Mahuia Rapids was really an accidental find as we were actually looking for Matariki Falls and Toakakura Falls, which happened to be obscure labels on a map of the Tongariro National Park area in our Lonely Planet guides to New Zealand (specifically the 11th edition published in 2002). There was no further elaboration or description of these features so on one fairly rainy morning (on a day we were hoping to do the Tongariro Crossing tramp but didn’t due to the rain), we went looking for them seeing that they seemed to be right next to the main highway (see directions below). What we ended up seeing was a pretty attractive rocky cascade (pictured above) that was right next to a stream that we thought was the Whangapapanui Stream (the same stream responsible for Tawhai Falls) but turned out to be the Pukeonake Stream according to more recent maps.
There didn’t seem to be signposts during our visit in November 2004 so we couldn’t tell what we were seeing at the time. In hindsight, I’d imagine that place would be more of a swimming hole or chill out spot. We also didn’t think it was significant enough to include in our book (A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls), but it probably should have been in there the more I think about it. In any case, after briefly checking out this roadside waterfall, I started to look around the immediate area by the adjacent bridge in search of the other two waterfalls.
Basically, I knew that there were waterfalls further downstream of the road bridge nearby the area because I could hear loud crashing waters that couldn’t have come from the waterfall pictured at the top of this page. Even though the maps indicated that both Toakakura Falls and Matariki Falls were further downstream, I did notice a small but fair-volumed waterfall slightly upstream from the road bridge. Since I couldn’t see Toakakura Falls from where I was at, I thought that perhaps this waterfall might be it. Whatever the case, I then crossed the highway near the bridge, where I saw a pole with a red arrow on it.
When I followed this very overgrown path behind the poled arrow, I basically lost the “trail” (if there was one). After a few more minutes of essentially bushwhacking (while getting wet from both the rain and the wet foliage brushing up against me), I didn’t pursue Matariki Falls anymore. In hindsight, I began to wonder if that waterfall was more known in the kayaking and canoe community since I did see some chatter about it being a runnable 13m waterfall or so (a pretty significant drop for a kayak or canoe, I’d imagine).
From the intersection of SH47 and SH4 near the town of National Park (western side of Tongariro National Park), we drove about 11km northeast on SH47 towards the Mahuia Rapids, which was near a road bridge on the right (east) side of the highway. It was about 2km further to the northeast from the SH48 turnoff (for Whakapapa Village).
The town of National Park was over 90 minutes drive (121km) north of Whanganui, which itself was about 2.5 hours drive (193km) north of Wellington. From the other direction, National Park was about 2.5 hours drive (203km) south of Hamilton, which itself was about 90 minutes drive (125km) south of Auckland.
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