SURELY the sound of a waterfall on a walk gets you excited. The bigger the better. You can hear the sound of rushing water long before you see it. You speed up your walk a little and peel your eyes. You may have been walking for a few minutes or a few hours to get to it, the excitement is the same. Whether it’s a summer swim, a photo opportunity or a heavy rainfall that’s brought you out exploring, waterfalls are just downright fun to be around.
It’s easy to think of Auckland as an urban jungle with not much to offer in the way of hiking or summer roadies. It may take an hour or so of driving from the city but there are endless walking tracks and waterfalls to search for in Auckland. Some are hotspots for sightseers while others remain somewhat hidden gems. If you’re keen to get out of the city for a day and find some of the biggest waterfalls, these are the SIX highest waterfalls in the Auckland Region.
Always check the weather and route alerts before you explore the outdoors and be prepared for the conditions. Tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. Respect New Zealand’s environment, wildlife and land owners by following the Tiaki Promise. Leave only footprints, take only photos.
1. Waitakere Falls - 95m
Waitakere Falls is a towering 95 metre horsetail waterfall, the highest in the Auckland Region. It is a close geographical neighbour to the Waitakere Dam. Although you can’t get overly close to this waterfall (apart from the very top), it is easily seen from the surrounding tracks because of its size. The Waitakere Dam Walk is a popular route leading to the waterfall as it’s a relatively easy 30 minute walk with benches and great views at the end. Unlike other waterfalls in the lush Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, there are quite a few tracks to choose from to get a glimpse at Waitakere Falls, all of varying lengths and difficulty. These tracks include:
- Take the easy 30 minute walk on the Waitakere Dam Track and then follow the Waitakere Tramline Walk, sign-posted on the right shortly before reaching the Dam, for 15 minutes to get a view of the waterfall. Slightly further along is a better view of the falls, just past Kelly Stream Waterfall.
- For a longer adventure, begin at Falls Road and combine the Cascade Track and Fence Line Track to view the falls on a 2.5-3 hour return hike. This track is slightly more difficult than a walk.
- Or you could combine the Waitakere Tramline Walk with the Anderson Track for a different 2.5-3 hour return hike from Scenic Dr. This Track would also be classed as more difficult than a casual walk.
- If you’re only keen on a passing glance when you’re in the neighbourhood, head to the Pukematekeo Lookout Carpark north on Scenic Drive. Park up and walk about two minutes up the hill to see the Waitakere Falls from a distance.
Getting there: There is a large car park on Scenic Drive, approximately 7km North of the Scenic Drive/ Piha Road intersection. The carpark is around 30-40 minute drive (27.5km) from Auckland City.
Facilities: There is a long-drop toilet near Waitakere Dam but no other toilets. When you reach the Dam there are picnic benches to enjoy the view from. No dogs allowed.
2.Kitekite Falls - 40m
KiteKite Falls towers 40 metres over the pools below in a multi-step waterfall with well maintained and clear tracks leading to multiple vantage points. Begin the main track from the main car park through the shoe cleaning station and make your way through the NZ bush for around 30 minutes to reach the bottom of Kitekite Falls. This track is moderate in difficulty and mainly a boardwalk path with some great views of the surrounding valleys along the way. I suggest staying on this path rather than taking the track to ‘falls top’ that is signposted halfway along; that one can be steeper and slippery. When you reach the bottom of Kitekite Falls
Getting there: The main car park is well signposted approximately 1km down Glen Esk Road, Piha, about an hours drive (47km) from Auckland City. The track starts from the carpark.
Facilities: There are toilets and a few picnic tables at the main car park. There is a self-cleaning station for your shoes that all walkers must use when entering and leaving the tracks to prevent the spread of Kauri Dieback (Learn more here). Dogs are allowed on leash.
3. Karekare Falls - 30m
A day trip out to Karekare Falls has a lot of exploring to offer in the one place. The short track covers some gorgeous dense New Zealand bush with the sound of running streams all around. As a bonus, there’s a smaller waterfall near the beginning of the track called Opal Pool Stream Cascade that stands out on it’s own after decent rainfall. A five minute walk further on will bring you to the main attraction. Karekare Falls is an impressive 30m waterfall with a plunge pool at the base that’s perfect for swimming. The depth is very gradual and also has another small stream running off it to widen the swimming opportunities for young children. Two waterfalls in five minutes! For an extra landscape to explore, Karekare Beach is only a 10 minute walk from the carpark and has vast views of West Coast black sand and some great body surfing waves.
Getting there: The main car park is a 45-50 minute drive (38km) from Auckland CBD located on Karekare Road, look out for the signpost on the right.To reach the waterfall you exit the car park on foot, turn right and follow the road (carefully!) up a small hill until you see a wooden sign pointing left to the falls.
Facilities: Dogs are allowed on the beach but not on the waterfall track. The carpark is fairly large (but you’ll need to beat surfers to the parking spots during peak times) and has public toilets.
4.Hunua Falls - 30m
Hunua Falls is a fast-moving 30 metre (98ft) horsetail waterfall in the Hunua Ranges that is perfect for a scenic picnic, swim or short bushwalk. The booming waterfall is a sight to see and the park itself is well set up for an afternoon of fun in the native bush. You can make it from the carpark to the waterfall in 2 minutes! Small grass patches overlooking the waterfall have plenty of space for a picnic and the short walk makes it easier to carry the picnic supplies to your blanket! The shorter path leads you to the right-most side of the waterfall and a 15 minutes walk along the Hunua Falls Lookout track leads you to the other side for a different view and more grass. If you’re keen for a longer walk you can check out the Falls Upper Lookout along a 30 minute loop track.
Getting there: Make your way to the end of Falls Road, Hunua, a 45min-60min drive (50km) from Auckland CBD. The road leads directly to the carpark.
Facilities: The large car park has plenty of space for this popular waterfall and also has a well maintained toilet block. The automatic gate to the car park is open from 6am-9pm from October to March and 6am-7pm all other months for vehicle access.There is a self-cleaning station for your shoes that all walkers must use when entering and leaving the tracks to prevent the spread of Kauri Dieback (Learn more here). Dogs are not allowed.
5.Henry's Reserve Waterfall - 15m
Also known as Whangamaire Stream Waterfall, this hidden gem is a widespread waterfall placed in the middle of quiet farmland with extremely enchanting vibes emanating from the mossy green rocks and tall trees. It is a 10-15 minute walk to the lookout platform. Rather than one long drop, this cascade waterfall has a fast moving upper section that fans out into a wide network of small streams and pools navigating many rocks which is all included in it’s overall measurement of 15 metres (49ft). While not a high waterfall in the traditional sense, it’s a great landscape that’s bathed in green on a sunny day. While the pools aren’t really deep enough for a good summer swim, this underrated waterfall is worth a look from the upper platform or to explore around the many rocks. This waterfall isn’t particularly well known considering its size (most impressive after rainfall) making it great for a quiet picnic or short afternoon walk.
Getting there: The drive is around 40-50 minutes from Auckland City (52km) and there is parking available next to the reserve’s entrance on Hunter Road, Patumahoe. Look out for a blue information sign on the left soon after turning onto Hunter Road. There is a fence leading through farmland but I’d advise heading down the track that heads straight into the bush directly to the left of the ‘Henry's Scenic Reserve’ signpost.
Facilities: There are no public toilets at this reserve. The car park holds three cars and then you will need to park on the roadside. There is a small lookout structure to view the upper falls; this lookout and the surrounding areas can be very slippery when wet so take care. Dogs are not allowed in this reserve.
6.Mokoroa Falls - 11m
Mokoroa Falls are found at the end of a mild bush walk on Auckland’s West Coast. This waterfall is particularly stunning after heavy rainfall as it slows to a trickle in dry seasons which is good to be aware of before you walk the track to see it. When it’s at its best, this 11 metre Curtain waterfall couples up with the Houheria Stream Falls directly neighbouring to create a gorgeous landscape. The Mokoroa Falls Track begins on Horseman Road and is around one hour. Take care as it can be muddy in wet conditions. You’ll be able to view the waterfall from a lookout or take a few steep stairs (slippery!) from there to reach the very bottom and explore a little more. If you’re looking for a loop track that will keep you occupied for the whole day, detour onto the Goldie Bush Walkway (intersection is near the start of the Mokoroa Fall Track) that will take you on a 4-5 hour quiet hike through the bush.
Getting there: The carpark for this waterfall is at the end of Horseman Road, Waitakere, around 45 minutes drive (38km) from Auckland City. The Mokoroa Falls Track begins from this carpark.
Facilities: There are no facilities at the carpark. Dogs are not allowed.
Enjoy heading out to find the highest waterfalls around! If you're looking for resources to discover other tracks and hikes, check out my other blog; "How to Find and Plan your NZ Hikes: Links and Handy Hints."