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September 2013 Issue
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Top 3 waterfalls

Thunder Falls


The more rain the better when visiting these three walk-in waterfalls

New Zealand is blessed with an enormous range of beautiful and spectacular waterfalls, from massive outpourings containing the full capacity of some of the nation’s major rivers, to ribbons of water cascading hundreds of feet over bluffs to splatter over glacial boulders in the headwater tributaries.

We all have our favourites, some of which may only appear after heavy rain, while others seemingly produce a copious flow all year, be it dry or wet.

– Pat Barrett

Okere Falls, Rotorua

Okere Falls

Okere Falls

This powerful cascade is actually one of several located on the sinuous conduit of the Kaituna River which drains the full outflow of  Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti in the central North Island. For this reason, the river and falls are voluminous and furthermore are constricted by the deep cleft through which the river passes.

The falls are the highest commercially rafted water fall (7m) in the world, so it’s no doubt that you will see numerous excited groups of rafters and kayakers here when you take the superb scenic track that is cut into the cliff edge high above the river.

Maori used to shelter their maidens and children in the caves hidden in the cliffs below the falls and some of these are still accessible. The river, falls, history, and beautiful native forest are a must-do if you are in the region

 Twin Fall Stream falls

Twin Fall Stream falls

Twin Fall Stream falls, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Perhaps these falls should be named the ‘hidden’ falls as they are tucked into a deep cleft in the lower face of Walker Pass in the upper Hawdon Valley and can only be viewed fleetingly by those ascending the steep, rough trail to the pass. Getting a full view requires a time-consuming diversion off the track, down through some gullies to reach the river bed.

The two falls are a short distance apart and while the more southern one can be viewed from atop a rocky ridge, the northern, and more beautiful falls, require some scrambling to reach. The setting of this cataract is unmatched and some hours could be spent here photographing the intimate stream-bush interface along with the falls themselves – a great side trip from the nearby Hawdon Hut.

Thunder Creek Falls, Haast Pass

Travellers along the Haast Pass Highway will be no strangers to spectacular scenery. One such incredible view is Thunder Creek Falls, which cascade out of the hanging basin of Thunder Creek directly into the Wills River. If the rivers are running high, the spectacle is even more impressive as the catchments in this area typically carry large volumes of water.

A short roadside trail leads through rainforest to a platform above the riverbed where a generous ‘window’ allows viewing through the canopy. This is a popular stopping point so, if the river is low, you can easily scramble down over the riverbank to reach the rocky bed of the river and approach the falls for a different view and photographic angle.

The falls are a legacy of the glacial period when the valleys were filled with ice.