• Rach Stewart

THE 10 BEST NEW ZEALAND WATERFALLS YOU MUST VISIT: NORTH ISLAND EDITION


Best New Zealand Waterfalls

I've been chasing waterfalls ever since I picked up my camera and began this photography journey all those years ago. There is something about waterfalls that create such enchanting images .. ask any landscape photographer and they will tell you they have an immense portfolio of waterfall photographs!


New Zealand's incredibly diverse landscape means that we have our fair share of stunning waterfalls that are usually quite easy to access .. the effort / reward ratio being some of the best you can find in this country!

Kaiate Falls, Tauranga
Kaiate Falls, Tauranga

I thought it was about time I documented some of the Best New Zealand Waterfalls in a blog as it's not something I've ever shared and I've had many years experiencing exploring these beautiful locations without showcasing them to the world!


Ill start from the North Island Edition and follow this up with a South Island Edition in a second blog. There's just too many beautiful falls to talk about in just one blog! I'll work my way down the best North Island New Zealand waterfalls you should visit as well as how I took the shot and how to get there.


Here we go!


1. WHANGAREI FALLS


I touched on this waterfall in my recent 10 Must See Locations in Northland New Zealand blog, but I have to mention it here again because it is such a beautiful waterfall to photograph and just visit in general.


Whangarei Falls is one of New Zealand's largest waterfalls and is just a short 5 minute drive outside of Whangarei city. The falls attract a huge amount of tourists every year and are a big part of the Whangarei landscape with locals visiting for picnics, barbeques, exercising, and just enjoying the stunning sight of 26 metres of water falling over a curtain waterfall.


Whangarei falls are made up of three main cascades which breathtakingly fall into the pool at the bottom and can be viewed from the walking path and picnic area situated close by.


The falls are very easy to find with a large carpark available, toilets and picnic area. They are absolutely worth having a look and make a beautiful landscape photography scene.

Whangarei Falls
Whangarei Falls

WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


Both of these shots were taken during the day along the pathway provided to the falls. The first shot was taken on the right hand side of the track before you cross over the bridge to the other side. The second shot was taken from the picnic area in front of the falls.


I used a 6 stop filter to slow the water down and create that smooth effect on the water.



2. WAIAU FALLS, COROMANDEL


The Waiau Falls in the Coromandel are easily accessed off the 309 Road. The 309 Road becomes gravel part way through and then the falls are located about 4km down the road from there.


Although the Waiau Falls are not the tallest or largest of falls .. this site makes for a beautiful photograph and the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls is a popular place for a dip during the summer time.

Waiau Falls Coromandel
Waiau Falls Coromandel

There is a clear path to the falls and the track takes about 20 minutes return.


About 1km further up the road you can view the Waiau Kauri Grove which is home to giant ancient Kauri Trees that were spared from logging in the 1970's. These trees are a magnificent sight and well worth a stop to admire.

Waiau Falls Coromandel
Waiau Falls Coromandel

WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


Both of these shots were taken during the day. The first shot was taken just off the track that leads you directly to the falls. There are lots of different compositions available here. The second shot was taken from a second track that leads to the top of the falls.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in these shots.



3. OWHAROA FALLS


Owharoa Falls would have to be one of my favourite waterfalls in New Zealand and one of the first I ever visited for photography. The shape of these falls is so aesthetically pleasing and in my opinion makes for one of the most beautiful water photos available in New Zealand.


The Owharoa Falls are found in the heart of Karangahake Gorge and are one of the easiest waterfalls to get to in all of the North Island. You can find them just off Waitawheta Road just past the one way bridge and opposite the Falls retreat. Just park your car in the pull over and then take the short walk to the falls.

Owharoa Falls Coromandel
Owharoa Falls Coromandel

WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


I have photographed these falls quite a few times but my two favourite moments were at twilight just after sunset, and then a moody day shot. I've shot at all times of the day and the photos are just as magic, so I don't think you can lose shooting these falls!


Composition wise, there are quite a few options along the foreshore of the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls. As long as there are not too many people around, you can take your time exploring different vantage points without any hassle.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in these shots.


4. WAIRENGA - BRIDAL VEIL FALLS, RAGLAN


Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning 55m horse tail waterfall located on the outskirts of Raglan in the Waikato. This waterfall is the only one of its kind in the North Island of New Zealand with an easily accessible and well graded track suitable for wheelchairs and push chairs. The track to the bottom of the falls takes around 15 minutes.


Bridal Veil Falls are accessed off State Highway 23 on the way to Raglan. Turn left onto Te Mata Road, then left into Kawhia Road, then travel another 4 km to the car park.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


There are two viewing platforms at the top of the falls, and one at the bottom. The two shots here are taken from the top platforms.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in these shots. I also had to position my tripod above the rails so that they wouldn't be present in the shot.



5. KAIATE FALLS, BAY OF PLENTY


Kaiate Falls is a beautiful set of waterfalls located in the rural area of the Bay of Plenty between Welcome Bay and Papamoa. The area consists of a 3 tiered waterfall which then flows into a single tier further along the track and a stunning water hole.

During the summer time the Kaiate Falls waterhole area is frequented by locals cooling down in the fairly brisk water!

Kaiate Falls Tauranga
Kaiate Falls Tauranga

The walking track starts at the carpark at the end of Kaiate Falls Road off Waitao Road in Welcome Bay. Track is well formed but steep and slippery in parts and takes around 30 minutes to complete the loop track.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


In my opinion to best place to shoot is the waterfall with the swimming hole at the bottom of the track. It is a stunning setting with various compositions available.


The 3 tiered falls on the way back up the track is a great place to stop for a photo also, however you'll need a wide angle lens to fit them in the frame.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in these shots.



6. OKERE FALLS, ROTORUA


About 20 minutes before Rotorua when travelling from the Bay of Plenty you will find the small town of Okere Falls. Famous for its white water rafting and attracting adrenalin junkies from all over the country, the Okere Falls walk actually consists of three separate waterfalls all beautiful in their own right.


The Okere Falls track is a well formed path through the bush with various lookouts over Okere Falls, Tutea Falls and Trout Pool Falls.


Access the walk from the carpark located off Trout Pool Road, Okere Falls.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


As mentioned above there are 3 main viewing platforms on the Okere Falls Walk. The photos I have shared here are all from the following lookouts:


The first is above Okere Falls, the second is above Tutea Falls, and the third is just off the track to Trout Pool falls.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in these shots.



7. KEROSENE CREEK, ROTORUA


Just 30 minutes past Rotorua on the way to Taupo you will find the naturally heated waterfall and pools of Kerosene Creek. This is spot is a little off the beaten track meaning that you can often have it to yourself for a dip in the perfectly heated water or for a photography opportunity.

Kerosene Creek Rotorua
Kerosene Creek Rotorua

The natural hot spring which sits under the falls is met with the cool water of the creek creating beautifully tempered water and the chance of catching misty sunbeam photography if you get the timing right.


Kerosene Creek is located on Old Waiotapu Road . Travel along this gravel road for about 4 kilometres until you see a grass car park on the right hand side of the road. Walk approximately 5 minutes down the short track to the creek.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


I shot the main falls just after sunrise to try and catch some of the beams created when the sun peers through the trees.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in this shot.



8. HUKA FALLS, TAUPO


Huka Falls in Taupo is the incredible site where the Waikato River comes barreling down a gorge at 220,000 litres per second and over 2 small waterfalls to carry on its journey.

Huka Falls is one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations and I can definitely understand why people would want to come and see this sight for themselves. It's exhilarating to stand above the outstanding blue water rushing past so quickly .. the rush and fear for me was so worth it! Not only that, Huka Falls makes for a beautiful landscape photograph.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


The falls are located just before Taupo off State Highway 1 on Huka Falls Road. From the car park cross the overbridge and from there you can walk to several different viewing platforms. The photo shown here is taken from the first overbridge at sunset.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water in this shot.



9. MANGAWHERO FALLS, TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK


Mangawhero Falls in Tongariro National Park is a 28 metre drop fall sitting under the magnificent Mount Ruapehu surrounded by native bush and vegetation. The falls have become quite famous as they starred in The Lord of the Rings movie depicting the Forbidden Pool.

Access to Mangawhero Falls is off the Ohakune Mountain road by the carpark and the track is just a 10 minute return walk back to the car park.


WHERE & WHEN TO SHOOT?


I took this shot through the trees near the lookout from the where the track comes to a viewing platform. It was a middle of the day shot but because the sky was overcast there was no harsh light on the falls. It was actually a blessing to have such moody conditions which I think makes this shot.


I used a 6 stop filter and 0.9GND filter on my lens to smooth out the water.