About McLaren Falls and “Marshall Falls”
McLaren Falls and “Marshall Falls” were two different waterfalls in close proximity to each other that I’m focusing on for this page. The latter resided in the McLaren Falls park while ironically, the namesake waterfall sat outside the park. By the way, I had put “Marshall Falls” in quotes because it sat near the Marshall’s Animal Park within the McLaren Falls Park. When I compare the two waterfalls, I tend to think of “Marshall Falls” as the prettier and more free-flowing waterfall though McLaren Falls had so much more potential before it was sacrificed for hydroelectricity leaving behind only a few strands amidst bare rock. I was told that the Wairoa River would be released at specific times of the year (on 26 mid-Summer to mid-Winter days), which thrill-seeking kayakers or canoers would embrace to get their adrenaline rush running the whitewater. The only other times it would have any chance at flowing like its former self would be during times of very heavy rains.
As far as McLaren Falls was concerned, I saw that it required a steep scramble to the pools leftover from the lack of flow on the Wairoa River. I’d imagine that they might be swimming holes under such circumstances. However, I understand that people have been killed here in the past trying to access those pools as there were some fatally tall dropoff exposure here. I’d recommend using extreme caution if you’re determined to have a swim here.
As far as “Marshall Falls” was concerned, I had to drive a bit deeper into the McLaren Falls Park (see directions below). There were helpful signs as I drove through the park, and so I leveraged them while navigating some of the one-way roads to get to the signed car park for this “Waterfall Walk”. At that point, I went on a very easy ten-minute return (probably takes even less time than that) bush walk that left me ample time for sitting comfortably on the bench at the end of the short track allowing me to admire the attractive horsetail-shaped waterfall.
From the SH29 and SH2 junction near the city centre of Tauranga, I drove about 16.5km southwest along SH29 to the McLaren Falls Rd on my left. I then followed this paved road for a few minutes (maybe less than a kilometre or so) before reaching a bridge. Just before this bridge was the car park for McLaren Falls.
Continuing beyond this bridge, I drove the narrowing paved road until I saw the signed entrance to McLaren Falls Park on my right. After entering the park, the road became unsealed gravel, and I’d slowly follow the mix of one-way and two-way roads before getting to the signed car park for the Waterfall Walk.
The maze of one-way roads made it tricky for me to leave the park, but the key was that I had to accept that I was going to leave going a different route than when I came in. It actually took me a while to figure that out, but if you’re not in a hurry, then this wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.
For context, Tauranga was about 2.5 hours drive (without traffic) or 211km from Auckland. Tauranga was also about 90 minutes drive (105km) east of Hamilton, or under an hour drive (64km) north of Rotorua.
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