Waiau Falls was a small (maybe 5-10m) but picturesque waterfall with a plunge pool that seemed to attract quite a few people here during our warm, sunny day visit to Whitianga (pronounced “FIT-ee-ahng-uh”) in January 2010. Somehow, Julie and I managed to miss this waterfall on our November 2004 visit to the nearby town of Whitianga despite getting married there. I guess in our moment of forgetfulness, we certainly weren’t going to be denied a visit to this falls on our second go-around over 5 years later. That said, we could totally see why this waterfall was so popular as the plunge pool seemed deep enough and calm enough for a variety of people to cool off here. And Julie and I weren’t interesting in going for a swim so we didn’t mind sitting back and just watching the scene before us as the falls made the perfect backdrop to all the people playing.
Indeed, this was a pretty easy waterfall to experience. We took a short path that descended from the car park (see directions below) towards the base of the waterfall and its shady plunge pool. Julie and I managed to have a brief moment alone at the falls as people went in and out of here. However, it was only for a brief moment before the next wave of folks showed up, so this further attested to Waiau Falls’ popularity.
As for its flow, it seemed like Waiau Falls had decent flow despite the apparent drought conditions on the Coromandel Peninsula during our January 2010 visit. To hear the words drought and New Zealand used together was quite weird to us. In any case, I suspect this waterfall would flow reliably given our observations despite the relatively low rainfall, which certainly must mean its flow would most certainly improve even more under more “normal” rainfall conditions.
There was also a scrambling path to the top of the falls from the opposite end of the car park (we actually went this way initially). This one was a little steeper, and the views weren’t as satisfying. And when we found ourselves at the brink of the falls, I could see straight away that it would have been foolish to try to take the shortcut to go right down to the base of the falls from here. Instead, we went back up to the car park, then took the more established track towards the base of the falls as mentioned above. Certainly the extra couple of minutes spent doing this far outweighed the risk of injury by attempting to scale the short dropoff.
During our January 2010 visit, we were a little bit confused coming here from Whitianga because there was a sign indicating the falls, but there was neither a car park nor a track nearby it. It turned out that we hadn’t gone far enough to the west along the 309 road. So that’s something to be aware of if you’re coming from the east.
To give you some additional context, the beach town of Whitianga was 194km (3 hours drive) east of Auckland, 166km (2.5 hours drive) north of Tauranga, and 182km (2.5 hours drive) northeast of Hamilton.
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