Tawhai Falls

Tongariro National Park / Ruapehu, North Island, New Zealand

About Tawhai Falls

Hiking Distance: 600m round trip
Suggested Time: 20 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-17
Date last visited: 2004-11-17

Waterfall Latitude: -39.17352
Waterfall Longitude: 175.51405

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Tawhai Falls (pronounced “TAW-fai”) was a waterfall that we pursued after noticing a sign for the Tawhai Stream that was right off the road on our way to Whakapapa Village.

It was an unexpected find as we had targeted Whakapapa Village as a place to base ourselves for a few nights in anticipation of doing the popular Tongariro Crossing hike.

Tawhai_Falls_007_11162004 - Tawhai Falls
Tawhai Falls

Traversing between the three major volcanos of Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Tongariro, these mountains anchored Tongariro National Park.

The reserve was said to be New Zealand’s oldest national park and 4th oldest in the world.

Since the sign by the car park said it was about a 20-minute return walk, we thought why not give it a go?

After following the fairly simply track to the overlook at the brink of the falls, we learned that this was an attractive waterfall (despite its diminutive 5m height) plunging into a secluded bowl-like plunge pool.

Tawhai_Falls_003_11162004 - Looking over the brink of Tawhai Falls
Looking over the brink of Tawhai Falls

Since we generally preferred to see waterfalls from the bottom as opposed to the top, we continued on the short trail that eventually led us to the banks of the Whangapapanui Stream.

Then, we did some rough (and slippery) scrambling to get past the obstructing rocks and to the view you see pictured at the top of this page.

It was the kind of serene scene that we could have just chilled out here for a bit (and maybe even go for a swim).

However, given the threatening weather and the cold temperatures, it wasn’t a good idea for us to pursue those activities at the time.


Tawhai Falls resides in Tongariro National Park near National Park in the Central North Island region of 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.

Tawhai_Falls_004_11162004 - Looking besides the lookout deck for a little more context of Tawhai Falls' brink
Tawhai_Falls_011_11162004 - After a little bit of scrambling on some slippery volcanic rocks along the banks of the Whangapapanui Stream, we got this beautiful look at Tawhai Falls

From the intersection of SH47 and SH48 on the western side of Tongariro National Park (near the village of National Park), we drove up the slope on SH48 for about 2.5-3km to the signposted car park for Tawhai Falls on our left.

Further up SH48 for another 3.6km was the Chateau Tongariro and the 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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Tagged with: manawatu, wanganui, whanganui, central plateau, tongariro, whakapapa, north island, new zealand, waterfall, national park

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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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