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5 best waterfalls in New Zealand

5 best waterfalls in New Zealand

New Zealand is famous for its impressive natural beauty, and the many stunning waterfalls that you can find here definitely add to this beauty. There are over 250 officially named waterfalls, and depending on the season and the amount of rainfall, the total number of waterfalls in the country rises to over 1500. We’re not gonna tell you to visit all of them, that would be absolute madness. Instead, we’ve made the countdown to the best waterfalls in New Zealand for you to visit. And the best waterfall in New Zealand is:

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NZ best waterfalls - McLaren Waterfall Catlins New Zealand
NZ best waterfalls -  Omanawa falls secret waterfall

Best waterfall #5 - Wainui Falls



Why we love it:

Wainui Falls is the most easily accessible waterfall in the famous Abel Tasman National Park. From the top, water tumbles down into a deep rock pool 20 meters below. Like almost all waterfalls in New Zealand, the water is freezing cold, so unless it is summer or you really like ice-bucket challenges and such I wouldn’t jump in. If you do decide to jump in, there are some higher rocks surrounding the pool that are great for some daredevil jumps.

In itself, we wouldn’t rate this waterfall as one of our favorites, but the track to get to the waterfall makes all the difference. The Wainui Falls Track is a 3,4 km long round trip that swerves alongside the cascading Wainui River through the river gorge up to the waterfall. On the track, you pass a swing bridge and there are several points from where you can easily access the river.

Picture by Ray Salisbury at  Wildernessmag

Picture by Ray Salisbury at Wildernessmag

Best waterfall #4 - Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is about a 30 minute drive from Raglan and is called this way because (you guessed it) the shape in which the water falls down resembles that of a bridal veil. From the top the water goes over the edge with such force that it doesn’t just drop down, but literally gets launched forward before crashing into the pool 55 meters below.

From the carpark it is a leisurely 10 minute stroll through the woods to get to the top viewing platform right next to where the waterfall drops. If you’re not acrophobic you should definitely peek over the edge to soak up the view and watch the water plunge underneath you. Continue on the path down to get to a midway and bottom viewing point, which should also suit you better if you don’t particularly like heights. From here you have a spectacular overview of the whole waterfall.

The picture below was the first picture of a waterfall we took with our drone, and we immediately learned the effect of magnetic interference. Almost instantly after lift off I lost control of the drone and it started flying away. The connection restored only just before it would have flown into the waterfall. Luckily nothing bad happened, but from this moment on we’ve become very cautious with flying the drone near waterfalls and rock types that can cause magnetic interference.

Bridal Veil Falls Best Waterfalls Travel New Zealand

Best waterfall #3 - Marakopa falls

With its 35 meters height, Marakopa Falls isn’t one of the biggest waterfalls in New Zealand, but its height combined with its width definitely makes it one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country to look at. Massive loads of water tumble down the big rock wall and you can still feel the spray 100 meters away. If you time your visit right with the position of the sun, you might get rewarded with a display of rainbows at the bottom of the falls.

The viewing platform is a 10-minute walk from the car park, but we suggest to skip the fence at the platform and go all the way down to the big rocks at the foot of the waterfall for the best view (and photo opportunities). We didn’t go all the way down out of fear for getting the camera wet and we still regret not risking it.

Marakopa Falls Platform Best Waterfalls Travel New Zealand
Marakopa Falls Best Waterfalls Travel New Zealand

Best waterfall #2 - McLean falls

The Catlins often gets overlooked as a region, which we think is unjustified because there are so many awesome things to see there, including the stunning McLean Falls. Divided into a top part and a bottom part, the falls at the top part drop down 22 meters into a pool, to then further cascade down over multiple terraces and finally hurl down smaller falls at the bottom part.

From the carpark, it is about a 15-minute walk to an intersection in the path. Take the left lane to get to the bottom part, and take the right lane which goes up to the top part. Make sure to not miss the right lane, as the top part is by far the most impressive. Once you get to the top part, you can pretty easily climb up some rocks to get to the pool at the foot of the 22 meter high falls, and if you go to McLean Falls in the morning chances are pretty high that you have it all to yourself.

When you’re driving through The Catlins you should also check out Curio Bay. Curio Bay is where the best of The Catlins comes together, including the chance to swim with wild dolphins or to see the extremely rare Yellow-Eyed-Penguin!


new zealand must do - swim or sup with dolphins in curio bay

McLean Falls Bottom Best Waterfalls New Zealand

Best waterfall #1 - Omanawa Falls

Omanawa Falls lies nestled away at the bottom of a lush green valley in the woods about a 20-minute drive from Tauranga. When you approach the falls it looks like something carved a deep round hole in the middle of the forest, covered the rockfaces with lush greenery and put in a 35-meter high waterfall dropping over a natural cave as a finishing touch. This alone would make it the most beautiful waterfall in New Zealand if you ask us, but what we think makes it even better is the adventure of getting there.

The falls used to be part of a hydroelectric power station, and there was public access to a viewing point. The power station was shut down years ago, and access to the viewing point has also been closed for safety reasons. There is however still a way to reach this hidden gem, but it does come with some serious safety risks and people have been injured trying to reach the waterfall. Still interested? Then find out how to get to Omanawa Falls below.

Omanawa Falls Best Waterfalls Travel New Zealand

Start chasing waterfalls!

There are many more beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand, but these five are the ones we enjoyed the most and Omanawa Falls, with the adventure of getting there, absolutely takes the crown. By all means, explore as many waterfalls as you can, and make sure to include these five in the list of waterfalls you want to visit!


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