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  • Writer's pictureRach Stewart

EXPLORING KAIATE FALLS IN THE BAY OF PLENTY NEW ZEALAND - YOUR PHOTO GUIDE

Exploring Kaiate Falls Bay of Plenty NZ Blog

Nestled in the rural outskirts of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty of New Zealand lies a hidden gem that many visitors don't know about but is a place that should absolutely be added to the list of things to see and do - the magical paradise of Kaiate Falls.


Kaiate Falls are a set of two stunning waterfalls cascading gracefully amidst native bush in rural Welcome Bay in the Bay of Plenty North Island New Zealand. These enchanting waterfalls begin with the upper set of falls consisting of a three tiered series flowing over giant boulders which then eventually feed into the lower falls. The lower waterfall is a beautiful 15 metre plunge fall into an amazing swimming hole. The lower waterfall is my favourite to photograph as it is so visually stunning both to the eye and on camera.


Kaiate Falls Bay of Plenty New Zealand
The Lower Kaiate Falls (ISO320, F9, 13sec, 21mm)

The Kaiate Falls track is a 2 kilometre loop track through beautiful native forest that takes around 40 minutes to complete.


I am very lucky to have these incredible waterfalls right on my back doorstep and it is one of the first places I ever visited to practice my long exposure photography. Kaiate Falls Tauranga is a great spot to bring your tripod and ND filters to experiment with slowing down water and capturing forest scenery in low light.


Upper Kaiate Falls Track Welcome Bay NZ
The Upper Kaiate Falls from the Kaiate Falls Track (ISO320, F9, 10sec, 27mm)

Having visited countless times and knowing this track like the back of my hand, I'm stoked to put all my experience and knowledge into my Exploring Kaiate Falls Guide so that you can visit and create your own memories and photos here as well.


In this blog I share all the information you will need on your visit to Kaiate Falls in the Bay of Plenty and all the photography tips I have learnt from shooting this location many times over.


NZ Guide and Travel Map

 

CONTENTS



 

EXPLORING KAIATE FALLS IN THE BAY OF PLENTY NEW ZEALAND


Kaiate Falls Welcome Bay Tauranga
Lower Kaiate Falls Bay of Plenty (IS0320, F9, 25sec, 20mm)

 

WHERE IS KAIATE FALLS AND HOW TO GET THERE


Kaiate Falls is situated around 25 minutes from Tauranga in rural Welcome Bay on Kaiate Falls Road, Waitao, North Island New Zealand.


Kaiate Falls Track NZ
Near the Kaiate Falls Track lower foot bridge (ISO640, F9, 2sec, 17mm)

As you travel along Welcome Bay Road, you will see Waitao Road on your right and a small yellow sign 'Kaiate Falls'. Turn down Waitao Road and continue 4.9km and then turn left at Kaiate Falls Road.


The scenic reserve and parking area is a further 1km - you will see a small narrow vehicle entrance on your left to the falls where you will reach the parking area and start of the track.


NZ Prints and Canvas

 

WHAT CAMERA GEAR TO TAKE



In my experience the best way to photograph Kaiate Falls is with your wide angle and mid range zoom lens. With both sets of falls, depending on where you're set up, there is a lot of scenery to take in. The wide angle lens (16-35mm or similar) is the best way to capture the entire scene, and then if you want to zoom in and take more close up and abstract waterfall images your mid range zoom (24-70mm or similar) will be perfect.


ND Filters (for long exposure and smoothing out the water)

Tripod (low light conditions in the shade)

Wide Angle Lens (eg. 16-35mm lens or mid range 24-70mm)


 

KAIATE FALLS TRACK


The Kaiate Falls Track stretches over approximately 2 kilometers, with a well maintained scenic trail offering the perfect blend of native bush and magnificent waterfalls.


The track typically takes around 40 minutes to an hour to complete at a leisurely pace, encountering a diverse array of flora and fauna, including towering ferns, vibrant birdlife, and magical little glimpses of the cascading waters. The walking tracks are well formed, although quite steep in some places.


Kaiate Falls Track Bay of Plenty
Views from the lower Kaiate Falls Track by the bottom foot bridge (ISO320, F9, 13sec, 21mm)

The main track starts at the top of the falls - if you walk to your left you will see a small path that opens up onto the top of the falls where you can get an amazing view over the native bush and even see Mount Maunganui (Mauao) in the distance. Once you've checked out the view, head back to the right and carry on all the way down the main track which leads to the lower falls. Cross over the small bridge, and then make your way up to the base of the lower falls. After visiting the lower falls you'll continue on up the track to the base of the upper series of falls. The track then continues all the way back up to the car park.


Kaiate Falls Track
Views from near the top of the Kaiate Falls Track

Another track, just below the car park, follows the stream back to the road bridge.


All track junctions and options are well sign posted so you can choose which way you want to go.


 

KAIATE FALLS PHOTO LOCATIONS



NZ Photo Prints and Canvas

KAIATE FALLS LOWER WATERFALL


I'll start with my favourite location for photography at Kaiate Falls which is the lower waterfall. I find this 15 metre plunge waterfall to be the most photogenic out of all the falls here and the blue swimming hole at the bottom of the falls is just stunning.


Kaiate Falls Bay of Plenty Tauranga
Lower Kaiate Falls (ISO100, 35mm, F10, 1/6sec)

There are lots of compositions available at the base of these falls and if you hang back a little bit just across the footbridge you can capture the water cascading through the small canyon and also capture some of the pathway etched into the rock and the native bush surrounding the scene.


For a closer view you can set your camera up right by the falls and capture that beautiful plunge drop into the swimming hole.



Please take note of the signs advising whether swimming is permitted or not.


For most of my shots of the lower Kaitate fall I have used my wide angle or mid range zoom lens. I have found this fall is better to capture during the late morning/late afternoon when the light is coming into the scene but not overly strong.


Kaiate Falls Bay of Plenty Tauranga
Lower Kaiate Falls (ISO100, 70mm, F10, 1/15sec)

You will need your tripod with you as it is quite a dark scene to photograph and if you want to slow down the water slightly and create a long exposure you will also need your ND filters (6 stop ND and 0.9GND work well).


KAIATE FALLS UPPER WATERFALL


The upper set of waterfalls at Kaiate Falls are also amazing to photograph with three tiers of fairly large waterfalls cascading their way down the large boulders from the top.


After you've photographed the lower waterfall you will make your way up a couple of flights of stairs and end up at the upper waterfalls not too long after.


Upper Kaiate Falls Tauranga New Zealand
Upper Kaiate Falls (ISO100, F16, 13sec, 17mm)

You will need your wide angle lens for these falls as there is a lot to fit in the frame with native bush, large boulders and of course the falls.


Again you will need your tripod with you especially if you are wanting to slow down the water and create a long exposure with ND filters. Your 6 stop filter and 0.9GND grad filter will again work well for this location.


NZ Guide and Travel Map

 

KAIATE FALLS BAY OF PLENTY SUMMARY INFO


Getting there: Just 25 minutes from Tauranga, travel along Welcome Bay Road until you Waitao Road on your right and a small yellow sign 'Kaiate Falls'. Turn down Waitao Road and continue 4.9km and then turn left at Kaiate Falls Road.


Facilities: Picnic area and toilet available in the carpark.


Walking the track: The Kaiate Falls track is a 2 kilometre loop track through beautiful native forest that takes around 40 minutes to complete.


Photography options: There are 2 main waterfalls and viewing points along the track, the Upper Kaiate Falls and the Lower Kaiate Falls. Take your wide angle lens, mid range zoon lens, tripod and ND Filters if you have them.


Best time to photograph: If you can arrange it, try get there on a cloudy day during daylight hours.


 

I hope this info helps you plan out your next trip to the Bay of Plenty Region and especially when you visit Kaiate Falls, one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand!


If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.



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