Humboldt Falls

Fiordland National Park / Hollyford Valley, South Island, New Zealand

About Humboldt Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.2km round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-25
Date last visited: 2009-12-24

Waterfall Latitude: -44.69586
Waterfall Longitude: 168.13404

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Humboldt Falls was one of the more dramatic waterfalls that we experienced in the South Island of New Zealand.

It was hard to believe that this waterfall seemed to be one of the better kept secrets in Fiordland National Park during our first trip here in November 2004.

Humboldt_Falls_005_11242004 - Humboldt Falls
Humboldt Falls

I’d imagine a lot of this had to do with the majority of the traffic going towards the world famous Milford Sound (bypassing Hollyford Valley in the process).

When we returned here five years later in December 2009, it seemed like the falls had gained a little more popularity than before.

Yet it was still a relatively quiet and lesser known attraction reserved for only those with their own transport willing and able to make it deep into the Hollyford Valley for a look.

Accessing Humboldt Falls

Our visit began with a well-signed car park almost at the end of the unsealed Lower Hollyford Road (see directions below).

Humboldt_Falls_002_11242004 - The start of the bush track leading to the lookout for Humboldt Falls
The start of the bush track leading to the lookout for Humboldt Falls

We then followed the sign where it predicted that the walk would take us about 30 minutes return.

The walk was on a pretty developed gravel path going gently uphill through a very lush native rainforest where seemingly everything had moss growing on it (attesting to the high rainfall in the area).

At the end of the track, we encountered a lookout area with a somewhat distant view of Humboldt Falls.

We also managed to spot a barely-visible companion waterfall a little over half the size of its 275m neighbour.

Humboldt_Falls_001_12232009 - Julie on the lush uphill track to the lookout for Humboldt Falls
Julie on the lush uphill track to the lookout for Humboldt Falls

There was also a bench here to sit and chill out while enjoying the view.

That said, I’m willing to bet that how long one would sit around and allow sandflies to take pot shots at a sitting target wouldn’t be for that long.

At least that was the case for both Julie and I as we knew the key to minimizing itchy sandfly bites was to keep moving.

Of course, that was kind of hard to do when we had to behold the glorious view of the very tall waterfalls in an otherwise very pristine part of New Zealand.

Humboldt_Falls_009_12232009 - Context of Julie checking out Humboldt Falls from the lookout during our December 2009 visit while trying not to mind the sandflies
Context of Julie checking out Humboldt Falls from the lookout during our December 2009 visit while trying not to mind the sandflies

When we timed our return visit in December 2009, we recorded a round trip time of about 50 minutes, but we really took our time on that second go around (while also bothering with rain gear since it was raining at the time).

I recalled on my first visit in November 2004, I thought the sign’s prediction was pretty accurate.

Yet even on that first visit, I recalled contending with rain as well.


Humboldt 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.

Humboldt_Falls_005_12232009 - When we first returned to the Humboldt Falls lookout on our late December 2009 visit, we had to contend with some clouds getting in the way of the view
Humboldt_Falls_030_12232009 - Humboldt Falls in December 2009 showing a little bit more of the context just as the clouds had lifted
Humboldt_Falls_035_12232009 - Another contextual look at Humboldt Falls when the clouds finally started to lift and yielded us a decent view of the main waterfall and its companion during our late December 2009 visit. It was nice to see that there were still places where it seemed like time stood still
Humboldt_Falls_045_12232009 - Zoomed in and focused look at Humboldt Falls in late December 2009
Humboldt_Falls_003_11242004 - The gently uphill bush track for Humboldt Falls was very lush and the track itself was pretty well developed as seen here on our November 2004 visit
Humboldt_Falls_004_11242004 - Our very first look at Humboldt Falls during our late November 2004 visit
Humboldt_Falls_009_11242004 - Context of the lookout at Humboldt Falls as seen during our late November 2004 visit
Humboldt_Falls_016_11242004 - Broad look at Humboldt Falls during our late December 2009 visit

The nearest town of any appreciable size to Fiordland National Park was Te Anau so we’ll describe the driving directions from there.

Heading north from Te Anau along the SH94 (Milford Highway), we drove for about 85km.

This drive passed through the Eglington Flat (along the Eglington River) then passed by Lake Gunn and Lake Fergus.

Then, the road rose up through a mountainous part before descending towards the junction with the Lower Hollyford Rd at a sharp right turn.

Making that sharp right to get onto the Lower Hollyford Rd, we then drove about 16km on the unsealed road.

Even though the road wasn’t sealed, it was surprisingly smooth so driving this distance didn’t take very long.

The entire drive from Te Anau took us just under 90 minutes.

Te Anau was about 171km (2 hours drive) southwest of Queenstown and 153km (2 hours drive) north of Invercargill. Christchurch is about 484km (6 hours drive) from Queenstown and 566km (7 hours drive) from Invercargill.

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Bottom up sweep of the falls from end of the sandfly-infested walk

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Tagged with: hollyford, fiordland, te anau, milford, southland, southern alps, south island, new zealand, waterfall

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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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