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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Kakahi Falls, New Zealand

Kakahi Falls may not be one of those waterfalls that you go out of your way to see just for a waterfall. It’s honestly more of a bonus to an already cool experience. Kakahi Falls is found in Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park near Rotorua. Rotorua is widely known for it’s geothermal activity, including geysers (which I regret that I didn’t see). It’s very similar to Yellowstone National Park and to some of the features in Iceland.

It’s rather easy to get to Kakahi Falls since it’s along the main walking route in the park. To get to many of the other features such as the mud baths, you will pass by the falls. It may not look like the best picture below, but that’s because the water is steaming! The water flowing over Kakahi Falls has not long before been heated underground. I’m not sure how much more water will be flowing over the falls even on a rainy day as evidence by the way the rocks have been carved by the water.

Directions:

  1. From Rotorua, head northeast on highway 30.
  2. At the junction of highways 30 and 33, continue on 30.
  3. The entrance to your park will be on the left of the road after just a few miles/kilometers.
  4. Park and pay the entrance fee to the park. (As of 2018, it’s NZ$35.)
  5. Start your journey. You’ll find the falls along the designated loop. I believe there was a sign.

There are a few other waterfalls just north off of highway 30: Tutea Falls and Trout Pond Falls. I didn’t visit them, and I don’t know why. (It gives me an excuse to go back.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~15′ (one site online says 40’…if this is true, there’s much more to these falls than I can see)
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip (just to the falls)

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Kakahi Falls in May 2011

Where in the World is Kakahi Falls?

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?

Karekare Falls, New Zealand

Karekare Falls in May 2011

As I started thinking back to my New Zealand three years ago, I was trying to remember anything particular special about Karekare Fals. I suddenly remember that I almost gave up on actually visiting Karekare Falls. The drive heading toward the falls is just a tiny bit crazy.  Much of it barely more than the width of a single car, so I was constantly paying attention for any cars headed uphill. I made it to the area where Karekare Falls is, and was able to see the falls from afar (which isn’t really that distant from the road).

Trying to find parking, though, was a feat in and of itself. The whole area was extremely popular (and the falls weren’t necessarily the source of all of the popularity), and it was extremely difficult to find anywhere to get out. I couldn’t even find a place to turn around, and ended up continuing along the road for a way, which started narrowing and climbing uphill. I somehow found a place to turn around (which wasn’t easy), and I believe I ended up parking on the side of the road…

From wherever I parked, it wasn’t difficult to get to the falls. I don’t remember how far it was, but it was a short hike. And it’s pretty easy to see the falls. The falls are very nice at about 100′ tall or so. The falls may continue further upstream (and out of view from the base), and may approach 250′ or so. (Don’t quote me on that.) Along my trek, I also found a smaller waterfall slightly further downstream.

Directions:

  1. Figure out how to get onto Piha Road (which would head to Piha, an amazingly beautiful place).
  2. When on Piha Road, turn onto Karekare Road. It’s about 3 km (2 miles) to the “parking” area for the falls.
  3. From here, you should be able to see the falls (some portion of it). Head toward there, following whatever trail leads to the base.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Distance of Hike: 0.35 miles round-trip
Height: 82′ (for lowest drop)

A waterfall downstream from Karekare Falls

Where in the World is Karekare Falls?

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?

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

Bridal Veil Falls in May 2011

The North Island of New Zealand has a number of really great waterfalls. Wairere Falls and Marokopa Falls are impressive, and Bridal Veil Falls is another to add to the list.

At 180′ tall, Bridal Veil Falls has many things going for it. In addition to its height, it’s also surrounded by lush greenery. You also have a number of different options for viewing the falls. There’s not really a great view at the base, but as you start walking down the trail (which I think has stairs), you’ll start getting a better view. The picture here is from a third to half way down the trail. You’ll also get a great view from the base, and a bridge leads over the river. The waterfall was relatively powerful, so you’ll experience a lot of spray at the base.

Directions:

  1. From NZ-39 at Whatawhata, head west along NZ-23 for just over 26 kilometers.
  2. Turn left onto Te Mata Road and drive for about 7 km.
  3. Take a left turn to continue on Te Mata Road for 2.5 km more.
  4. Take a slight left onto Kawhia Road and drive for 3.5 km. You’ll see a sign for Bridal Veil Falls and a parking area.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, some stairs)
Height: 180′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Bridal Veil Falls?

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?