Waihi Falls seemed to be a relatively little known waterfall and perhaps the southernmost of the North Island waterfalls that we had visited. In fact, this waterfall was so obscure that even a DOC employee I was talking to thought I was referring to the town of Waihi near the Coromandel Peninsula instead of this waterfall! That said, a sign said that this waterfall was reserved in 1899 making it the Hawke’s Bay Region’s first reserve (though I wasn’t sure whether it could have belonged to the Manawatu-Wanganui Region or Wellington Region, instead since it seemed to be very close to the borders of all those regions). In any case, on our follow-up visit to New Zealand in January 2010, we ultimately managed to find this reportedly 25m tall falls, which featured a much wider span than its vertical drop. Its flow appeared to be on the low side as it segmented into a handful of strands while leaving behind large spaces of bare underlying cliff. I’d imagine that the falls would need to be in full flood for the water to completely cover its supporting cliff.
Once we finally made it to the car park (see directions below), we saw that there was a nice sheltered picnic area where we see that we were surrounded by pastures leaving behind this pocket of native bush. There were already some views of the falls and the small gorge below, which beckoned us to make our way down to its base. That said, we took a steep, slippery path down to the base of the falls. It was this slippery path that kind of caught us off guard because it didn’t seem to have rained for a little while, yet there were plenty of loose pebbles acting sort of as ball bearings undermining our traction as we made the descent. Fortunately for us, going up ended up being much easier despite the unsure footing. But we definitely had to be very careful on the way down.
Once we were at the base of Waihi Falls, we walked all the way to the cliff wall underlying the falls. From here, we could appreciate the length of the falls as well as the rough texture of the cliff itself, but we also made a hasty retreat when we started to notice that parts of the cliff behind us was trickling some pebbles as it was shedding some of its looser layers. So based on that experience, we’d recommend not lingering by the cliffs as they were apparently unstable and prone to landslides. Indeed, I recalled there were certainly signs at the top reinforcing this danger as they warned us to stay away from the edges.
All told, Julie and I spent under 30 minutes away from the car. This included the walk to the base of the falls, enjoying its base, and returning to the car park where we briefly had ourselves a nice little picnic.
For us, it took a little bit of a detour to even drive to this waterfall.
The way we made it to the falls was by first leaving from Palmerston North, where we were spending the night. We headed east from town along Napier Rd (SH3). We followed this road as it eventually became SH2 at Woodville. After driving for about 53km from Palmerston North CBD, we arrived at the town of Dannevirke. Once in town, we turned right onto Miller St, which eventually became Weber Rd, and we followed this road until a turnoff (for Oporae Rd) on our right after about 30km from Dannevirke.
We then followed Oporae Rd, which eventually became Waihi Valley Rd (I think the road became unsealed at this point), towards the Waihi Falls Rd (after about 12km). We then followed this unsealed road flanked by paddocks for the last 2km to the car park at its end.
What was described above was perhaps the most straightforward route, which we found out after the fact when we were returning to Palmerston North! Unfortunately on our visit, we missed that turnoff for Oporae Rd because the sign was knocked down (we suspected the strong winds were to blame), and we ended up doing a long roundabout route continuing on Weber Rd to Route 52 then right on Rte 52 to Horoeka Rd (an additional 18km beyond Oporae Rd turnoff). After leaving Rte 52 for the pretty bumpy unsealed Horoeka Rd, we then turned right onto Waihi Valley Rd after 5km, and we then followed this road for another 3km before reaching the Waihi Falls Rd to our right.
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