Ohau Falls

Kaikoura District, Canterbury Region (South Island), New Zealand

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1.5
Ohau Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Ohau Falls was a thin but pretty waterfall that turned out to be quite the popular spot when we made a visit here in early January 2010. We had been told that New Zealand fur seals would sometimes swim their way up to the falls (said to be in the Winter), which would make this waterfall very unique in that aspect. That said, Julie and I didn't spot any fur seals during our visit since we came in the Summer and there were probably way too many people around the falls anyways. That said, we had seen other trip reports in the literature as well as a visitor submission that confirmed that they do indeed come here from time to time.

In addition to the fur seals, Ohau Falls was also our waterfalling excuse to explore the area around Kaikoura, which was well known for coastal scenery, sperm whales, acrobatic dusky dolphins, and crayfish (similar to rock lobsters). In fact, in the early morning hours on the day of our visit to the falls, we did a whale watching tour where we got to see at least three sperm whales (one of which did a tail splash before diving) as well as a whole school of dusky dolphins doing backflips among other wildlife. It had to have been one of the most memorable tours we had ever done.

In any case, our visit to Ohau Falls began from a roadside pullout (see directions below) where we then followed a trail that went upstream along the Ohau Stream. Given the warm sunny day during our visit, the shadiness of the narrow gorge cut by the Ohau Stream provided some welcome relief from the heat. The walk was pretty developed as it was a mix of boardwalk and bridges along with conventional dirt trail. And after a little over five minutes of walking (the sign estimated 10 minutes in each direction), we arrived at the very busy plunge pool and base of the falls (a big reason why we thought this place was very popular).

Ohau Falls seemed to have a height of around 25-30m or so. Given the high contrast between the shady confines of its cove and the bright sun shining right on the plunge of the water, the falls appeared to be very bright and washed out in our photos. So it didn't take long before we left the falls and headed back to the trailhead. Our adventure didn't end there, however. Instead, we crossed the state highway and continued onto the rocky coastline where we got to see the famed New Zealand fur seals from a respectful distance. Indeed, we probably spent more time seeing them do what they do than we did around the waterfall itself.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

There was still snow on the mountains backing the Kaikoura area (south of Ohau Falls) making for a beautiful place to see where snow and colourful sea could be so close to each otherThere was still snow on the mountains backing the Kaikoura area (south of Ohau Falls) making for a beautiful place to see where snow and colourful sea could be so close to each other
This was one of the sperm whales that we saw during our whale watching tour off the coast of Kaikoura, but this one did a tail slap before making its signature diveThis was one of the sperm whales that we saw during our whale watching tour off the coast of Kaikoura, but this one did a tail slap before making its signature dive
Towards the end of our whale watching tour, there was a large school of dusky dolphins playing with us by doing backflips like this particular one shown hereTowards the end of our whale watching tour, there was a large school of dusky dolphins playing with us by doing backflips like this particular one shown here
Near where the Ohau Stream emptied into the Pacific, we noticed this particular New Zealand fur seal was keeping a watchful eye on people appearing to get too close to it and its pupNear where the Ohau Stream emptied into the Pacific, we noticed this particular New Zealand fur seal was keeping a watchful eye on people appearing to get too close to it and its pup
Earlier in the morning, we went on one of the whale watching tours to see these sperm whalesEarlier in the morning, we went on one of the whale watching tours to see these sperm whales

The sperm whales tended to only show their tail when they would go for a diveThe sperm whales tended to only show their tail when they would go for a dive

Towards the end of our tour, we saw this large school of acrobatic Dusky Dolphins keeping us entertainedTowards the end of our tour, we saw this large school of acrobatic Dusky Dolphins keeping us entertained

SH1 near the Ohau Stream car parkSH1 near the Ohau Stream car park

Julie on the well-developed boardwalk following along the Ohau StreamJulie on the well-developed boardwalk following along the Ohau Stream

Some guy trying to get right into Ohau FallsSome guy trying to get right into the falls

Ohau Falls and its narrow plunge pool in partial shadeThe falls and its narrow plunge pool in partial shade

Another look at the Ohau FallsAnother look at the falls

One of the New Zealand fur seals that we saw after finishing our waterfall hikeOne of the New Zealand fur seals that we saw after finishing our waterfall hike

A New Zealand fur seal tending to its pupA New Zealand fur seal tending to its pup

After visiting Ohau Falls, we made a stop at one of the roadside stands (Nin's Bin, I believe) where we got to try some local crayfishAfter visiting the falls, we made a stop at one of the roadside stands (Nin's Bin, I believe) where we got to try some local crayfish


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


L-shaped sweep of the plunge pool and the falls itself with plenty of commotion due to the amount of people here


Direct bottom up sweep of the falls with some voices in the background as the area was quite crowded when we were there


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From Kaikoura (about 200km north of Christchurch), we drove roughly 27km north on SH1 towards a large signposted pullout saying "Ohau Stream" on the inland side of the highway right at a large bend in the road. The pullout acting as car park was quite full, but we were fortunate to have found one of the remaining few spaces when we showed up at midday on New Year's Day.

Coming from the other direction, the falls was about 102km (roughly 90 minutes) south of Blenheim along SH1.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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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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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Fur seal pups (Ohau Falls) 
My husband, two little girls (4 yrs and 3 yrs) and I stopped here last weekend and were amazed to see around 50 fur seal pups frolicking in these waterfalls …

Fur seals at Ohau falls confirmed 
I have copied a web address below as proof the fur seal pups do visit the pools at the base of Ohau falls. I was surfing the net and came across this …

Yes, Seals Do Frequent Ohau Falls  
Joyce and I first visited Ohau Falls late in March 2008, after reading about them in Anna & Andrew Jameson's book "Accessible Walks". After passing …

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