Wairere Falls

Matamata-Piako District / Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges, Waikato Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 3
Wairere Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Wairere Falls was probably one of my favourite North Island waterfalls. The falls made two dramatic leaps that we could see even from the Old Te Aroha Rd several kilometres away. We were able to see most of its 153m cumulative drop from a trail that immersed us in the bushwalk experience as it featured bridges, stairs, and plenty of native foliage. The overall height of the falls could very well be the North Island's tallest though I'm not totally sure about this claim just yet. Nonetheless, Julie and I were mesmerized by the upper drop swaying with the wind as we gazed upon the scene while catching our breaths for the return hike. I suppose if we had the energy and time, we even could have continued climbing up to the top of the falls where I'd imagine there would be majestic views over the idyllic Waikato (pronounced "WAI-kuh-toh") Plains from within the Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges separating the Bay of Plenty Region from the Waikato Region.

From the car park (see directions below), we were greeted with a lovely stone sign containing a rhyming poem motivating us to think about the heritage of this track from days past when Maori, then missionaries, traders, and scientists have passed this way. After passing by this and other signs, then weaving between a few trees, we found ourselves in a lightly forested landscape that was fairly open as it straddled the boundaries of the reserve and what appeared to be a private pasture. Shortly thereafter, the track started climbing in earnest as it followed alongside and crossed the Wairere Stream several times in a combination of sturdy and swinging bridges.

This section of climbing and going back and forth over the Wairere Stream persisted for a large chunk of the hike. Then, breaking up the rhythm a bit, we encountered a squared spiral wooden staircase that got Julie and I sweating and breathing heavier by the time we made it above this multi-layered ascent. From there, we entered a grove of native trees as we ultimately reached another signposted junction where we kept left to finally make it up to the Wairere Falls Lookout and the view you see at the top of this page. There was a wooden rail that kept us from scrambling any further though we were pretty content with the views we were getting from here anyways. It took Julie and I a little over an hour to get up to this spot.

When we had our fill of this overlook, we decided to go back down to the car park where it was all downhill on the way back. Both times we have done this hike, we never bothered to go up to the top of the falls (essentially doubling the distance and effort of this hike). Next time, I'll make it a point to allow at least four hours to complete this hike and experience that view from the top. Until then, it took Julie and I between 90 minutes and 2 hours to just take in the walk to the lookout of Wairere Falls.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

About 46km north of Wairere Falls was the town of Paeroa which was famous for the lemon and paeroa drink that was said to be a very kiwi soft drinkAbout 46km north of Wairere Falls was the town of Paeroa which was famous for the lemon and paeroa drink that was said to be a very kiwi soft drink
About 81km to the south of Wairere Falls was the town of Rotorua and the surrounding geothermal featuresAbout 81km to the south of Wairere Falls was the town of Rotorua and the surrounding geothermal features
A little further south of Rotorua was the Wai-o-tapu (forbidden waters) Thermal Park, which featured the Champagne Pool shown here as well as the Lady Knox Geyser, which has a controlled eruptionA little further south of Rotorua was the Wai-o-tapu (forbidden waters) Thermal Park, which featured the Champagne Pool shown here as well as the Lady Knox Geyser, which has a controlled eruption
About 155km north of Wairere Falls were the beautiful beaches and coastlines of the Coromandel PensinsulaAbout 155km north of Wairere Falls were the beautiful beaches and coastlines of the Coromandel Pensinsula
Looking towards the upper tier of Wairere Falls from the plains flanking Old Te Aroha RdLooking towards the upper tier of Wairere Falls from the plains flanking Old Te Aroha Rd

Looking at the poem at the car park and trailhead for Wairere FallsLooking at the poem at the car park and trailhead for the falls

Going by some DOC signs as we started the walk to Wairere FallsGoing by some DOC signs as we started the walk to the falls

The track skirted some private pastures right at the boundary of the reserveThe track skirted some private pastures right at the boundary of the reserve

We stayed on the track leading to the view of Wairere FallsWe stayed on the track leading to the view of the falls

Julie crossing over one of the swinging bridges on the way to Wairere FallsJulie crossing over one of the swinging bridges on the way to the falls

Traversing one of many sturdy bridges criss-crossing the Wairere Stream on our way up to Wairere FallsTraversing one of many sturdy bridges criss-crossing the Wairere Stream on our way up to the falls

Looking back at another one of the bridges over the Wairere StreamLooking back at another one of the bridges over the Wairere Stream

A more recent look at the bush walk alongside the Wairere StreamA more recent look at the bush walk alongside the Wairere Stream

Julie on another bridge looking against the sun in the direction of Wairere FallsJulie on another bridge looking against the sun in the direction of the falls

The bush walk became more lush as we got closer to Wairere FallsThe bush walk became more lush as we got closer to the falls

Ascending the wooden steps as we made the steep ascent up to the lookout of Wairere FallsAscending the wooden steps as we made the steep ascent up to the lookout of the falls

Looking back down at the steps we had just ascendedLooking back down at the steps we had just ascended

Julie ahead at the lookout for Wairere FallsJulie ahead at the lookout for the falls

This was how Wairere Falls looked in November 2004This was how Wairere Falls looked in November 2004

Five years later, Julie was back at the same spot checking out the Wairere FallsFive years later, Julie was back at the same spot checking out the falls

The upper tier of Wairere Falls scattering in the windThe upper tier of the falls scattering in the wind

Julie leading the way back to the car park as we descended the wooden stepsJulie leading the way back to the car park as we descended the wooden steps


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up sweep of the falls scattering with the wind as seen from the lookout


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The first time Julie and I visited this waterfall was from Tauranga. We headed south along SH29 then got off the highway at Tauranga Rd. After about 2.3km on Tauranga Rd, we then kept right to go onto Old Te Aroha Rd for the next 15km or so. We then turned right onto an unsealed spur road leading to a dead end where the gravel car park for Wairere Falls was.

The second time Julie and I went to this waterfall, we came from the north at Te Aroha (about 53km east of Hamilton City or 21km south of the town of Paeroa [of lemon and paeroa (or L&P) fame] along SH26). From Te Aroha, we headed south on Old Te Aroha Rd for a little over 25km to the junction mentioned above, then we continued to go straight past the junction to the car park at its dead-end.

For some context, Hamilton was over 90 minutes (125km) south of Auckland. Tauranga was under 90 minutes east of Hamilton.

Finally, it's interesting to note that town of Matamata was the closest town of any appreciable size to Wairere Falls. Had we stayed on Tauranga Rd for another 10km (instead of turning right to go onto Old Te Aroha Rd), we would have reached the town, where they just so happened to have filmed the shire in The Lord of the Rings as well as The Hobbit movies. Both times we visited the falls, we never took the time to visit the set in town. Maybe next time we'll satisfy our curiosity of how much the town resembled the idyllic set.




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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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Wairere Falls 
I was at these waterfalls near Matamata during early April of 2007, my first visit to New Zealand . I found them purely by accident while trying …

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