15 Amazing Waterfalls in New Zealand

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Located on the other side of the world for many travelers, New Zealand is synonymous with ruggedness and natural beauty. When paired with its reputation for world-class accommodations, cuisine, and even wine, New Zealand is squarely on the map for those adventurous types who refuse to settle for a ho-hum destination that doesn’t offer everything they’re looking for. Below is a list of 15 amazing waterfalls in New Zealand.

1. Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls, New ZealandSource: Jiri Foltyn / shutterstock
Sutherland Falls

Towering nearly 2,000 feet over the surrounding landscape is New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, Sutherland Falls.

Though some claim there are other, even taller falls, you won’t care a bit once you see this natural wonder.

Located in Fiordland National Park on the country’s South Island, the falls can be seen from miles away.

The falling water originates in Lake Quill and makes its way down three distinct cascades before splashing to the pool below.

The base of the falls is accessible by car and on foot if you’re willing to hoof it a few hours from the Milford Track.

2. Wairere Falls

Wairere Falls, New ZealandSource: christian_b / shutterstock
Wairere Falls

At nearly 500 feet tall, Wairere Falls is the highest on the North Island, and makes its dramatic plunge over two distinct sections, or escarpments.

Found in the Kaimai Mountain range, the falls is accessible via a trail which originates in a parking lot on Goodwin Road.

The path leads to a manmade viewing area near the top of the falls, where you’ll get a magnificent view of the falls and surrounding valley.

There’s an interesting plaque at the trailhead containing a poem about the falls that you’ll want to see before you go.

3. Huka Falls

Huka Falls, New ZealandSource: Troy Wegman / shutterstock
Huka Falls

Though not high by New Zealand standards, Huka Falls is second to none when it comes to sheer power. The Waikato River, on which Huka Falls is located, narrows before the falls, creating an area of immense pressure and water flow.

Near Taupo on the North Island, the river gorge and falls have been gouged out of the surrounding sedimentary rock over ages of constant battering.

Nowadays the flow is controlled by the local authorities, and the falls is an often-visited site due to its splendor and easy access.

The falls is also infamous for the bound body of a national sports hero found there in the late ‘80’s, exposing a seedy side of local culture that most would just as soon forget.

4. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, New ZealandSource: plumchutney / shutterstock
Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

Located in Arthur’s Pass National Park on the South Island, Devil’s Punchbowl Falls is not named after the actual devil’s punchbowl, as far as anyone can tell.

Considered the gem of the national park, the falls drops nearly 400 feet in multiple and distinct streams.

Well-marked and maintained trails and bridges in the area will lead you through the park, over a river and stream.

The falls is accessible from trails in the area which start in Arthur’s Pass Village. Hiking in and out will cover a little less than a mile and a half, and will take you to many scenic viewing areas.

5. Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls, New ZealandSource: S J Francis / shutterstock
Purakaunui Falls

Located near the Catlins Forest Park, Purakaunui Falls is another popular destination for nature lovers due to its unique tier-shape and easy access. For those reasons and more, it’s one of 15 amazing waterfalls in New Zealand.

Roughly equidistant from the towns of Invercargill and Dunedin, the falls is about 2 hours from each if you’d like to make a long day trip out of it.

Because of its beauty, the falls’ image was put on a postage stamp in the late ‘70s, and it’s just a 15-minute walk from the parking area on Purakaunui Falls Road. There are restrooms and picnic tables which will come in handy if you’d like to spend the whole day.

6. Kitekite Falls

Kitekite Falls, New ZealandSource: Winston Tan / shutterstock
Kitekite Falls

Also referred to as Kitakita, the Kitekite Falls is in Waitakere, Auckland on the North Island, and has more tiers than an ostentatious wedding cake.

Nestled into the scenic Waitakere Mountains, the falls is accessible on foot by nearby trailheads, and drops nearly 260 feet.

There are multiple pools at the bottom of each section, though they’re not all accessible.

The narrow falls and surrounding rock are nearly enveloped in lush vegetation, giving them a primordial feel.

It’s located near enough to the popular Piha Beach to make a wonderful day trip out of the two sites.

7. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, New ZealandSource: DaMoJo / shutterstock
Bridal Veil Falls

If you guessed that Bridal Veil Falls got its name because it looks like a bridal veil, then chances are you’re smarter than the average bear.

Located on the Pakoka River near Waikato on the North Island, the falls is nearly 200 feet high and feature a larger than average pool at its base.

Located inside the Waireinga Scenic Reserve, the area’s geology is characterized by dramatic peaks, gorges and forests.

Around 20 minutes from the town of Raglan, the falls can be reached by a relatively short and easy hike via a trail along the river.

8. Stirling Falls

Stirling Falls, New ZealandSource: Blue Planet Studio / shutterstock
Stirling Falls

New Zealand is like a magnet for nature lovers, artists and photographers, and for good reason.

Another one of the most amazing falls in New Zealand is Stirling Falls, near Milford Sound on the South Island.

Perhaps the most amazing way to view this striking waterfall is by cruise.

One of the most photographed falls in NZ, you can go right up to the base of the falls via one of the many Milford Sound cruise options, some of which include overnight accommodation.

Helicopter tours are also available, although as you might have guessed they’re very expensive.

9. Rere Falls

Rere Falls, New ZealandSource: Paul Rawlingson / shutterstock
Rere Falls

The Rere Falls won’t win any awards for its height, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing.

Located about an hour to the north and west of Gisborne on the North Island, Rere Falls is just about 15 feet tall and 60 feet wide.

Due to its modest size, the pool at the falls’ base is a great place to swim safely, and it’s also possible to walk on the ledge behind the falling water.

It’s a great place to have a picnic or read a book, and once you’ve gotten your fill, consider hopping over to the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, which is the official arboretum of New Zealand, and chock full of acres of beautiful trees, plants and flowers of every kind.

10. Tawhai Falls

Tawhai Falls, New ZealandSource: Fotos593 / shutterstock
Tawhai Falls

Often referred to as Gollum’s Falls due to its cameo in The Lord of the Rings, Tawhai Falls is located in the Tongariro National Park on the North Island.

The park is also known for its rock formations that resemble the trolls in The Hobbit.

Needless to say, the falls is a must-see for fans of these two famous books.

The falls and park are about an hour and a half from the town of Taupo, and though there is ample parking, the park doesn’t offer any other facilities.

11. Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek FallsSource: Michael Smith ITWP / shutterstock
Thunder Creek Falls

Located in Haast Pass on the South Island, Thunder Creek Falls was created by glaciers of epic proportions gouging their way across the landscape over millions of years.

Near the Southern Alps, the falls is near the Haast Pass and the town of Wanaka, which is about 60 miles away.

There’s a convenient and well-marked parking lot just off the Haast Pass Highway, and from there you’ll be able to get a good view after just a short walk.

Named after the roaring of its falling waters, the falls is high and narrow and surrounded by thick forest.

12. McLean Falls

McLean Falls, New ZealandSource: Jiri Foltyn / shutterstock
McLean Falls

Located near Doubtful Sound on the South Island, McLean Falls’ location near the Catlins Coast makes it a no-brainer when in the area.

Nestled in Catlins National Forest Park on the Tautuku River, the 70-foot falls makes its way downward over a combination of unique terraces, and seems to be nearly enveloped in the surrounding forest.

The McLean Falls River Walk trailhead is located on the Rewcastle Road, and will lead you through the area’s spectacular geography and forest. The hike to the falls takes less than an hour, and the trail is well-marked and maintained, as are the bridges that cross the creeks and river leading up to the fall.

13. Browne Falls

Browne Falls, New ZealandSource: whistler1984 / Flickr
Browne Falls

There seems to be some local argument over which of New Zealand’s falls is the largest, with many saying it’s Browne.

Located above the Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park, Browne Falls is known for its breadth as well as height.

The falls covers a distance of nearly 3,000 feet horizontally, and from beginning to end drops almost 2,400 feet, making it massive, dramatic, and difficult to see in its entirety.

The water feeding the falls comes from Lake Browne, which when brimming to capacity, flows down the rocky face below in dramatic fashion.

14. Humboldt Falls

Humboldt Falls, New ZealandSource: Kwang Chun Gan / shutterstock
Humboldt Falls

If an hour’s hike won’t deter you from another of New Zealand’s waterfall gems, then Humboldt Falls in the Fiordland region should be on your to-do list.

This fall flows down the sheer rock face in three distinct sections, plunging nearly 800 feet from top to bottom.

Though only visible from the area’s man-made viewing structure, the falls often breaks into two distinct streams after an especially hard rain.

The trailhead can be found adjacent to the parking area at the end of Hollyford Road.

15. Mount Damper Falls

Mount Damper Falls, new zealandSource: Natalia Volna itravelNZ@ travel app / Flickr
Mount Damper Falls

Mount Damper Falls is on New Zealand’s North Island near the town of Taranaki, and at over 200 feet tall, it’s among the highest on the island.

To get to the falls, you’ll first need to get to the parking area near the town of New Plymouth.

From there, there’s a trail that runs beside the creek which leads through open fields, then begins to descend to the two viewing structures at the falls.

The walk is about 15 minutes either way, and according to the fall’s website, there are ‘long-drop toilets,’ available in case of an emergency. The site doesn’t explain what long-drop toilets are, but it’s safe to say if you drop your phone in you won’t be getting it back.

15 Amazing Waterfalls in New Zealand:

  • Sutherland Falls
  • Wairere Falls
  • Huka Falls
  • Devil’s Punchbowl Falls
  • Purakaunui Falls
  • Kitekite Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Stirling Falls
  • Rere Falls
  • Tawhai Falls
  • Thunder Creek Falls
  • McLean Falls
  • Browne Falls
  • Humboldt Falls
  • Mount Damper Falls