Rainbow Falls was a very nice waterfall that eerily reminded me of how Whangarei Falls looked, which we had seen just the day before seeing this one. Not only did they look the same, they had similar height (27m as opposed to 26m for Whangarei Falls), they both had vertical plunges in that classic rectangular (almost square) block shape, and they both could be seen from their tops as well as from right across the plunge pool (as shown above). Perhaps the only thing keeping these two waterfalls from being dead ringers was that Rainbow Falls seemed to have a bit more flow than Whangarei Falls so it appeared less segmented.
Julie and I happened to visit on a warm and sunny day in the far north of New Zealand’s North Island (roughly half-way between Whangarei and Cape Reinga at the far northern tip). Even though we were kind of looking against the early afternoon sun, the good weather made us chill as we admired the attraction before us. We were told by other visitors that it was possible to scramble towards the backside of the falls (which we didn’t do), and indeed we saw some brave young guys do just that in addition to standing at the edge of the top of the waterfall when we first saw them on the walk down.
Speaking of the walk, it was a very short five-minute walk that went by a view at the brink of the falls before descending towards a bench conveniently placed by the plunge pool across from the falls itself. Perhaps had we allowed ourselves more time, we could’ve extended this walk into a longer 4km (8km round trip) Kerikeri River Track, which also would have allowed us to see Wharepoke Falls and the Fairy Pools in addition to some tranquility to boot. The river track could have also been done as a one-way shuttle hike though I’m not sure how the transport arrangements would be made easily without having two cars (typically not an option for most visitors).
Rainbow Falls was across the Kerkeri River from the town of Kerikeri. Since we drove up there from Paihia in the Bay of Islands, we’ll describe the driving options from there. For some context, Paihia was over 3 hours drive (227km) from Auckland along State Highway 1.
The most straightforward way get here from Paihia would be to drive Marsden Rd north to Puketona Rd (Now Black Bridge Rd SH11), then turn left and follow this road all the way to State Highway 10 (roughly 14km from the town centre). Then, turn right and go about 13km to the Waipapa Rd exit, and go east on Waipapa Rd. After about 2.2km, Rainbow Falls Rd would be on the right. We’d ultimately follow this road for another kilometre before reaching the well-signed car park.
Julie and I actually took a little bit more of a roundabout approach as we went from Paihia to SH10 as mentioned above. But instead of exiting at Waipapa Rd, we exited earlier at Kerikeri Rd (under 7km from the SH10 and SH11 junction), then we drove through the town of Kerikeri, crossed the Kerikeri River at Landing Rd, then turned left onto Waipapa Rd (a little over 6km from SH10). The signposted turnoff for the falls was then on the left after about 2km. At that point, we then took the signposted spur road to the car park on the right after about 1km as mentioned above.
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