Wairere Falls

Kaimai-Mamaku Conservation Park, North Island, New Zealand

About Wairere Falls


Hiking Distance: 5km round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours (to lookout)

Date first visited: 2004-11-13
Date last visited: 2010-01-08

Waterfall Latitude: -37.73372
Waterfall Longitude: 175.87995

Wairere Falls was probably one of my favourite North Island waterfalls as it was a towering presence making two dramatic leaps over a cumulative drop of 153m.

It was such a tall waterfall that we could see it even from the Old Te Aroha Rd several kilometres away.

Wairere_Falls_013_01072010 - Wairere Falls
Wairere Falls

As shown in the photograph above, we got a pretty satisfying view from a lookout accessed from a track that further immersed us in the bush experience.

After all, the track featured bridges, stairs, and plenty of native foliage.

The overall height of Wairere Falls could very well be the North Island’s tallest though I’m not totally sure about this claim just yet.

Nonetheless, Julie and I were mesmerized by the upper drop swaying with the wind as we gazed upon the scene while catching our breaths for the return hike.

Wairere_Falls_038_11122004 - Distant view of Wairere Falls from the Old Te Aroha Road
Distant view of Wairere Falls from the Old Te Aroha Road

I suppose if we had the energy and time, we could have continued climbing up to the top of the falls where I’d imagine we could have caught majestic views over the idyllic Waikato (pronounced “WAI-kuh-toh”) Plains.

Wairere Falls resided within the Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges, which separated the Bay of Plenty Region from the Waikato Region.

The Wairere Falls Track

From the car park (see directions below), we were greeted with a lovely stone sign.

It contained a rhyming poem motivating us to think about the heritage of this track from days past when Maori, then missionaries, traders, and scientists have passed this way.

Wairere_Falls_037_11122004 - The track skirted some private pastures right at the boundary of the reserve
The track skirted some private pastures right at the boundary of the reserve

After passing by this and other signs, then weaving between a few trees, we found ourselves in a lightly forested landscape.

Since it straddled the boundaries of the reserve and what appeared to be a private pasture, the track was fairly open in the beginning.

Shortly thereafter, the track started climbing in earnest as it followed alongside and crossed the Wairere Stream several times in a combination of sturdy as well as swinging bridges.

This section of climbing and going back and forth over the Wairere Stream persisted for a large chunk of the hike.

Wairere_Falls_004_11122004 - Julie on the Wairere Falls Track which crossed over several bridges on the way up to the main lookout and beyond
Julie on the Wairere Falls Track which crossed over several bridges on the way up to the main lookout and beyond

Then, breaking up the rhythm a bit, we encountered a squared spiral wooden staircase that got Julie and I sweating and breathing heavier by the time we made it above this multi-layered ascent.

From there, we entered a grove of native trees as we ultimately reached another signposted junction where we kept left to finally make it up to the Wairere Falls Lookout.

This lookout yielded the view you see at the top of this page.

There was a wooden rail that kept us from scrambling any further though we were pretty content with the views from here anyways.

Wairere_Falls_010_11122004 - Ascending the wooden steps as we made the steep ascent up to the lookout of Wairere Falls as seen on our first visit back in November 2004
Ascending the wooden steps as we made the steep ascent up to the lookout of Wairere Falls as seen on our first visit back in November 2004

It took Julie and I a little over an hour to get up to this spot.

When we had our fill of this overlook, we decided to go back down to the car park where it was all downhill on the way back.

Both times we have done this hike, we never bothered to go up to the top of the falls (essentially doubling the distance and effort of this hike).

Next time, I’ll make it a point to allow at least four hours to complete this hike and experience that view from the top.

Wairere_Falls_012_11122004 - Context of the Wairere Falls Lookout when we first came here back in November 2004
Context of the Wairere Falls Lookout when we first came here back in November 2004

Until then, it took Julie and I between 90 minutes and 2 hours to just take in the walk to the lookout of Wairere Falls.

Authorities

Wairere Falls resides in the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park near Matamata in the Bay of Plenty region of North Island, New Zealand. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Wairere_Falls_005_01072010 - Looking upstream at the Wairere Stream during our hike to Wairere Falls during our visit in January 2010
Wairere_Falls_007_01072010 - Walking along the bush walk alongside the Wairere Stream during our visit in January 2010
Wairere_Falls_032_01072010 - Julie back at the familiar Wairere Falls Lookout as seen in January 2010
Wairere_Falls_044_01072010 - The upper tier of Wairere Falls scattering in the wind during our January 2010 visit
Wairere_Falls_001_11122004 - Looking at the poem at the car park and trailhead for Wairere Falls as seen during our first time here in November 2004
Wairere_Falls_002_11122004 - Going by some DOC signs as we started the walk to Wairere Falls in November 2004
Wairere_Falls_005_11122004 - Traversing one of many sturdy bridges criss-crossing the Wairere Stream on our way up to Wairere Falls during our November 2004 visit
Wairere_Falls_007_11122004 - Looking back at another one of the bridges over the Wairere Stream as seen during our November 2004 visit to Wairere Falls
Wairere_Falls_008_11122004 - Julie on another bridge looking against the sun in the direction of Wairere Falls on our November 2004 hike
Wairere_Falls_008_jx_11122004 - Looking back down at the steps we had just ascended on our November 2004 visit to Wairere Falls
Wairere_Falls_015_11122004 - This was how Wairere Falls looked in November 2004
Wairere_Falls_017_11122004 - When the sun hid behind some clouds, Wairere Falls benefitted from some even lighting as seen in this shot taken on November 2004
Wairere_Falls_028_11122004 - Wairere Falls getting less optimal lighting when the sun came back out as seen on our November 2004 visit
Wairere_Falls_031_11122004 - Julie leading the way back to the car park as we descended the wooden steps from Wairere Falls during our November 2004 visit
Wairere_Falls_034_11122004 - Julie continuing on the return walk from Wairere Falls after having had our fill of the lookout in November 2004
Wairere_Falls_035_11122004 - Julie continuing on the bush walk as we returned from Wairere Falls in November 2004
Wairere_Falls_036_11122004 - Back at the trail junction where we had kept left to go up to the Falls Lookout, but here was where we could have taken the Old Wairere Track to get up to the top of the falls
Wairere_Falls_012_jx_11122004 - After regaining the car to end of our Wairere Falls walk in November 2004, we managed to look back towards the upper drop of Wairere Falls as we drove towards Rotorua

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Julie and I have actually visited Wairere Falls twice using separate driving routes for each time, which we’ll get to below.

Driving from Tauranga to Wairere Falls

The first time Julie and I visited Wairere Falls was from Tauranga.

We headed south along SH29 then got off the highway at Tauranga Rd.

After about 2.3km on Tauranga Rd, we then kept right to go onto Old Te Aroha Rd for the next 15km or so.

We then turned right onto an unsealed spur road leading to a dead end where the gravel car park for Wairere Falls was.

Driving from Te Aroha to Wairere Falls

The second time Julie and I went to this waterfall, we came from the north at Te Aroha.

From the town, we headed south on Old Te Aroha Rd for a little over 25km to the junction mentioned above.

Then, we continued to go straight past the junction to the car park at its dead-end.

For some context, Te Aroha was about 53km east of Hamilton City or 21km south of the town of Paeroa (of lemon and paeroa or L&P fame).

For additional context, Hamilton was over 90 minutes (125km) south of Auckland. Tauranga was under 90 minutes east of Hamilton.

Matamata as the Shire

Finally, it’s interesting to note that town of Matamata was the closest town of any appreciable size to Wairere Falls.

Had we stayed on Tauranga Rd for another 10km (instead of turning right to go onto Old Te Aroha Rd), we would have reached the town, where they just so happened to have filmed the shire in The Lord of the Rings as well as The Hobbit movies.

Both times we visited the falls, we never took the time to visit the set in town.

Maybe next time we’ll satisfy our curiosity of how much the town resembled the idyllic set.

Bottom up sweep of the falls scattering with the wind as seen from the lookout

Tagged with: kaimai,mamaku,waikato, north island, new zealand, waterfall, wairere stream, te aroha, matamata, shire, lord of the rings,



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Wairere Falls June 5, 2009 10:39 pm by HS Gard - I was at these waterfalls near Matamata during early April of 2007, my first visit to New Zealand. I found them purely by accident while trying to find somewhere to park for the night. I tackled them the following morning, took my time, and was careful. It was a very fulfilling experience. When I reached… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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