Fairy Falls, New Zealand

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Fairy Falls in May 2011

It ends up that there are two Fairy Falls in New Zealand: Fairy Falls on the North Island outside of Auckland, and a Fairy Falls on the South Island in Milford Sound. This is about the South Island version of Fairy Falls.

Milford Sound is one of my favorite places on the planet. There’s a stunning beauty to the location. And for a waterfall lover, there are no lack of waterfalls in the sound. Bridal Veil Falls is right next to Fairy Falls, and then you can find Bowen FallsStirling FallsPalisade Falls, and other Milford Sound Waterfalls in the sound itself. The best way to view all of the falls is to take a cruise (or kayak if that sounds exciting). I took a cruise later in the day, and it was perfect. In addition to waterfalls, I saw a significant amount of marine wildlife, including seals and dolphins/porpoises. It was definitely a wonderful visit, and I’m ready to go back again!

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound. (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 100′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?

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The Chasm, New Zealand

The Chasm sounds more daunting than it actually is, as if you’re looking into an abyss. Instead, what you get is an interesting hike in Fiordland National Park, with a few waterfalls added in.

The only issue is that there isn’t really a great way to get any shots of the waterfalls. The picture below can’t even remotely do the waterfall justice, as it is bigger than it appears…but it’s still not amazing. If this waterfall were isolated, I wouldn’t suggest going out of my way to see it. Luckily, other falls such as Christie Falls, are right nearby.

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94. You will drive most of the way to Milford Sound, 109 km from Te Anau.  (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. The Chasm trail is clearly signed along the road. The short hike then leads to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 25′ (?) – difficult to tell
Length of Hike: 0.25 miles round-trip

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The Chasm in May 2011

Where in the World in The Chasm?

Milford Sound Highway Waterfalls, New Zealand

A rather large waterfall along the Milford Sound Highway (May 2011)

I was trying to decide whether to write about these waterfalls, and I’ve decided that I will, if for no other reason to advertise the amazing place that is Milford Sound. Milford Sound has a number of amazing waterfalls including Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. It is also widely advertised that after the rains, hundreds of other ephemeral waterfalls pop up.

As you’re driving to Milford Sound along the Milford Sound Highway, you’ll likely see a number of other waterfalls, and these are two that I saw. I can’t say whether they were ephemeral. One of them seems to be rather larger than I would expect for an ephemeral waterfall, and it wasn’t really pouring that day. There were light sprinkles, a few flurries, and some bouts of mild but constant rain. Otherwise, the rain from a single day probably couldn’t explain the volume of these falls. (I could be wrong, though.)

I think I was able to view both of these falls from across the road while visiting The Chasm. The first waterfall was difficult to photograph from afar. The second was large enough that I was able to capture the falls with a zoom lens. I’m not sure of the height of the falls, but if these falls were more easily accessible, they would probably be very popular. (It’s not the park that causes the inaccessibility, it’s the steep cliffs!)

Directions: This one is pretty simple. Drive from Te Anau along NZ-94 to Milford Sound. I believe these were viewed from the trail and parking area for The Chasm. This is before you enter into the cruise parking area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: Hundreds of Feet
Length of Hike: not applicable

A harder-to-view (and photograph) waterfall along the Milford Sound Highway

Where in the World are the Milford Sound Highway Waterfalls?

Bowen Falls, New Zealand

Bowen Falls in May 2011

Milford Sound is one of my favorite places on the planet. There’s something wildly spectacular about seeing peaks rise 1 mile from the sea level. And the waterfalls that you’ll see are equally as spectacular.

Two of the falls in the sound are considered to be year-round, Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls (sometimes called Lady Bowen Falls). At 530′, Bowen Falls is breathtaking. You can get hints of the falls by exploring the trails west of the parking area, but your best views are by boat! It’s definitely worth every cent you spend. You will pass by Bowen Falls on your way out, and you’ll get an even better view coming back to the dock. During the cruise, you’ll likely see dolphins and seals. The sun may appear and disappear consistently throughout the two hours on the cruise. This can lead to a number of different photographic opportunities. (And you will want to dress warmly. In early May, it was chilly at times.)

From what I understand, there used to be a trail that led directly the base of the falls, but it has been closed for some time due to rock slides.

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound.  (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 528′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Where in the World in Bowen Falls?

Milford Sound Waterfalls, New Zealand

One of the waterfalls in Milford Sound (May 2011)

Up until this point, I haven’t listed these waterfalls on any list, and I’m not sure why. When you visit Milford Sound, which you should do sometime in your life, you should take a 2 hour cruise through the sound. You’ll see wildlife, stunning views, and a significant number of waterfalls. Many of them show up only after it rains, while others are more consistent. You can check out the ones that have been clearly named, such as Bowen, Bridal Veil, Fairy, Palisade, and Stirling Falls. And yet, there are a number of other waterfalls that seem to last longer that haven’t been named, or if they have been named, there names haven’t been advertised very well.

So I’ve decided to include them, since they are in such a beautiful place, and are equally as scenic as some of the named falls. There’s not a whole lot of description required. I’m a really bad judge of height, but each of these is in the hundreds of feet tall! If you take the cruise, you’ll see eight or nine falls during sunny periods, and I’ve heard it increases even more so while raining. It’s a reason to take a cruise while raining!

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound.  (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~100-200′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Another ephemeral waterfall

Another one!

Where in the World are the Waterfalls of Milford Sound?

Christie Falls, New Zealand

Christie Falls in May 2011

Fiordland National Park is probably one of my favorite places on the planet. There is something stunningly beautiful about the region! I honestly cannot wait to go back and visit New Zealand sometime, and I recommend that anyone that visits go to see at least part of Fiordland.

Milford Sound is not to be missed, and about 17 miles outside of Milford Sound is this impressive waterfall, Christie Falls. Because there are so many other impressive and tall waterfalls in the area, this sometimes gets left behind, but it shouldn’t be. It’s extremely scenic, and adds a little bit of variety to the waterfalls you’ll likely see along the way. Humboldt Falls, for example, is much taller, but is also thinner (or maybe it just seems like it from afar!). Christie Falls has its own unique character. It’s also pretty easy to visit, found directly off of NZ-94. You’ll already be on the road to Milford Sound, so why not stop?! And if you miss it on the way there, you should be able to see it on the return.

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94. You will drive most of the way to Milford Sound, but about 17 miles (28 km) outside of Milford Sound, you will find Christie Falls.  (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. There is a vehicle pullout near the falls, and you can then get a better view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World in Christie Falls?

Palisade Falls, New Zealand

Palisade Falls in May 2011

I have to admit, Milford Sound is probably one of my favorite places on the planet. The combination of the amazing peaks thousands of feet above sea level and the multitude of waterfalls, not to mention the wildlife, all make for a really wonderful experience. I’m not really sure that I wanted it to end, though it was just a teensy bit chilly.

The two hour (or so) cruise around Milford Sound is definitely worth it. We saw dolphins and seals, went under waterfalls (Stirling Falls), and had a jolly good time. Palisade Falls is one of those waterfalls that is hard to miss, though nobody on the cruise specifically mentions it, as far as I can remember. It might be on the guided sheet.  One website seems to indicate a height of at least 180′ (55 m), though it also suggests another 25 m portion, for a total of 260′. I guess that seems like an appropriate height. It seemed pretty tall, to say the least. And while many of the waterfalls disappear quickly after the rain, this seems to be one of the more constant waterfalls in the Sound.

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound. (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 262′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Another view of Palisade Falls, making it seem even taller than 260′ (80 m)

Where in the World in Palisade Falls?