Waihi Falls

Tararua District, North Island, New Zealand

About Waihi Falls

Hiking Distance: 400m round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-01-05
Date last visited: 2010-01-05

Waterfall Latitude: -40.43748
Waterfall Longitude: 176.25578

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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!

Waihi_Falls_031_01042010 - Waihi Falls
Waihi Falls

That said, a sign said that this waterfall was reserved in 1899 making it the Hawke’s Bay Region’s first reserve.

Over the years though, they must have re-drawn the district regional boundaries because Waihi Falls now belongs to the Manawatu-Wanganui Region (though it sits pretty close to the regional boundaries).

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.

Waihi Falls’ 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.

Experiencing the Waihi Falls

Waihi_Falls_004_01042010 - Picnic shelter at the car park for Waihi Falls
Picnic shelter at the car park for Waihi Falls

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 Waihi Falls and the small gorge below, which beckoned us to make our way down to its base.

Thus, 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 like ball bearings undermining our traction as we made the descent.

Waihi_Falls_013_01042010 - Looking towards Waihi Falls from the short but steep trail leading down to its base
Looking towards Waihi Falls from the short but steep trail leading down to its base

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 its length as well as the rough texture of the underlying cliff itself.

Waihi_Falls_016_01042010 - Julie descending to the base of Waihi Falls as she was approaching the steep and slippery part
Julie descending to the base of Waihi Falls as she was approaching the steep and slippery part

However, 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.

Waihi_Falls_039_01042010 - Checking out the Waihi Falls right from its base at the end of the short trail
Checking out the Waihi Falls right from its base at the end of the short trail

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.


Waihi Falls resides in the Tararua District near Palmerston North in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of North Island, New Zealand. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Tararua District Council. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Waihi_Falls_011_01042010 - Looking towards Wainui Falls just as we were about to descend towards its base
Waihi_Falls_017_01042010 - Julie approaching the base of Waihi Falls
Waihi_Falls_020_01042010 - Another look from near the base of the Waihi Falls
Waihi_Falls_041_01042010 - Profile of Waihi Falls seen from near the base of its crumbly cliff
Waihi_Falls_051_01042010 - Looking across Waihi Falls from the corner by its base at the end of the trail
North_Tararua_002_01042010 - On the drive back from Waihi Falls to Dannevirke, we noticed idyllic pastures like this scene that seemed to be quintessential New Zealand

For us, it took a little bit of a detour to even drive to Waihi Falls from Palmerston North, where we were spending the night.

The way we made it to the falls was by first leaving from Palmerston North due east along Napier Rd (SH83).

We followed this road as it eventually became SH2 at Woodville.

Waihi_Falls_002_01042010 - The wide circle and car park for the picnic area near the top of Waihi Falls
The wide circle and car park for the picnic area near the top of Waihi Falls

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 Waihi Falls 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).

North_Tararua_001_jx_01042010 - This was the knocked-over sign at Oporae Rd that really threw us off as we didn't notice it initially on our way to the Wainui Falls
This was the knocked-over sign at Oporae Rd that really threw us off as we didn’t notice it initially on our way to the Wainui Falls

So 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.

To give you an idea of the geographical context, Palmerston North was 141km (2 hours drive) north of Wellington, or a 520km (6.5 hours drive or over an hour flight) south of Auckland.

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Left to right sweep of the falls from its base

Right to left sweep from downstream to the falls itself as seen from a higher perspective near the start of the walk to its base

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Tagged with: hawkes bay, tararua, north island, new zealand, dannevirke, pongaroa, palmerston north, waterfall, wellington, manawatu, wanganui

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Very impressive after a wet winter! (Waihi Falls) October 7, 2012 4:50 am by Johanna - We visited the falls with friends who live nearby. It was early October, after a very wet winter, so the flow was much higher than in your photographs. We couldn't get very close because of the spray. We were amazed by the falls - I'm sure they would be much better known if they weren't… ...Read More
Waihi Falls: Access Update March 2010 October 31, 2010 10:21 pm by Alan Baldwin - Joyce and I approached this waterfall from the south via Masterton, where we had camped after a rough crossing from South Island,(other passengers were using the paper bags). I remember Johnny & Julie had a similar crossing a few months earlier. While driving from Masterton we passed through a lot of sheep country, but while… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

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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