Ohau Falls

Kaikoura District, South Island, New Zealand

About Ohau Falls


Hiking Distance: 560m round trip
Suggested Time: 15-30 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-01-01
Date last visited: 2010-01-01

Waterfall Latitude: -42.24347
Waterfall Longitude: 173.82924

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Ohau Falls was a thin but pretty 25-30m waterfall that turned out to be quite the popular spot when we made a visit here in early January 2010.

We had been told that New Zealand fur seals would sometimes swim their way up to the falls (said to be in the Winter), which would make this waterfall very unique in that aspect.

Ohau_Stream_034_12312009 - Ohau Falls
Ohau Falls

That said, Julie and I didn’t spot any fur seals during our visit since we came in the Summer and there were probably way too many people around the falls anyways.

Nevertheless, we had seen other trip reports in the literature as well as a visitor submission that confirmed that they do indeed come here from time to time.

In addition to the New Zealand fur seals, Ohau Falls was also our waterfalling excuse to explore the area around Kaikoura.

The town was well known for coastal scenery, sperm whales, acrobatic dusky dolphins, and crayfish (similar to rock lobsters).

Ohau_Stream_053_12312009 - Near where the Ohau Stream emptied into the Pacific, we noticed this New Zealand fur seal keeping a watchful eye on people appearing to get too close to it and its pup
Near where the Ohau Stream emptied into the Pacific, we noticed this New Zealand fur seal keeping a watchful eye on people appearing to get too close to it and its pup

In fact, in the early morning hours on the day of our visit to the falls, we did a whale watching tour where we got to see at least three sperm whales (one of which did a tail splash before diving) as well as a whole school of dusky dolphins doing backflips.

It had to have been one of the most memorable tours we had ever done.

Experiencing Ohau Falls

In any case, our visit to Ohau Falls began from a roadside pullout (see directions below) where we then followed a trail that went upstream along the Ohau Stream.

Given the warm sunny day during our visit, the shadiness of the narrow gorge cut by the Ohau Stream provided some welcome relief from the heat.

Ohau_Stream_004_12312009 - Julie on the well-developed Ohau Stream Walk en route to the Ohau Falls
Julie on the well-developed Ohau Stream Walk en route to the Ohau Falls

The walk was pretty developed as it was a mix of boardwalk and bridges along with conventional dirt trail.

After a little over five minutes of walking (the sign estimated 10 minutes in each direction), we arrived at the very busy plunge pool and base of the Ohau Falls.

Apparently, the presence of the amount of people here certainly made us realize how popular this place was.

Given the high contrast between the shady confines of its cove and the bright sun shining right on the plunge of the water, the falls appeared to be very bright and washed out in our photos.

Ohau_Stream_006_12312009 - Some people cooling off in the plunge pool before the Ohau Falls
Some people cooling off in the plunge pool before the Ohau Falls

So it didn’t take long before we left the falls and headed back to the trailhead, but our adventure didn’t end there.

Instead, we crossed the state highway and continued onto the rocky coastline where we got to see the famed New Zealand fur seals from a respectful distance.

Indeed, we probably spent more time seeing them do what they do than we did around the waterfall itself.

Authorities

Ohau Falls resides in the Okiwi Bay – Half Moon Bay area in the Marlborough region. 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.

Kaikoura_068_12312009 - Earlier in the morning (prior to visiting Ohau Falls), we went on one of the whale watching tours to see these sperm whales
Kaikoura_085_12312009 - The sperm whales tended to only show their tail when they would go for a dive
Kaikoura_099_12312009 - Towards the end of our tour, we saw this large school of acrobatic Dusky Dolphins keeping us entertained
Ohau_Stream_003_12312009 - Julie starting the short Ohau Stream Walk inland towards the Ohau Falls
Ohau_Stream_025_12312009 - Arriving at the Ohau Falls and its narrow plunge pool in partial shade
Ohau_Stream_037_12312009 - A bright but more full look at the Ohau Falls
Ohau_Stream_056_12312009 - After finishing our short hike to the Ohau Falls, we then went across SH1 and to the rocky coastline to check out New Zealand fur seals
Ohau_Stream_066_12312009 - A New Zealand fur seal tending to its pup
Ohau_Stream_010_jx_12312009 - After visiting Ohau Falls, we made a stop at one of the roadside stands (Nin's Bin, I believe) where we got to try some local crayfish

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We drove to Ohau Falls from the seaside town of Kaikoura (about 200km north of Christchurch) so we’ll describe the driving route from there.

From Kaikoura, we drove roughly 27km north on SH1 towards a large signposted pullout saying “Ohau Stream” on the inland side of the highway right at a large bend in the road.

Ohau_Stream_001_12312009 - Context of the large pullout by the SH1 signposted for the Ohau Stream, where we started the short walk to the Ohau Falls as well as witnessing New Zealand fur seals towards the rocky coastline
Context of the large pullout by the SH1 signposted for the Ohau Stream, where we started the short walk to the Ohau Falls as well as witnessing New Zealand fur seals towards the rocky coastline

The pullout acting as car park was quite full, but we were fortunate to have found one of the remaining few spaces when we showed up at midday on New Year’s Day.

Coming from the other direction, the falls was about 102km (roughly 90 minutes) south of Blenheim along SH1.

L-shaped sweep of the plunge pool and the falls itself with plenty of commotion due to the amount of people here


Direct bottom up sweep of the falls with some voices in the background as the area was quite crowded when we were there

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Tagged with: kaikoura, canterbury, south island, new zealand, waterfall, fur seal, christchurch



Visitor Comments:

Fur seals at Ohau falls confirmed December 4, 2010 4:36 am by Daryn Foster - I have copied a web address below as proof the fur seal pups do visit the pools at the base of Ohau falls. I was surfing the net and came across this site with images showing the pups at the falls. I intend to go and visit Ohau Falls myself and hopefully get some great… ...Read More

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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Fur seal pups (Ohau Falls) May 14, 2011 11:29 pm by Jacquie Walters - My husband, two little girls (4 yrs and 3 yrs) and I stopped here last weekend and were amazed to see around 50 fur seal pups frolicking in these waterfalls. It was probably one of the most amazing nature experiences of my life. ...Read More
Yes, Seals Do Frequent Ohau Falls October 31, 2010 11:21 pm by Alan Baldwin - Joyce and I first visited Ohau Falls late in March 2008, after reading about them in Anna & Andrew Jameson's book "Accessible Walks". After passing under the railway viaduct, we heard some splashes and saw seal pups moving towards the sea. A little way further along the track we met a NZ couple taking movies… ...Read More

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