Omaru Falls

Waitomo District / near Te Kuiti, Waikato Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2
Omaru Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Omaru Falls was a waterfall that snuck up on us. It all started during our first visit to New Zealand in November 2004 when we were driving from Whakapapa Village to Hamilton along the SH4. Along the way, we noticed a roadside sign saying "Scenic Falls 300m", which kind of got me looking for the pullout the sign was referring to. However, we ended up missing this pullout, and we ended up gunning it to Hamilton as it was getting late in the day. When we did some post-trip research, we came to realize that in the vicinity of the sign we saw, there was the 35m light-flowing Omaru Falls, and the roadside sign we noticed back in November 2004 was actually referring to a different waterfall called Madonna Falls.

Over five years later in January 2010, we made it a point not to miss Omaru Falls. We managed to make the visit as we were driving north from New Plymouth towards Hamilton, then ultimately to Whangamata. From the small pullout area at the trailhead (see directions below), we hopped over a stile and onto a paddock for the first part of the walk. This paddock had some pretty tall grass, which wet the legs of our pants on the morning of our hike, and it wasn't until we left the paddock over another stile before we left the tall grass behind and entered native growth forest.

It seemed that the section of track through the native growth forest lasted for most of the overall hike. Given our early start, it was a little dark and we (well, mostly me) frequently had spider webs brush up against our faces. After over 10 minutes (I swore it seemed longer than that), the forest started to open up once we traversed a one-person-at-a-time swinging bridge over the Omaru Stream. Beyond the bridge, the track followed the stream while also following alongside a fence that probably marked the boundary between the reserve and someone's property.

Eventually, after passing by an attractive mini-cascade, the track then climbed up a short flight of steps to an overlook affording a nice view of the falls (as pictured at the top of this page) while also allowing us a look at the gorge further downstream. From what we could tell, there was no way for us to safely get closer to the falls' bottom. We then returned back the way we came, which resulted in a grand total of a little over an hour's hike, which the sign accurately predicted (though we originally couldn't tell if their 30-minute estimate was for both directions or just one-way).

When we returned to the car, we would continue north on SH4 and see that Scenic Falls sign again. And in a bit of deja vu, we missed the pullout it was referring to once again. I guess another visit would be needed to finally see what Madonna Falls would look like in the flesh, but we're not sure when that opportunity would present itself.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Our first (missed) opportunity to visit Omaru Falls was in November 2004 when we finished the Tongariro Crossing shuttle and started driving from Whakapapa Village towards HamiltonOur first (missed) opportunity to visit Omaru Falls was in November 2004 when we finished the Tongariro Crossing shuttle and started driving from Whakapapa Village towards Hamilton
After visiting Omaru Falls, we next went to Waitomo where we promptly booked the next tour to see the incredible glow worms of the Waitomo CavesAfter visiting Omaru Falls, we next went to Waitomo where we promptly booked the next tour to see the incredible glow worms of the Waitomo Caves
On the day we visited Omaru Falls, we started with a long drive out of New Plymouth and North Taranaki then eventually spent the night at WhangamataOn the day we visited Omaru Falls, we started with a long drive out of New Plymouth and North Taranaki then eventually spent the night at Whangamata
Going over the stile onto the paddock at the start of the Omaru Falls hikeGoing over the stile onto the paddock at the start of the hike

Following the poles sticking up out of the relatively tall grass as we navigated our way through the paddocks before continuing on the trail to Omaru FallsFollowing the poles sticking out of the relatively tall grass as we navigated our way through the paddocks before continuing on the trail to the falls

Beyond the paddocks and now hiking amongst the native bushBeyond the paddocks and now hiking amongst the native bush

The narrow swinging bridge near the end of our bushwalking part of the trackThe narrow swinging bridge near the end of our bushwalking part of the track

Hiking alongside the Omaru StreamHiking alongside the Omaru Stream

A short distance upstream of Omaru Falls was this small but attractive cascadeA short distance upstream of Omaru Falls was this small but attractive cascade

Going up some steps onto a hill containing the Omaru Falls LookoutGoing up some steps onto a hill containing the falls lookout

Our first look at the impressive Omaru FallsOur first look at the impressive falls

Another look at the Omaru Falls, but in long exposure this timeAnother look at the falls, but in long exposure this time

Julie checking out Omaru FallsJulie checking out the falls


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Zoomed in bottom up sweep of the falls from the overlook at the end of the trail


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Perhaps the nearest sizable town to the falls was Te Kuiti so we'll describe the directions from there. From the SH30 and SH3 intersection in the town of Te Kuiti, go 12.5km south along SH3 to the junction between SH3 and SH4. Then, turn left to go onto SH4 and drive another 20km to the signposted turnoff for Omaru Falls on the right. This turnoff was real easy to miss, especially given how fast traffic tended to move on SH4. The signposted trailhead was a little over 600m from SH4 on the left side of the road.

Conversely, we went in the other direction from National Park (near Tongariro National Park). From the SH47 and SH4 junction, we went about 93km north on SH4 to the aforementioned turnoff on the left to Omaru Falls.

Finally, our last approach that ultimately resulted in our visit to the falls that led to this write-up was from New Plymouth. We started off by driving about 124km north on SH3 towards Totoro Rd, which left the highway and went east. We then turned right onto Aria Rd, which became Ohura Rd, and then became Mokauiti Rd. Mokauiti Rd eventually became Ramaroa Rd, which ultimately joined with SH4 where we took it north towards the Omaru Falls Rd turnoff on our left.

According to the literature, the pullout for Madonna Falls was about 6.4km north of the Omaru Falls turnoff along SH4. Unfortunately, both times we were in the area on our trips to New Zealand, we missed it.

For additional context, Te Kuiti was 79km (a little over an hour drive) south of Hamilton and 203km (3 hours drive) south of Auckland.




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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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