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, where we were staying for a few nights as we were anticipating doing the Tongariro Crossing hike between the three major volcanos (Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Tongariro) anchoring Tongariro National Park (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. 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, which we then 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), but given the threatening weather and the cold temperatures, it wasn’t a good idea to pursue those activities at the time.
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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