Wainui Falls was perhaps the most accessible waterfall that we were aware of in the Tasman Region. It was for this reason that we targeted this waterfall for a visit while we were staying in Nelson, which was said to be the gateway town for the protected shorelines and bays comprising Abel Tasman National Park. I suppose if we had more time, resources, and weather cooperation (it wasn’t during our visit), we probably could have secured one of the boat rides in conjunction with one of the many options for tramping the area. In any case, this was our waterfalling excuse to explore just a taste of what was on offer in this sunnier side (though it wasn’t for us) of New Zealand’s South Island.
Julie and I spent nearly 90 minutes round trip to hike to the falls and back. From the car park area (see directions below), we walked along a road past a cattle guard and sign predicting that it would take us 40 minutes to get to the falls from this point. There were quite a few people doing this hike during our visit so following the track was more straightforward since the lemmings effect helped us avoid any of the potentially headscratching moments at the trail junctions.
After a little over 10 minutes of walking on a track that paralleled some local road, the track then veered into the bush where we were greeted with a sign saying the falls was another 30 minutes from this point. Not long thereafter, we were then greeted with another sign saying that we were entering Abel Tasman National Park. Apparently, there seemed to be some tension between some locals and the Department of Conservation because we saw several signs that were marked up essentially disagreeing with much of the signposts that were here. I’m sure much of that had to do with restrictions to land usage and/or public access (seemed to be a common theme that we were quite familiar with in other parts of the world, including our own locales).
Anyways, the track then proceeded to go through a combination of bush with a few areas of open terrain where we could see how lush the area was as well as a sense of the steepness of the stream we were following to the falls. The forest canopy was welcome as we were kept relatively dry when the rains came and went intermittently. Roughly 15 minutes after entering Abel Tasman National Park, we encountered a long chain-linked swinging bridge that was only able to support one tramper at a time. We were in a small queue in order to wait for our turn to cross on the way there, and I could totally imagine how this wait could be rather long on a busier day (like if it wasn’t raining like it did during our visit).
Eventually about 15 minutes after the swinging bridge, we made it to the opposite side of the plunge pool of Wainui Falls, where Julie and I had to do a little bit of a scramble to get better views of the falls. That alone made the viewing area a bit limited, especially as more and more people started to show up. So we chilled out here and let people come and go while being opportunistic to get our shots in. During that time, we saw some young people throw caution to the wind by swimming in the cold plunge pool to get right next to the falls, then scramble to its backside! Even though the falls was said to be 30m tall, those dudes provided some scale and it seemed more like the falls was about 20m tall or so.
On the way back to the trailhead, we had to wait a bit longer to cross the one-hiker-at-a-time chain-linked swinging bridge as more people were queued up here. But after that, the rest of the hike was pretty much a breeze though we passed by numerous other hikers on the way out attesting to the popularity of this excursion despite how fairly out-of-the-way it was from Nelson.
From Nelson Central, we drove roughly 15km south on SH6 to the suburb of Richmond. Then, we took the Appleby Hwy (SH60) at the roundabout and followed this highway north for 90km towards Takaka. Then, we turned right onto Motupipi St which became Abel Tasman Dr. We drove roughly 20km from SH60 to the well-signposted turnoff for Wainui Falls to our right. At the end of the short spur road there was a large car park just before a cattle guard. This drive took Julie and I a little over two hours.
For context, Nelson was 115km (90 minutes drive) northwest of Blenheim and 134km (over 90 minutes drive) west of Picton. From Picton, it was about a 3.5-hour ferry ride to Wellington. Finally, Nelson was 424km (5.5 hours drive) north of Christchurch.
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