from central Taupō, and it is caused by the Waikato River flowing through a narrow gorge, shortening the width of this body of water from 100m to just 15m. It makes for a pretty awe-inspiring sight as the falls thunder past, with wave upon wave of water cascading down over an 11m drop. You can explore one of several walking tracks that line both sides of these famous falls, or for an extra thrill ride, hop into a Hukafalls Jet Boat to get as close to the base of the falls as possible.

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Bridal Veil/Wairēinga Falls: Waikato

The 55m high Bridal Veil Falls are categorised as a punchbowl-type of waterfall, meaning the water surges out of a constricted outlet and rains down into a larger pool below. As you can imagine, the effect is quite stunning. Located just a short 15-minute drive south of Raglan, the falls plunge over a basalt cliff, tumbling into a natural pool formed by the gradual wearing away of the sandstone rocks below. The Bridal Veil Falls are surrounded by lush greenery on all sides, making it a particularly scenic spot for picture-taking. Getting there is easy; simply follow the 10-minute track that winds along the Pakoka River, taking in the native bush along the way, to the top of the falls where you’ll find two platforms that give you different views of the falls and the surrounding landscape. There are more platforms as you descend, giving you the chance to appreciate these stunning falls from all angles.

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Kitekite Falls
Head west for a hike to Kitekite Falls

Kitekite Falls: Piha, Auckland

Piha Beach is a stunner of a destination in its own right, and if you’re on Auckland’s West Coast already, why not take the time to visit the nearby Kitekite Falls as well? This cascading multi-step waterfall has a total drop of around 40m and it is well worth the walk, which meanders through native ferns, kauri trees and verdant bush. You’ll also have a chance to cool off in the refreshing water, with swimming holes at both the top and bottom of Kitekite Falls. Perfect after a hike on a hot day! Just make sure to plan any walks and hikes around the weather, as the stream crossings can be difficult after heavy rain.

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Devil’s Punchbowl Falls: Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury

With a name like Devil’s Punchbowl, you can expect something pretty spectacular – and this 131m-high waterfall does not disappoint. You can’t help but marvel at the power and beauty of this waterfall, located in the equally picturesque Arthur’s Pass National Park in the South Island. The walk to the falls takes around an hour to complete, and meanders through some gorgeous beech forest along the way. Make sure to keep an eye out for pīwakawaka and tomtits as you stroll through the bush, and you might even be lucky enough to glimpse the great spotted kiwi if you’re heading out towards the evening!

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Marokopa Falls: Waitomo, Waikato

Something of a little-known gem compared to some of the other big hitters on this list, the Marokopa Falls are located just a short distance from the nearby Waitomo Caves,so this waterfall visit makes a great road trip itinerary if you happen to be in the area. These glorious falls plunge 35m down over greywacke basement rock, creating a beautiful natural sight. To get there, you’ll amble through a relatively easy track that takes just 20 minutes there and back, passing through plenty of native trees including tawa and nikau. Fishing enthusiasts will also be happy to hear that there are several trout fishing spots along the river, so be sure to pack your gear.

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Thunder Creek Falls: Mount Aspiring National Park, Otago

The South Island is home to some of New Zealand’s most striking natural landscapes, and Thunder Creek Falls is no exception. This 28m high waterfall flows into the Haast River and is fed by melting glacier water, making it a must-see if you’re planning a road trip through Wanaka and the wider Otago region. The trail leading to the viewing platform is well-sealed and easy to walk (just 200m in total, there and back) so this is a perfect place to stop and take in some incredible views. Thunder Creek Falls is just one of many wonders you can see throughout the Haast Pass, so make sure you leave plenty of time to make the most of this scenic drive.

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Bowen Falls
Bowen Falls is the highest waterfall within Milford Sound

Bowen Falls: Milford Sound, Fiordland

With a plunge of 162m, the breathtaking Bowen Falls (also known as the Lady Bowen Falls) is the highest waterfall within Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. As one of just two permanent waterfalls within this world-famous fiord, it’s definitely worth planning a visit during your time here. You can see the falls from a distance by booking one of the cruise boat services operating in the area, or for a closer look, there’s a recently reopened track that offers extraordinary views of both Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak. The walk takes about 30 minutes to complete and includes a short boat ride from the wharf at Freshwater Basin Terminal to the start of the track (check the DOC website for availability).

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Purakaunui Falls
The stunning Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls: Catlins, Otago

The phenomenal Purakaunui Falls features a 20m-high cascade of water spread over three tiers, forming one of the most impressive waterfalls you’ll see in New Zealand. The falls are nestled within a native podocarp and beech forest, adding to the beauty of the view – and calls of native birds serenade you along the way. The walk to the falls from the car park is short (just 20 minutes return) and rewards you with expansive views. The Purakaunui Falls is part of The Catlins, a magnificent coastal route that boasts a plethora of natural wonders to explore – from untouched beaches and secret lakes, to lighthouses and caves.

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