It’s not easy to put together a Top 10 Best New Zealand Waterfalls List because it’s completely subjective and limited to each person’s experience with the falls being named.
This list is based on our own personal experiences encompassing a couple of long trips here (including our honeymoon).
That said, I’m quite certain this list will change as we intend to make more trips to Middle-Earth to experience more of the country’s superb nature and of course its waterfalls.
While it was certainly hard to pick just 10 waterfalls out of our library of experiences, this list is probably as honest as they come.
So without further ado, here they are in reverse order…
This 74m waterfall nestled deep off the Forgotten World Highway was a pleasant surprise to Julie and I when we were trying to buy ourselves time while waiting out the bad weather to do the Tongariro Crossing.
Indeed, it felt like we had gone off the beaten path to find this gem, and it was even considered one of the North Island’s tallest waterfalls to boot!
It also offered us breathtaking bush and white cliff scenery along with the serenity that could only be attained by straying away from the usual crush of the tourist-beaten paths.
On a return visit, things have changed and it appeared that it felt a little less off the beaten path than before, but it still retained its tranquility and relative wildness.
And for that, we’re giving this falls its props by being on this list.
This picturesque 55m plunging waterfall whose Maori name was Waireinga was worth the detour between Hamilton and Raglan on the North Island.
We were able to experience the falls from a lookout at its brink, from an expansive upper overlook, and from a dock-like lookout at its base.
The well-maintained walking track to take in the falls in these various ways made it easy for us to access and enjoy.
Indeed, it’s waterfalls like this that reminded us why New Zealand was the place to be when it came to nature.
Thus, it belonged on this list of Top 10 New Zealand Waterfalls.
What this waterfall lacked in height, it more than made up for in other ways.
Indeed, it possessed sheer power practically frothing the mineral-rich powdery blue Waikato River daring jet boat tours to come closer while threatening to pull them in its undertow.
So Julie and I were quite content to see such sheer force and character from its lookouts on both sides of the river as this kind of an underdog waterfall to us.
It was a pretty classic example of how New Zealand surprised us in ways that we never saw coming prior to our visit.
I’d imagine it will likely have the same effect on you, too!
This skyscraping waterfall with a towering drop of 153m was so tall that we even spotted it from the Waikato Plains when we drove between Matamata and the falls as well as seeing it again on the return.
Both times we saw this majestic falls from up close, they were from a direct view at an overlook half-way up the mountain.
We could have tested ourselves by climbing to the top of the waterfall where there promised to be regal views of the Waikato Plains expanse, but we were always content with the direct views as the falls was indeed that impressive!
We could see that on our second trip here, this falls had grown in popularity over the years so it seemed like the word was getting out.
In any case, this waterfall certainly belongs on the list.
This wide, classical, rectangular-shaped year-round 30m waterfall was easily accessible and also quite misty. While most tourists come to this part of the Waikato Region to see the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, this waterfall further to the west is one of the North Island’s more reliable and picturesque waterfalls.
Julie and I have been to this one twice, and along the way, we also checked out the eccentric Mangapohue Natural Bridge, which was actually a collapsed cave while featuring fossils of ancient sea life.
So given all these things, we just had to put this one on our list.
Indeed, we think people are missing out if they stop at the Waitomo Caves then turn back as the falls and its neighboring attractions should also be on everyone’s itinerary.
This was the first of two permanent waterfalls situated in the impossibly beautiful Milford Sound.
I gave it special attention because there used to be walking access to its base though it was closed indefinitely just prior to our arrival in late 2004.
That said, this gorgeous 161m waterfall still benefitted from bush-clad mountains serving as a backdrop when we viewed it during the popular Milford Sound Cruise.
So given its location, its size, and its overall wild and naturesque feel, we felt compelled to include this waterfall on its own in this list.
Plunging off a hanging valley between the Elephant and Lion Mountains deep in the Milford Sound, this 155m waterfall was the other of the permanent waterfalls we encountered while touring the mythical Milford Sound.
Unlike the look-but-don’t-touch experience of Bowen Falls, the cruises that we went on actually tried to drench people willing to stand outside the front of the boat as the nose of the vessel would go directly beneath its falling waters.
In addition to this waterfall, there were many others to be seen both named and unnamed along with the mind-blowing scenery and wildlife all around us.
Nevertheless, we were totally waterfall-saturated by the end of this waterfalling experience, and it was certainly memorable enough for us to include it on this top 10 list.
This giant 275m waterfall was one of Fiordland National Park’s better kept secrets.
When we first saw it back in 2004, it was known mostly to trampers setting out on the Hollyford Track or to those self-driving and willing to take the detour from the Milford Sound Highway.
Yet this waterfall epitomized the spectacular bush scenery nestled amongst majestic peaks so prevalent in this remote part of the Southern Alps.
Oh, and by the way, there was also a companion waterfall about half its size to add to the drama and awe of the scene.
So putting all these things together, this waterfall certainly belonged on the upper ranks of our Top 10 New Zealand Waterfalls list.
With a towering drop of 131m amidst the stunning alpine backdrop of the Arthur’s Pass section of the Southern Alps, it was certainly the star attraction of the rugged Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Given the various ways we managed to experience the falls (as we were able to get close enough to the base of the falls to feel its spray as well as get a nose-bleed view from across the valley), we found this falls to be very memorable.
Indeed, it was a no-brainer to include this mighty cataract in our regional Top 10 of Best New Zealand Waterfalls.
This gorgeous 580m waterfall was easily New Zealand’s most spectacular waterfall.
Given its remote location deep in the wild and beautiful Fiordland National Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage Area), this was one of many highlights of the famed Milford Track – said to be one of the finest walks in the world.
Julie and I certainly bent over backwards (including enduring lots of rain and persistent sandflies) to make a visit to this waterfall happen, and we didn’t regret it one bit.
In fact, this waterfall was so spectacular that it also made our World’s Top 10 List as well as topping our list of Top 10 New Zealand Waterfalls.
Looking for more of our favorites?
Below are a few more Top 10 lists of the waterfalls we’ve visited.