Waipunga Falls was certainly one of the more dramatic waterfalls that Julie and I came across during our initial tour of New Zealand in November 2004.
In fact, we thought high enough of this waterfall that we felt it belonged on our list of Top 10 New Zealand Waterfalls.
What really stood out to us about this forceful 40m plunge of the Waipunga River was that it had segmented into three thick columns while almost joined by a barely-visible companion waterfall called Waiarua Falls.
Another cool thing about this waterfall scene was that it was practically roadside.
Julie and I stumbled upon Huka Falls as we made the 132km drive between Bay View (just north of Napier) and Taupo.
Technically speaking, this waterfall belonged to the Bay of Plenty Region though it was quite close to the political boundary of the Hawke’s Bay Region.
As we were driving between Napier and Taupo along the Thermal Explorer Highway, we also came across signage for Pungahuru Falls.
Unfortunately, the sign crept up on us so fast that we didn’t stop for it (given the high speed of traffic).
I reckon it could be another option to do a little more waterfalling to help break up the drive (which can be mentally tiring given this two-lane highway tended to be shared by slow drivers, impatient tailgaters, and logging trucks.
As for the roadside car park and viewpoint of Waipunga Falls, there always seemed to be a handful of vehicles parked here so I’d imagine it wouldn’t be hard to miss given the commotion that it tended to attract.
Waipunga Falls and Waiarua Falls did not seem to have an authority overlooking them. Nonetheless, you can still seek out information or inquire about the area as well as current conditions nearby by visiting the Department of Conservation website.
From the SH1 and SH5 junction in the town of Taupo, Waipunga Falls was about 50km southeast along SH5 past the town of Rangitaiki. Going in the other direction from the SH2 and SH5 junction (just north of Bay View and north of Napier), the falls was about 75km northwest on the SH5.
For some context, Taupo was about 3.5 hours drive southeast of Auckland and over 4.5 hours drive north of Wellington. Similarly, Napier was about 4 hours drive north of Wellington and 5 hours drive from Napier (you’ll definitely be passing by the falls while driving along SH5 if you went this route).
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