Humboldt Falls

Fiordland National Park / Hollyford Valley / Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area, Southland Region (South Island), New Zealand

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 1.5
Humboldt Falls
Humboldt Falls was one of the more dramatic waterfalls that we experienced in New Zealand. It was hard to believe that this waterfall seemed to be one of the better kept secrets in Fiordland National Park during our first trip here in November 2004, and I'd imagine a lot of this had to do with the majority of the traffic going towards the world famous Milford Sound (bypassing Hollyford Valley in the process). When we returned here five years later in December 2009, it seemed like the falls gained a little more popularity than before but it was still a relatively quiet and lesser known attraction reserved for only those with their own transport willing and able to make it deep into the Hollyford Valley for a look.

Our visit began with a well-signed car park almost at the end of the unsealed Lower Hollyford Rd (see directions below). We then followed the sign where it predicted that the walk would take us about 30 minutes return. The walk was on a pretty developed gravel path going gently uphill through a very lush native rainforest where seemingly everything had moss growing on it (attesting to the high rainfall in the area). At the end of the track, we encountered a lookout area with a somewhat distant view of Humboldt Falls as well as a barely-visible companion waterfall a little over half the size of its 275m neighbour.

There was also a bench here to sit and chill out while enjoying the view, but I'm willing to bet that how long one would sit around and allow sandflies to take pot shots at a sitting target wouldn't be for that long. At least that was the case for both Julie and I as we knew the key to minimizing itchy sandfly bites was to keep moving. Of course, that was kind of hard to do when we had to behold the glorious view of the very tall waterfalls in an otherwise very pristine part of New Zealand.

When we timed our return visit in December 2009, we recorded a round trip time of about 50 minutes, but we really took our time on that second go around (while also bothering with rain gear since it was raining at the time). I recalled on my first visit in November 2004, I thought the sign's prediction was pretty accurate. And even on that first visit, I recalled contending with rain as well.

Directions: The nearest town of any appreciable size to Fiordland National Park was Te Anau so we'll describe the driving directions from there.

Heading north from Te Anau along the SH94 (Milford Highway), we drove for about 85km. This drive passed through the Eglington Flat (along the Eglington River) then passed by Lake Gunn and Lake Fergus before rising up through a mountainous part of road before descending towards the junction with the Lower Hollyford Rd at a sharp right turn.

Making that sharp right to get onto the Lower Hollyford Rd, we then drove about 16km on the unsealed road. Even though the road wasn't sealed, it was surprisingly smooth so driving this distance didn't take very long. The entire drive took us just under 90 minutes.




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PHOTO JOURNAL
Just to give you an idea of why Hollyford Valley tended to get significantly lesser traffic than the Milford Sound, perhaps this photo might help you understand why
This wide sweeping flat with some flowers blooming was in a scenic part of the Milford Hwy known as the Eglington Flat
Looking towards the Lower Hollyford Valley from the Milford Hwy as the road was descending towards it
At the sign by the trailhead for Humboldt FallsAt the sign by the trailhead for the falls

The gently uphill bush track for Humboldt Falls was very lush and the track itself was pretty well developedThe gently uphill bush track for the falls was very lush and the track itself was pretty well developed

Context of the lookout at Humboldt FallsContext of the lookout at the falls as seen in November 2004

Julie on the lush bush track in the rain as we returned to Humboldt Falls five years later in December 2009Julie on the lush bush track in the rain as we returned to Humboldt Falls five years later in December 2009

When we first arrived at the Humboldt Falls overlook, the clouds were still hanging low enough to obscure the uppermost sections of the 275m fallsWhen we first arrived at the falls overlook, the clouds were still hanging low enough to obscure the uppermost sections of the 275m falls

When the clouds finally started to lift, we got this contextual view of Humboldt Falls and its companionWhen the clouds finally started to lift, we got this contextual view of the falls and its companion. It was nice to see that there were still places where it seemed time stood still

Closer look at Humboldt Falls in December 2009Closer look at the falls in January 2009

Focused look at the impressive Humboldt Falls and a companion waterfall in November 2004Focused look at the impressive Humboldt Falls and a companion waterfall in November 2004

Humboldt Falls in December 2009 showing a little bit more of the context just as the clouds had liftedThe falls in December 2009 showing a little bit more of the context just as the clouds had lifted


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS

Bottom up sweep of the falls from end of the sandfly-infested walk


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MAP OF THE FALLS

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TRIP REPORTS
For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES



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NEARBY WATERFALLS


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