Thunderous, jaw-dropping, sublime: just a few of the words we’d use to describe New Zealand’s epic waterfalls.
Nestled in a landscape of snow-capped peaks and luscious forests, these natural wonders will be sure to blow you away. Here’s how to find the top 10 waterfalls in New Zealand, from the top to the bottom of the country.
Let’s start with an absolute favourite. Located north of Whangarei city, the spectacular Whangarei Falls is a 26-metre high waterfall surrounded by park, lush native bush and walking tracks. You can also swim under this beauty and it is a popular spot in the area, complete with picnic tables. This is a great stop on a drive from Auckland to Northland, so pack a snack and make a day of it.
Set on the majestic Tatuku River, the 22 metre McLean Falls have been described as the most impressive falls in the Catlins region. After a 40 minute walk through native bushland you’ll be greeted by a two-tiered cascade falling down dark, moss-covered rocks before plummeting into a deep gorge. This is definitely a must-visit on the South Island and among the top 10 waterfalls in New Zealand for a reason!
Another iconic waterfall in the Catlins is Purakaunui Falls. An easy 10-minute walk from the carpark through beautiful beech forest will bring you to the waterfall’s lookout. Described as a ‘wedding cake’, with three cascading tiers, you’ll see just why Purakaunui Falls is one of the region’s most-loved (and photographed!) treasures.
Bridal Veil (Waireinga) Falls
This is a waterfall with wow factor. The spectacular 55-metre-high Bridal Veil Falls, also known as the Waireinga Falls, is a popular spot. Accessible via a short walking track, there are platforms all around the top of the falls to take in some great views. Take the steep steps down to the pool at the base and brave a dip!
Another must-see is Bowen Falls one of the few permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound. Milford Sound itself has been judged one of the world’s top travel attractions and New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction. A fiord with mountain peaks, inky waters and superb forested cliffs, it must be seen to be believed. At 161 metres, you can view the spectacular Bowen Falls on a cruise or scenic flight. Milford Sound is home to numerous waterfalls, including the breathtaking Sutherland Falls: at 580 metres, it is the tallest waterfall in the country.
One of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand, the turquoise waters of Huka Falls are just a 10-minute drive from Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. At just 11 metres, these falls aren’t the tallest, but they’re definitely mighty! A powerful 220,000 litres of water gush down them every second. Take it all in from platforms on the water’s edge, or from a bridge over the falls. While you can’t swim safely here, thrill-seekers can book a jet boat ride to get up close and personal to these thundering falls.
Speaking of thrill-seekers: the Okere Falls in Rotorua is the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. On the Kaituna River, these falls are best experienced on a raft. For those who’d prefer a more scenic (and less damp) viewpoint, there is also a viewing platform where you can watch rafters take on this challenge.
The Owharoa Falls are nestled in the heart of the Karangahake George. For trekkers, they are the perfect place to stop for a picnic if you’re hiking along the Hauraki Rail Trail or the historic walkway. The magical six-metre staircase waterfall is also easily accessible from the road for the perfect photo opportunity.
Marokopa Falls is a mesmerising 35-metre waterfall that is visible year-round, and widely regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful. It is easily accessible, with a quiet and peaceful 20-minute return walk that passes through native forest. There are a few caves nearby to explore, and the falls are also just a few kilometres’ drive from the popular Waitomo Caves, where you can see glow worms.
Situated in the Waitakere Ranges on Auckland’s wild and rugged west coast, you’ll find the Kitekite Falls. These are one of the most well-known falls close to the city and are very popular with the locals. The 45-minute bushwalk weaves through beautiful native bush before reaching the falls which cascade 40 metres into a large lake-like swimming hole at the base.
If you enjoyed this list of the top 10 waterfalls in New Zealand, check out some of the country’s best hiking trails for more amazing adventures.