The sound of rushing water just over the ridge or around the next bend quickens the pace and excites memories of top outdoor sights when getting on the trail of a waterfall.
High rainfall and mountainous terrain account for the many New Zealand waterfalls. One of nature’s most delightful shows with a never ending display of raw beauty and force. Our islands have many across the country in all shapes and sizes to enjoy.
My love of the waterfall spectacular always brings to mind the years I sailed the Caribbean and a particular harbour in Jamaica. There I would enter to anchor and swim over to the waterfall and luxuriate in a warm tropical shower surrounded by lush greenery of fern and moss resplendent with flowers and native bird song.
In New Zealand there are over 1500 waterfalls actually marked on topographical maps to discover but on a rainy day on the drive from Haast to Wanaka through the Mount Aspiring National Park I do believe there are that many just in that area. One of my favourite is in the Mount Aspiring Park just south of the Gates of Haast Bridge - Thunder Creek Falls - that can be reached by just a five minute walk. The water drops 28 metres to a pool by the rapidly flowing Haast River. On past the falls driving toward Wanaka from Haast is also is the Gates of Haast bridge area. Not a waterfall but a real rock and roll cascade tearing down off the mountain. There is a place to pull over for that special photograph.
Two other areas in the South Island stand out in my mind and to me the most impressive is in Milford Sound where by the Real Journey’s Milford Wandered you are taken up to the edge of a giant waterfall. They pull up so close you can stand on the deck and have one of natures’ greatest showers. Also while in the area take the Te Anau glow worm tour and visit the underground waterfall. In the Fiordland National Park are the two highest waterfalls, Sutherland Falls, reached by the international favourite Milford Track at 580metres. For this one you have to get out and do the tramp though. Browne Falls in Doubtful Sound at 836 metres drop cascading down a mountainside. It is considered the ninth highest in the world.
Anither place I really enjoy is when crossing Arthur’s Pass where the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls is the tallest and most prominent waterfall feature in the Arthur's Pass area.
Towering at 131m, this snow-fed waterfall is spectacular.
Not all the falls are in the South Island. One of the falls we enjoy visiting is Mount Damper Falls on the Forgotten Highway (route 43) between Taumarunui and Stratford about ten kilometres from Whangamomona near the Moki Tunnel. Take the road toward Okau. There is a parking area and it is sign posted. The track is through open farm land and along the creek to a swing bridge and the bush and in another ten minutes you reach the bottom to the viewing platform. The falls are 78 metres and quite impressive.
How about a hot water falls? Now this is the ultimate. Known early on in the Maori world the Kakahi Falls is proclaimed the tallest thermal waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere fed by the hot lakes of the thermal park You can find it in the Hells Gate and Wai Ora Spa about 15 minutes from Rotorua.
Another area nearby I really enjoy visiting is the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Probably not really technically a waterfall the Warbrick Terrace is one of the most fascinating visual spots I have ever visited. The unusual rusty gold colours are a mixture of silicate deposits, iron oxide and algae as they flow over the rocks.
For those of you more adventuresome how about Okere Falls in the Kaituna River between Rotorua and Tauranga. The Kaituna boasts the highest commercially rafted waterfall (7m) in the world. In fact, there are 3 waterfalls among the 14 rapids; two smaller waterfalls to practise on before attacking the 7-meter drop named Tutea Falls.
Smaller falls that are pure beauty are ones such as the one on Pelorus River. It is well hidden from the normal visitor. After going over the Pelorus one-way bridge on the way to Nelson
After the house on the left look for a dirt road on the right. You can park there on the road and take a walk down to the river where you first see the falls and if you continue on along the river you come to a large hole just made doer swimming. Of all the years I have stopped there I have never seen another person. Should be the place to catch the big trout.
The one I really enjoy the most and visit several times every year is the one located north of Kaikoura by Ohau Point where there is a large seal colony. Take the marked Ohau Stream walkway through the bush to the waterfall pool where young fur seals are frolicking continually in the pool.
For the complete information on the waterfalls of New Zealand the paperback by Johnny Cheng is very complete resource with maps, photos and useful information of each waterfall - waterfall information