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21 BEST Waterfalls in New Zealand (North and South Islands)

21 BEST Waterfalls in New Zealand (North and South Islands)

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So many of us are drawn to the picturesque, and ethereal atmosphere that waterfalls create. Luckily, New Zealand is home to so many beautiful places with waterfalls.

This country is gorgeous, to begin with, but throw a waterfall or two in the mix, and I’m sold! Chasing waterfalls is definitely one of those bucket list New Zealand activities.

Waterfalls can be found throughout the North and South Islands. From hidden gems that will require some hiking to more accessible and well-known spots.

Whether you’re hoping to see waterfalls from the air (hello scenic flights!), while walking through the forest, or even if your dream is to swim in the pool at the bottom of a waterfall, New Zealand delivers!

But with so many waterfalls to visit, it can be hard to know where to go first or if you might be close to one you didn’t even know about.

This guide to the top waterfalls in New Zealand will help you narrow down which ones you absolutely shouldn’t miss on your trip.

So keep reading to find out how to chase the most gorgeous New Zealand waterfalls!

Waterfalls on the North Island  

1. Bridal Veil Falls 

Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan
How beautiful is Bridal Veil Falls?

Only a short 15-minute drive out of Raglan via Te Mata Road is the start of the bush walk to the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, also known as Waireinga in Maori.

View the 55-meter (180-foot) waterfall from four different platforms going from the base of the waterfall to the top, each with different views of the spectacular site.  

The waterfall does indeed look like a beautiful white wedding veil as the water appears narrow at the top pouring off the basalt rock cliffs before falling effortlessly down and spreading out as it hits the pool below. It’s not safe to swim in the water here, but you can get some great photos and videos. 

I drove here when I was staying in Raglan, but it is also just a 1 hour’s drive from Hamilton too. It’s an easy/moderate walk from the parking lot to the bottom of the falls, which will take about 20 minutes each way. Although, I should note it may take a little longer on your return as you need to climb back up the 300 steps, which can be quite a leg-workout.

For a shorter, easier walk, consider just doing the 10-minute walk to the top of the falls, this trail is wheelchair and stroller friendly, and honestly, the view from the viewpoint here is epic!

Whichever trail you choose, be prepared to hear the powerful rushing current of the falls before you see them, which makes the walk super exciting.  

This is a popular track in the Waikato Region, so expect other people to be there admiring Bridal Veil Falls. I recommend going early in the morning if you prefer to enjoy the scenery without too many people there. There are public toilets as you begin the start of the track, and there are some picnic tables set up on the grass too. 

2. Marokopa Waterfall 

Marokopa Falls in the Tarawau Forest, New Zealand

Often called the most beautiful waterfall in New Zealand, Marokopa Falls doesn’t disappoint.

This spectacular 35-meter (115-foot) waterfall is in the Tawarau Forest and about a 45-minute drive from Waitomo along Te Anga Road.

There’s a small parking lot and the trail to get here should only take 10 minutes following the Marokopa Falls Track. You’ll pass through the forest of Tawa and Nikau trees before reaching the stunning Marokopa waterfall and river.

The walk is easy as it only has a slight upwards slope, but if you do need to stop and rest during the walk, there are multiple wooden benches. 

Once you reach the waterfall, you can admire white water flowing gracefully down the wide width of the greywacke basement rock. Because of its fan formation, it looks as though there are multiple different streams of flowing water that are memorizing to watch.

Be aware that you are not able to view the Marokopa waterfall from the old viewing platform as it is permanently closed after being washed out. A new platform will be built in a different location, but there’s no timeline for when it will be ready. However you can still get great views from the dirt track that leads to the waterfall – it can be slippery though!

Related read: This waterfall is only 30 minutes from Waitomo Caves, one of the best places to see glow worms in New Zealand!

3. Whangarei Falls 

Whangarei Falls from the lower viewpoint
Whangarei Falls is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Whangarei.

Feast your eyes on one of the most stunning curtain waterfalls in New Zealand! The 26-meter (85-foot) high Whangarei Falls has water that flows over a cliff of basalt rock giving it its beautiful curtain appearance as it falls into the pools below. Waterfall lovers will be stoked to discover this one! 

Only 10 minutes away from central Whangarei, you can park your car at the Boundary Road parking lot to access the two popular walking tracks to Whangarei Falls.

The first is the Otuihau Whangarei Falls Loop, which takes you to the base of the waterfall in about 15 minutes. On this track, you’ll cross a bridge, and walk an area filled with trees and flax bushes until reaching the falls. The track is not too steep and it’s a relatively easy walk over well-maintained pathways. There are not too many stairs and is safe for children to do – just be aware that there is no handrail on the bridge.

Another great track to take to access Whangarei Falls is the Sands Road Loop which takes 3 hours to walk. You’ll walk across the car bridge that leads to Ngunguru Road, turn right onto Sands Road, and follow it all the way to the Hatea River Walkway that leads to the falls.

There are multiple viewing platforms to get a beautiful view of Whangarei Falls. One viewing platform is located at the top and there are others lower down to give you great spots for photos from all different angles!

If you’d prefer to join a tour to see the falls, this small-group tour from Auckland will take you all around the Bay of Islands area. You’ll see Whangarei Falls, Paihia, and take a cruise along the water where you might spot dolphins and whales! The entire experience is $399 NZD and is a full day of amazing sights.

For a more personal experience, this Māori cultural tour takes you off of the tourist trail. You’ll spend time and share a meal with a Māori family, learn more about Indigenous culture, and visit local landmarks like Whangarei Falls and A. H. Reed Kauri Park. The tour is $350 NZD.

4. Wairere Falls 

view of Wairere Falls in Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park, New Zealand
So stunning!

Don’t miss seeing the highest waterfall on the North Island of New Zealand! Wairere Falls is 153 meters (502 feet) high and is found in the gorgeous Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park.

To get here is only a 10-minute drive from Matamata or 45 minutes from Tauranga.

This impressive, multistep waterfall has powerful streams of water flowing over the cliff of moss-covered rocks. The hike to get here is very popular for both locals and visitors because of its breathtaking views of the waterfall, the valley, and Waikato. 

Hiking to the top of Wairere Falls is recommended only for those with a decent level of fitness though. Bring good hiking shoes! No dogs or mountain biking is allowed and the trail is not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers.

The track from the parking lot to the lower lookout will take about 25-45 minutes and be prepared for a walk over large boulders, tree roots, and along some wooden bridges that go overtop of streams. It is a lovely scenic hike and for the majority of the time, you will be shaded by native Puriri and Kowhai trees.

You’ll reach the first viewing platform with a gorgeous view of Waiere Falls hidden amongst the greenery of the native bush. There are some steep edges and the possibility of rockfalls, so walk mindfully. Do not hike here after it has been raining!  

Want to continue to the top of the waterfall? That’s another 90 minutes and includes around 100 steps to climb. It’s harder than the first part of the track, but the challenging, steep hike is worth it once you reach the top!

For a tour that includes this waterfall and other hidden gems, this affordable Te Wairoa Tour is only $26 NZD. It takes you to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, the most visited archaeological site in New Zealand. You’ll also visit a world-class museum and walk the waterfall trail to Waiere Falls.

Related Read: Waiere Falls is also one of the best stops on the drive from Hamilton to Rotorua – read about the other fun places to check out!

5. Dawson Falls 

Dawson Falls in New Zealand
This isn’t a very popular waterfall, but I’m not sure why?

Dawson Falls, also known in Maori as Te Rere o Noke is an 18-meter (59-foot) high segmented waterfall in Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki. It is one of the most popular waterfalls to visit, especially if you’re visiting nearby New Plymouth.

The waterfall is stunning of course, but it’s also really accessible with multiple paths to get here.

The best place to park is at the Dawson Falls Visitor Center off Manaia Road. You can take a path directly to Dawson Falls in about 10 minutes or take the Kapuni Loop track for a 1 hour round trip. There is a steep path to head down at the start of the walkway and into the forest where you can choose to head to the upper lookout or to the base lookout. I recommend doing both routes! 

Along the tracks to Dawson Falls, I really loved the eerie atmosphere from the curvy, twisty trees covered in moss – it’s actually called a “Goblin Forest” if that gives you any clues about the magical nature of this place!

Some of the steps along the way do need a bit of repair and there are some bulging tree roots along the trail, so watch your step. It can also get slippery as you get closer to the base of the waterfall and the path here is steep and rocky.

While Dawson Falls doesn’t quite have that wow factor like other waterfalls in New Zealand, it’s still worth a visit. Make sure you bring a bathing suit so you can take a dip in the nearby Wilkies Pools – natural pools formed from ancient lava!

Related read: Egmont National Park is one of the best national parks in NZ, so make sure you plan to spend an entire day here exploring!

6. Karekare Falls 

stunning view of Karekare Falls in New Zealand

The most beautiful 30-meter (98-foot) tall waterfall is hidden in the Waitakere Ranges. Karekare Falls is known as a horsetail waterfall where the water keeps contact with the rocks as it flows into the pool below.

This waterfall is a 45-minute drive out of Auckland, or only a 10-minute drive from Piha Beach – one of the top New Zealand beaches! So rent a car in Auckland and plan to spend the day!

Karekare Falls can be accessed by parking at Karekare car park, crossing the small bridge, and walking along Lone Kauri Road. Once you come to the La Trobe Track sign, you may be able to see the top of the waterfall! This is the track you want to take which will be around a 5-10 minute walk along a gravel path.

Note – some trails in the area may be closed to manage the spread of a disease targeting the kauri trees in the area. Check here before you go for what trails are open.

You’ll spot a smaller waterfall before reaching the main Karekare Falls, where you will see water pouring all the way from the top of the rocks down to the bottom into the pool below that almost looks like an erupting volcano!  

The pool below can sometimes be shallow, but it is suitable for swimming. There are lots of trees creating plenty of shady areas to sit under and admire the waterfall from, so feel free to spend time here before continuing your walk.

Combine two of my favorite things with this wine and waterfalls tour from Auckland! You’ll visit volcanic black-sand beaches, native rain forests, vineyards, and of course Karekare Falls. All your transportation, lunch, and wine tastings are included for $295 NZD per person.

7. Haruru Falls 

Haruru Falls in Bay of Islands, New Zealand

One of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Bay of Islands is Haruru Falls! I visited here while staying in nearby Paihia and it was definitely one of the highlights!

Haruru Falls is a 5-meter (16-foot) high block waterfall. A Maori legend says that a taniwha (a supernatural creature similar to a dragon) lives underneath the waterfall, which is why you can hear the roar of the falls!

There are a couple of ways to get to Haruru Falls. If you’re driving from Auckland to Paihia, it’s about a 3-hour drive and then only 7 minutes or so from Paihia to the Haruru Falls parking lot.

Once there, it’s a quick walk down some stairs to reach the viewing platform. You can also walk a bit closer near the top of the falls by going down a few more steps. There are some chickens hanging around this area too which surprised me!

If you’re a thrill-seeker, there is a rope swing attached to a tree near the waterfall that you can use if you want to fly into the water from the top! Don’t swim after it has been raining heavily though as the current can get quite strong and become unsafe. 

There are often kayakers at the bottom of the waterfall that have kayaked up the Waitangi River to see the waterfall. I’ve done this below and loved seeing this waterfall from below!

If you’re craving a longer hike, the Waitangi Track is one of my favorites. It’s about a 1.5-hour walk and even though it was a hot day when I hiked here, there was plenty of shade in the dense forest and the path was clear to follow. It was a pretty flat track with some inclines but nothing too steep.

One of my favorite parts was walking through the mangroves along a wooden bridge and boardwalk after exiting the forest. During the last part of the trail, you get to walk along the Waitangi River and hear the powerful sounds of Haruru Falls before it comes into view. 

If you’re looking for a customizable tour to Haruru Falls, this specific 4-hour private tour is super flexible and allows you to pick attractions you want to visit from a HUGE list. This includes waterfalls, glow worm caves, and more. Relax in an air-conditioned vehicle and enjoy the convenience of pickup and drop-off. The tour is $312 NZD per person for 2 people or only $170 NZD each if you book for 4 people.

Related read: Another great way to explore the waterfalls on the North Island is by renting a campervan in Auckland!

8. Kaiate Falls 

Kaiate Falls, New Zealand
The gorgeous Kaiate Falls!

Just outside the city if you’re driving from Tauranga to Rotorua you’ll find the beautiful Kaiate Falls. It’s actually made up of two waterfalls! The first is a three-tiered one on the upper section and the other is at ground level.

Walking the 60-minute return track to Kaiate Falls gives you the opportunity to see beautiful cascading waterfalls and rock pools as well as explore the lush native bush.

From the parking lot located around 20 minutes from downtown Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty follow the figure-8 loop track to the upper falls. You’ll get a sneak preview of the falls through the trees before it comes into view!

Then follow the track downhill to the large lower waterfall. There are lots of steps on this track that can get very slippery so please be careful and wear appropriate footwear. This track is rated as moderate, however, I consider it easy.

Overall, the walk going to both the upper and lower sections of Kaiate Falls will take about an hour at a leisurely pace. The track is clear and well-maintained but can be slippery if it has been raining.

While you may see people swimming here, the water quality is not good. It’s not recommended to swim in the water due to the high risk of microbial infection.

9. Taranaki Falls 

Taranaki Falls, New Zealand

Taranaki Falls is a 20-meter (65-foot) high waterfall that pours over volcanic rock and lava that erupted over 15,000 years ago from Mount Ruapehu. Boulders and rocks with a few trees surround the waterfall, making Taranaki Falls really stand out. 

The falls are located about 1.5 hours from Taupo and getting here is one of the top North Island hikes! To reach the start of the track that leads to the falls, you’ll head to the heart of Tongariro National Park and look for the Whakapapa Visitor Center as the trail starts just below it. The track is an easy 2-hour loop walk but there are some stairs and inclines at times.

This bush walk offers great mountain views and if it’s a clear day, you may be able to see Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro, and Pukikaikiore in the distance in addition to seeing the mighty Taranaki Falls. 

The view is incredible of this wondrous waterfall as it pours over the volcanic rocks and bursts down into the pool below. You can even go for a dip if you want!  

Easily add on a stop at Taranaki Falls with a guided tour exploring the national park. This sunset tour lets you follow a guide for a short hike to the falls. You’ll learn about the rich geology of the area and find a perfect spot to watch the sunset while sipping on some New Zealand wine. The cost is $133 NZD.

Or try out this half-day guided walk where you’ll see some of the most impressive features in the park, made famous in the Lord of the Rings movies! It’s perfect for travelers short on time as you can choose a morning or afternoon tour. You’ll see Taranaki Falls, the Whakapapanui River, and enjoy spectacular views over the volcanic wilderness. The guided hike is $220 NZD per person.

Related read: While in Tongariro National Park, check out our guide to the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike!

10. Rere Falls 

Rere Falls is a wide waterfall (about 20 meters or 65 feet) along the Wharekopae River that’s a beautiful spot to swim in the summer. This waterfall is hidden in the small rural community of Rere, which is a 40-minute drive from Gisborne and about 4 hours from Tauranga.

You’ll head along Wharekopae Road and keep an eye out for a small blue sign for the turnoff into the parking lot. Just to let you know, there is not much signage along the way, so make sure to stick to Wharekopae Road. Do not use the Rakauroa Road route unless you are in a four-wheel drive and want to drive along a gravel, winding road. 

Once you’re in the parking lot though, it’s only a 1-minute walk to the falls! Perfect for a quick visit or if you don’t feel like hiking. There’s also a really nice picnic spot here, so bring your lunch or some snacks along.

If you love swimming in waterfalls, then Rere Falls is the place for you! It’s suitable for both children and adults with its shallow and deep areas. It is quite a large swimming area compared to other waterfalls that may only have a small pool beneath them. 

Climb onto the rocks behind the waterfall and walk behind the streams of flowing water or even underneath it to have a shower! There are beautiful walnut trees next to the waterfall and a grass area to sit on, which is super nice to have as you can lie in the sun and dry off after a swim.

Further down the river, there is the Rere Rockslide, which is a 30-meter (98-foot) rock with water flowing over it that you can slide down. It’s an amazing natural playground! You’ll need something to slide down on so bring a bodyboard, inner tube, or something smooth – even a yoga mat works.

It’s only a 2-minute drive further down Wharekopae Road and a quick walk from the parking area. This is a super popular area to visit with many people sliding down the giant sloping rocks. There aren’t many places in the world to enjoy a waterslide built by Mother Nature!

11. Huka Falls 

Bailey poses for a photo at Huka Falls in Taupo, NZ
There is so much water!
Huka Falls near Taupo, North Island, New Zealand

The dramatic Huka Falls is the largest waterfall on the Waikato River, which is the longest river in New Zealand. This magnificent waterfall is located only 7 kms (4.3 miles) north of Taupo or about a 5-minute drive. This makes it one of those must-do activities in Taupo or a great add-on to your Taupo to Rotorua road trip or the drive from Taupo to Wellington!

Right before Huka Falls, the river narrows into a volcanic rock ravine. This narrowing increases the water pressure that creates the dramatic waterfall as the water bursts over the falls at a rate of 220,000 liters per second. That could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in less than 11 seconds!

Compared to other falls, this one is really outstanding to see as it’s so loud and has a massive visual impact with all that water being pushed off the cliff. The foamy appearance of the water as it cascades down 11 meters (36 feet) is reflected in its name. The name comes from the Maori language where ‘Huka’ means ‘foam’.

The parking lot for Huka Falls is easy to get to, or you can take a bus from Taupo to get here. Once you’re here, there are multiple lookout points including a bridge right at the top of the falls where you can get close to this incredible waterfall.

If you fancy getting even closer to this powerful waterfall, hop on a thrilling jet boat tour for a front-row seat to this incredible natural wonder. You’ll need to hold on tight as you do 360-degree spins and speed past rugged cliffs before arriving at the thundering waterfall. Roundtrip transportation is included for the $122 NZD price per person.

Related read: Taupo is also one of our top picks for a romantic getaway in New Zealand!

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Waterfalls on the South Island  

12. Thunder Creek Falls 

Bailey stands at the Thunder Creek Falls Viewpoint in NZ
It’s huge!
Thunder Creek Falls, NZ
Don’t miss Thunder Creek Falls!

Thunder Creek Falls holds a special place in my heart as it was the first waterfall I ever saw on the South Island! What a spectacular welcome to this area – it should be on your list of South Island must-dos too!

Thunder Creek Falls is a 28-meter (92-foot) high waterfall fed by melting glacier water. It’s made up of one single stream of water that bursts out from steep cliffs lining the Haast River.

It’s located about 1.5 hours north of Wanaka inside Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s one of our favorite stops if you’re planning a South Island road trip like the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef.

It’s easy to get to Thunder Creek Falls with a short 5-minute walk along the trail from the parking lot. The path is well-maintained and flat, making this one of the most accessible waterfalls in New Zealand.

For the best experience here, I recommend coming early in the morning or later in the afternoon. You’ll avoid most of the crowds that way. Also, bring bug repellent, the sandflies here can be relentless!

13. Hundred Falls

Part of Thousand Falls on the way to Milford Sound
Part of Thousand Falls on the way to Milford Sound

Want to visit a unique waterfall as you go along the winding Milford Sound Highway?

Hundred Falls is the name given to the hundreds of tiny waterfalls that pour down an area of rock, especially after a period of heavy rain.  

As you pass through the Homer Tunnel when driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound, look to your left. There is a small viewing area here and if it has been raining recently you’ll be able to see just how this attraction got its name.

This is just a quick 5-minute stop – take some photos and continue on your way to Milford Sound.

14. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall 

bailey stands on the viewpoint at the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall along Arthurs Pass, NZ
Devils Punchbowl Waterfall
Bailey looks out at the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthurs Pass
Devils Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthurs Pass

Want to visit the most ferocious waterfall in New Zealand? Make sure you drive Arthur’s Pass and hike the Devils Punchbowl Walking Track. The name alone should get you excited but if that doesn’t, then the fact it’s a 131-meter (430-foot) waterfall should!

The waterfall is located in Arthurs Pass National Park in the Canterbury Region, about 2 hours from Christchurch. It’s a popular stop for anybody driving from Christchurch to Hokitika.

The trail to the falls is short and sweet with a small elevation gain that takes around 20 minutes each way. Once there you’ll be amazed at the falls and might even get a little wet!

The Maori name for this waterfall is Te Tautea o Hinekakai after the South Island tribe, Ngai Tahu’s ancestor, Hinekakai, who was a well-known weaver. The long white streams of water looked similar to wharariki which is a precious mountain flax that she and other Maori weavers used.  

If you come in the early morning or in the evening, you may be lucky enough to see or hear a kiwi, making this adventure even more special. 

Related read: Don’t let the epic views stop here, check out more of the best hikes in New Zealand!

15. Stirling Falls

A boat travels right up to Stirling Falls in Milford Sound
Oh the waterfalls!
Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Stirling Falls!

Up for an adventure? Head to a remote waterfall in Milford Sound, New Zealand that can only be seen with a scenic flight or cruise!

Stirling Falls is a unique gem and the second-highest waterfall in Milford Sound at 151 meters (495 feet) tall. Don’t let the mountain behind the falls fool you into thinking it’s small. This is the waterfall that Hugh Jackman “jumped” off in the movie Wolverine! 

Stirling Falls can be seen only on a Milford Sound cruise or by flying in a plane or helicopter which makes it such a special place to visit. Boats and kayaks can go right under the waterfall flowing with crisp glacial water, so if you feel brave and want to be right up close to the falls, you can. 

This nature cruise is a great option to see this waterfall. It takes place on a smaller boat, allowing you to get much closer. How close? Well, you’ll be able to taste the pure glacier water from Stirling Falls by placing a drinking glass on the nose of the boat! The tour is $145 NZD and is an amazing way to see some of the beauty of this area. If you’re not sold yet, read my review of the Nature Cruise for more details!

 16. Bowen Falls 

Bailey on a Milford Sound cruise with Lady Bowen Falls in the background
Lady Bowen Falls!

Okay, if you haven’t already figured it out, Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. The waterfalls here definitely help with that and Bowen Falls (sometimes called Lady Bowen Falls) is the largest waterfall in Milford Sound.

The 162-meter (531-foot) waterfall can only be viewed by the sea or sky! The white gushing water of the falls flows through a hanging valley and out into the blue fiord.

Bowen Falls is not just amazing to look at, it also has an important purpose. It produces electricity and acts as a water source for the locals. 

Bowen Falls Walk is currently closed (check here for updates), and when it’s available you can take a short boat ride to a walking track near the falls.

One of the best ways to get up close to the falls is on a Milford Sound scenic cruise. You’ll check off all the highlights including Bowen Falls, Sinbad Gully, passing Mitre Peak, and gliding along the Tasman Sea coast. Tickets are $112 NZD per person.

If you need transportation to Milford Sound, pack in an epic adventure along with it! This 4-hour tour includes a round-trip helicopter flight from Queenstown, a glacier landing, as well as a boat cruise through Milford Sound. You will even get to experience the “glacial facial” when your boat captain takes you so close to the mighty Bowen Falls, you will feel the refreshing water on your face! This tour is $1,200 NZD and can be booked online here.  

Related read: If you want to explore Milford Sound, book a stay in nearby Te Anau.

17. McLean Falls 

Mclean Falls in the Catlins
Mclean Falls is huge, you have to see it to believe it!

McLean Falls is a towering 22-meter (72-foot) waterfall surrounded by bright green moss-covered rocks. The falls are massive and actually made up of several different waterfalls.

McLean Falls is in the coastal area of the Catlins about two hours from Dunedin. It’s one of the best stops on the drive from Dunedin to Invercargill!

Once you arrive, it’s a short and simple 20-minute walk from the parking lot to the falls. The trail is flat and good for families with kids tagging along. Plus, the forest surrounding the falls in the Catlins Conservation Park is just magical.

This is an amazing area for photos and you can walk close to the falls for a spectacular view. Look for the trail along the right side, just be careful on the slippery rocks!

I personally think it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand, but I will let you decide for yourself! It can get busy here, so come early in the day to have more of the waterfall to yourself. 

18. Koropuku Falls 

A couple take a photo together at Koropuku Falls in the Catlins region on the South Island of New Zealand
Exploring the romantic Koropuku Falls!

Koropuku Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Catlins. During our visit, we had the falls to ourselves the entire time and felt like we were well off the beaten path.

It was without a doubt the most beautiful, but it’s also the least heard of. In fact, you won’t find Koropuku Falls on the official Catlins tourist map handed out at the visitor centers. I actually found this waterfall by chance! 

The trail into the falls was actually developed by locals (not the Department of Conversation like other tracks in the area) and the terrain is definitely more challenging.

The falls are 10 meters (32 feet) high and generally pretty quiet, which is lovely and makes you feel like you’ve found a really special place. I’d rank this awe-inspiring place as one of the best destinations on the South Island!

It’s a 20-minute return walk to the falls and finding the parking lot is not easy. Be sure to add its location to Google Maps and look out for a small parking lot on the side of the road that can fit about 3 cars. Blink, and you’ll miss it!

You’ll notice that the sign for the Koropuku Falls Track looks different from others you may have seen. This is because it’s an unofficial trail, so it’s just a plain wooden sign with white writing on it. The short bush walk through the green native forest is beautiful as it follows the stream. Be aware that the narrow trail can be slippery as you get near the falls.  

If you love chasing waterfalls in secret spots like me, then this is a must-do! 

Related read: Koropuku Falls is my favourite stop on the drive from Queenstown to Dunedin!

 19. Waipohatu Falls 

Waipohatu Waterfall
Waipohatu Waterfall!

Waipohatu Falls is actually two different waterfalls about 2 minutes apart. They are located deep in the coastal rainforest, about 2.5 hours from Dunedin. 

The upper waterfall is called Pouriwai Falls, which is a 10-meter (32-foot) waterfall and the lower waterfall is Punehu Falls, which is a wide cascading 7-meter (23-foot) tall waterfall. Both falls are impressive, but I personally found the lower waterfall to be my favorite as I am a sucker for cascading waterfalls even though it is shorter.

These falls had no other tourists at them while we were there – there weren’t even any other cars in the parking lot! The walk to the waterfalls is also beautiful as you follow the Waipohatu Waterfalls Loop Track, which takes about 2-3 hours to walk.

New bridges and signs have been added since I have been, so I believe it’s a bit easier to navigate now. The trail is still rugged though with fallen trees to climb over and can get muddy after it rains, so be prepared. 

Waipohatu Falls is a little off-the-beaten-path waterfall that is totally worth a visit!

20. Purakaunui Falls 

Purakaunui Falls
This waterfall is so beautiful to photograph!

Another great waterfall in the Catlins is Purakaunui Falls, which is a very iconic New Zealand waterfall. It has been featured on the New Zealand postage stamp and on many postcards and calendars. In fact, it is one of the most photographed places in the Otago region!

Located on the Purakaunui River, Purakaunui Falls is an absolutely stunning three-tiered, cascading waterfall that is 20 meters (65 feet) high. It is only about a 15-minute drive from Owaka or 1.5 hours from Dunedin. 

The track to Purakaunui Falls is a family-friendly walk and strollers and wheelchairs are able to access the first (top) viewing platform. The trail leads you on a short 10-minute walk along a mainly flat gravel path that follows the river.

Wander through a native forest of beech and podocarp trees to reach the first viewing platform and then descend downwards to a lower viewing platform that offers the best view of the three-tiered Purakanui Falls.  

The area does tend to get busier during summer and later on in the day, so go early in the morning if you can.

21. Trident Creek Falls 

Trident Creek Falls near Franz Josef Glacier
Trident Creek Falls near Franz Josef Glacier

Heading to visit Franz Josef Glacier? Plan for a stop at Trident Creek Falls on your way!

Located on stunning glacier land, Trident Creek Falls is a 35-meter (115-foot) tall segmented waterfall. It gets its name from the water that cascades down the rock face in a three-pronged flow.

It’s only a 10-minute drive away from Franz Josef Village or 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Hokitika

From the parking lot, you’ll take the well-known Franz Josef Glacier Walk, and about 30 minutes in, the waterfall will be on your right. You can take some great photos from a distance or walk a bit closer to the falls – just be respectful of any barricades in the area.

If you are up for it, walk for a further 15 minutes to come to the viewing platform for the Franz Josef Glacier before returning. This is one of the best hikes on the South Island in the midst of spectacular glacial land! 

You won’t be able to actually walk on the glacier itself though – to do that, you’ll need to go on a guided tour. This Franz Josef helicopter hike tour includes a guide, the flight, and all of the necessary equipment to actually hike on the glacier! This was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in New Zealand. The helicopter ride takes around 30 minutes each way, and the glacier hike lasts for two hours. It costs $603 NZD per passenger and can be booked here.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, you cannot currently access Trident Creek Falls due to trail damage on the Franz Josef Valley Walk.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey wanders through the forest in the Catlins Region in search of waterfalls
Thanks for reading!

There you have it, 21 of the best waterfalls in beautiful New Zealand! This country is famous for its spectacular landscapes and there’s something extra special about waterfalls. Whether you’re looking to visit some of the most popular or find more hidden ones, there are plenty of waterfalls to chase in New Zealand!

As you plan your epic adventure to New Zealand, make sure to have a look at some of my other blogs. I’ve traveled all around the country and want to share some of my tips and tricks with you to plan your own amazing getaway.

Milford Sound VS Doubtful Sound – An Unbiased Comparison

8 Things to Know BEFORE Skydiving in New Zealand +BEST Places to go!

13 BEST Day Trips from Christchurch