Bowen Falls

Fiordland National Park / Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand

About Bowen Falls

Hiking Distance: tour
Suggested Time: 90 minutes to 3 hours; hike to base closed indefinitely

Date first visited: 2004-11-30
Date last visited: 2009-12-25

Waterfall Latitude: -44.66557
Waterfall Longitude: 167.92353

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Bowen Falls was the first major waterfall that we encountered while visiting the famous Milford Sound.

I felt inclined to give this waterfall its own write-up because there was a trail that left from the Milford Sound wharf and ended up right at the base of this majestic 161m waterfall.

Milford_Sound_013_12242009 - Bowen Falls
Bowen Falls

By the way, this was said to be the tallest permanent waterfall in the fiord though it only competed with Stirling Falls for that title.

In any case, we weren’t able to hike to the bottom of Bowen Falls in November 2004 because they closed off the trail due to cliff instability not long before our arrival (bummer!).

When we made a return trip five years later in December 2009, we came to the realization that this trail closure might be permanent because it was still closed at that time.

So the only way we were able to really experience the falls was from one of those Milford Sound cruises that just about everyone that comes here would do.

Milford_Track_day4_137_11292004 - Bowen Falls as seen from the boat between Sandfly Point and the Milford Sound wharf
Bowen Falls as seen from the boat between Sandfly Point and the Milford Sound wharf

We also got a chance to see it when we took the boat shuttle from Sandfly Point at the end of the multi-day Milford Track and ended up back at the Milford Sound wharf.

Finally, we also managed to see a partial view of the waterfall from one of the side roads leading to shores of the Deepwater Basin at the very south end of the Milford Sound.

Despite our inability to get to truly experience Bowen Falls in a more intimate setting, I decided to give the falls the benefit of the doubt in terms of the scenic rating.

After all, I still reckon that it could very well be the most photographed waterfall in the Milford Sound simply because it was so close to the dock area, while facing New Zealand’s most dramatic and most famous fiord.

Milford_Sound_026_12242009 - Looking back towards the Cleddau River Valley and Bowen Falls
Looking back towards the Cleddau River Valley and Bowen Falls

Indeed, with this waterfall, I admit that I was partial to it because of its location.

It’s not often that you get a convenient waterfalling excuse resulting in what could very well that rare magical waterfalling experience that could only happen in a very special place like this.

Speaking of magical places, there was so much more to the Milford Sound (including more waterfalls) than what was stated and shown on this page.

I tried to capture the remainder of that experience outside of Bowen Falls in our Stirling Falls write-up.


Bowen Falls resides in Fiordland National Park near Te Anau in the Fiordland region of South Island, New Zealand. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Fiordland_004_12242009 - Here's a view towards the Mitre Peak Lodge, which was where the guided Milford Track Trampers got to spend the very last night. This photo was shot in late December 2009
Milford_Sound_177_12242009 - Closer angled view of Bowen Falls as the boat returned to the dock as seen in late December 2009
Milford_Sound_187_12242009 - We had plenty of time to photograph Bowen Falls as our vessel was waiting to return to the dock in late December 2009
Milford_Sound_196_12242009 - When our December 2009 Milford Sound Cruise was done, this was the view of the Cleddau River Valley as we walked back to the car park
Milford_040_11242004 - This was our very first look at Bowen Falls in late November 2004, which was from the shores of the Deepwater Basin of Milford Sound
Milford_Track_day4_122_11292004 - Our next exposure to Bowen Falls came when we took the boat shuttle from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound township at the end of the Milford Track in late November 2004
Milford_Track_day4_128_11292004 - Looking back at some cliffs with a pair of stringy ephemeral waterfalls near Sandfly Point
Milford_Track_day4_134_11292004 - Frontal view of Bowen Falls from the Sandfly Point shuttle in late November 2004
Milford_Track_day4_135_11292004 - Looking through the rain towards Stirling Falls way off in the distance as we were on the Sandfly Point shuttle
Milford_Sound_023_11302004 - The very next day after the end of the Milford Track, we went on a Milford Sound Cruise in better weather where we got this view of Bowen Falls in late November 2004
Milford_Sound_032_11302004 - Not far from Bowen Falls in late November 2004, there were dolphins swimming around our cruise vessel
Milford_Sound_133_11302004 - Focused and unobstructed frontal look at Bowen Falls at the end of our Milford Sound Cruise in November 2004

Bowen Falls was best experienced from the very common Milford Sound Cruise, which took off from the very end of the SH94 (Milford Sound Highway) about 118km north of Te Anau.

Allow a little over 2 hours (depending on traffic) for this drive.

For more context, Te Anau was about 171km (2 hours drive) southwest of Queenstown and 153km (2 hours drive) north of Invercargill.

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Approaching the falls on the return leg of the cruise

L-shaped sweep from the wharf to the top of the falls

Bottom up closeup sweep of the falls

Tagged with: milford, fiordland, southland, south island, new zealand, waterfall, te anau, cruise

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Bowen and Stirling Falls, September 2001 March 23, 2012 9:46 pm by Jeffrey Howe - We were told before we drove up to Milford Sound that they'd been through a dry spell, so some of the waterfalls might not look their best. We were also told a bit of a storm might be moving in from the sea. What followed was a torrential gale that made handling the small caravan… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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