Whangārei Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in Whangarei city in New Zealand’s North Island. The stunning waterfall plunges 26 meters down over basalt cliffs into a natural pool that connects with the Hatea river. A visit to Whangarei Falls is easy with the 1 kilometre return loop track which brings you along several viewing points. There are some steps involved to get to the bottom of the falls, but this is absolutely worth doing. There is a nice picnic area at the bottom of the falls, and you can even extend the walk to AH Reed Memorial Park. This is a remnant of an original Kauri forest with 500 year old Kauri trees which are huge!
Read in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Whangarei Falls and some interesting history and background information.
How to get to Whangarei Falls
The Whangarei Falls are located along the Boundary Road and are about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the city center of Whangarei located. There is a spacious car park with public toilets near the trailhead of the waterfall. You don’t have to wear hiking boots as the path is very well maintained with gravel and a wooden boardwalk. The Whangarei Falls walk only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to get to the bottom, so it’s some of the easier walks to do.
Another option is to combine the waterfall with the Hatea River walk and AH Reed Memorial park walk. More about this later in this blog post.
History of the Whangarei Falls
The Whangarei Falls holds cultural significance for the local Maori people and has been an important site for them for many generations. The Maori name for the falls is “Te Wai Tiketike o Waiangā,” which translates to “the cascading waters of Waiangā.”
According to Maori legend, the falls were created by a taniwha (a mythical water creature) named Tutavake. The story goes that Tutavake was traveling up the Hatea River when he encountered a beautiful Maori woman named Kairewa. Tutavake fell in love with Kairewa and pursued her up the river, creating a series of waterfalls as he went. Whangarei Falls is said to be the final waterfall created by Tutavake before he caught up with Kairewa.
In addition to its legendary origins, Whangarei Falls was also an important resource for the Maori people. They used the water from the falls for drinking, cooking, and bathing, and the surrounding bush provided food and medicinal plants.
Nowadays, Whangarei Falls is a popular tourist attraction, and its cultural and historical significance is recognized by the local Maori people and wider community. The falls and surrounding area have been protected by the Whangarei District Council, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the natural beauty of this iconic New Zealand landmark.
Best time to visit Whangarei Falls
If you’re just visiting the waterfall for fun, any time of the day is great. There is plenty of natural shade for a sunny day, but with heavy rain you might want to wait with walking as there is no shelter at the bottom of the falls.
For photography we do have some specific tips though, as the sun is disappearing behind the waterfall, creating a lot of dark shadows if you go later in the day. Therefore we’d advice to visit the Whangarei falls in the morning. After sunrise would be even the best as you will have nice light from the side which can reflect on the spray.
Another tip for waterfall photography is to go on a cloudy day to get even light. This will also avoid blown out whites from the waterfall or harsh shadows.
What to expect at Whangarei Falls
After parking your car, the first thing you should do is checking out the upper viewpoint which gives an impressive perspective of the Whangarei Falls from above.
After this, you can find the trailhead to the waterfall at the wooden boardwalk which you have to cross to get to the other side of the river. This is at the top of Whangarei Falls, so you can already hear the water roaring! There is another viewpoint on the waterfall after you’ve crossed the boardwalk which gives a better view from the front.
The path then follows through the park until you get to the stairs that lead you down into the forest to the base of the waterfall.
It’s just a short walk down to the river where you can cross a bridge to the large area at the base of the waterfall. Here you can relax at the picnic table and walk around to enjoy the Whangarei Falls from different perspectives.
Whangarei Falls walk to AH Reed Memorial Park
If the Whangarei Falls walk is too short for your taste, you can add the walk to, or from AH Reed Memorial Park. This walk takes you through the stunning forest with big Kauri trees and along the Hawea River. This will add another 2.1 km (one way) to the short Whangarei Falls walk from the car park of the falls. It will take you about 1,5 – 2 hours to complete this walk including exploring the Kauri forest with canopy walk.
Can you swim at Whangarei Falls?
It is possible to swim in the natural pool of Whangarei Falls. However, there have been a number of deaths at the 26m-high waterfall. Young adults and teenagers have drowned in the pool which can have an underwater current due to the powerful falls. So if you decide to take a refreshing dip, make sure to not go too close to the falls and know your own ability.
How high is Whangarei Falls?
Whangarei Falls is 26.3 meters high.
What is the biggest waterfall in Northland?
Taheke Falls is the highest and biggest waterfall in Northland with 46 meters. The highest waterfall of the North Island of New Zealand is the Wairere Falls with 153 meters (502 feet) height.
Where to stay in Whangarei
Whangarei is the northernmost city of New Zealand and serves as the commercial hub of Northland. Known for its stunning natural beauty with many parks, gardens, and beaches located in and around the city, you can easily enjoy the natural attractions of Whangarei for a few days. It is also a popular destination for foodies with many excellent restaurants, cafes, and bars located throughout the city. Find here some of the best places to stay in Whangarei.
Just a bit outside of the city centre of Whangarei is Harbour View located with stunning sea views. The fully equipped 2 bedroom apartment has everything you need for a great getaway in Whangarei. You can prepare your own meals, sit outside on the patio with stunning views or inside the cosy living room, BBQ and even have your own washing machine. Continental breakfast is available for guests as well.
Always wanted to stay in a stunning NZ country home? This is your chance! The stunning property has several different rooms either with a private or shared bathroom. Some units feature a seating area and or a balcony with an outdoor dining area. For those times when you’d rather not dine out, you can choose to cook on the barbecue or in the shared kitchen.
The self-contained apartments with a kitchen or kitchenette at Quest Whangarei are conveniently located in the centre of Whangarei. All apartments with private bathrooms offer city views and feature a dining area, a desk and a flat-screen TV. There are king studio’s, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments available.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a roadtrip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will you give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you with nature.We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Stationwagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 road side assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream roadtrip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Whangarei Falls on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome waterfall on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!