Fairy Falls was a waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges that I deferred from our November-December 2004 trip to New Zealand as we had run out of time. So when we came back to New Zealand in December-January 2010, we made sure that we wouldn't miss out on it again towards the tail end of our trip, especially since we were spending our last night in the nearby city of Auckland. After having finally visited the falls, we were surprised to see that this was really a series of waterfalls where the photo you see above was the bottommost main drop that was said to be 15m tall. Another surprise about this excursion was that we passed through a grove of Kauri trees, which were giant white-barked trees that were kind of analogous to Sequoia trees in California.
We began our excursion from a busy car park right off Scenic Drive (see directions below). After crossing the busy highway (we had to be careful given the high rate of speed of cars here), we then sprayed on some chemical on the bottoms of our boots (for Kauri Dieback Disease prevention; provided for at the trailhead), and we proceeded to walk through a forest as the trail began what would turn out to be a pretty lengthy descent.
I knew as we were descending that this would be a pretty taxing return hike on this warm, sunny day. Indeed, it would turn out to be a very upside-down hike to the falls and back. Already after about 10 minutes on the track, we started to see the giant kauri trees, which was something we weren't expecting that really added to the appeal of our excursion. After reaching a junction, we got some partial glimpses eastwards towards the suburbs of Auckland before the track then descended a series of steps.
It was this stair-stepping portion of the track that we were essentially hiking alongside (and crossing) the stream responsible for Fairy Falls. As we were descending the steps, we noticed more kauri trees hugging the banks of the stream while towering over us (I recalled one or two of them even leaning towards the stream). This was also the stretch where we started to see Fairy Falls' upper sections as we saw a couple of smaller-but-still-significant cascades and waterfalls. One of the middle tiers was even being used by some visitors who used the plunge pools here to cool off.
Eventually after making one more bridged crossing of the stream, we then went down one last flight of steps to the bottom where we were then face-to-face with the main drop of Fairy Falls, which we shared with at least two dozen or so people during our visit. Indeed, this was a pretty popular hike, and it seemed to span a pretty large age group suggesting that it was relatively family friendly though I could imagine a couple of sections around the stream perhaps being a bit dicier for elders or for small kids.
In any case, we saw the falls appearing to have fairly satisfying flow, but I did recall seeing in the literature that it could be trickling or dry. I'd imagine that the flow of the falls would largely depend on the amount of sustained rainfall as well as how much time had elapsed since the last significant rain storm as the stream didn't appear to be on any major drainage or watercourse. After having our fill of the falls, Julie and I then made the anticipated sweaty and long ascent back up to the car park. All in all, we spent about a total of 90 minutes on the trail, but it really seemed like two-thirds of that time was spent on the way back up!
There are a bunch of ways to get to the Waitakere Ranges from Auckland. The way we did it (out of the Auckland CBD where we were staying) was to find our way west towards the West Coast Rd via New North Rd and Great North Rd. See the Kitekite Falls page for more specifics on how we got there from the Auckland CBD. Allow about an hour for this roughly 30km drive given the traffic and traffic lights.
The West Coast Rd eventually merged with Scenic Dr west of the suburb of Titirangi. We then followed Scenic Drive for another 5km or so (keeping right at the fork) where the car park for Fairy Falls was on our left as we were heading north. The trailhead began across the road on the east side (so we had watch out when crossing due to the relatively high speed of cars motoring by on Scenic Drive).
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