Four Stunning Waterfalls: Auckland to KeriKeri, New Zealand

Driving north from Auckland, it took only minor detours to see incredible waterfalls. It didn’t take long to remind us that New Zealand landscape is some of the most vibrant and dramatic in the world. It’s not just the South Island that one must visit for the natural beauty one expects to see in New Zealand. We took our time as we headed to the top of the North Island.

Today, I am sharing photos of four spectacular waterfalls we saw within 150 kilometres of each other. The first two on the page were new for me, the other two I had seen before.

Whangarei Falls

Located in the Whangarei Scenic Reserve on the Hatea River, Whangarei Falls can practically be viewed from the carpark. Falling 26 metres, the glistening water leads to a popular local’s swimming hole. The 30-minute loop walking track around the falls has two bridges and takes you down to the base for a different view of this cascading curtain fall. It was the river gently flowing away that caught my eye.

Whangarei Falls in Whangarei New Zealand

Whangarei Falls

At the base of Whangarei Falls in Whangarei New Zealand

Standing in awe of the river colors, I am on the lower bridge with my back to Whangarei Falls.

Piroa Falls

To find this hidden gem located north of the Brynderwyns, we drove 7km on the unpaved Waipu Road. From the trailhead marker we followed a 10-minute, mostly downhill walk through lush native forest. I could hear the water cascading over the 20m cliff before we saw it. Located on the Ahuroa River, Piroa Falls turned out to be my favorite of the day. We were surprised to find a concrete table nearby, and wondered how it got there.Piroa Falls are a 20 minute drive from Waipu Cave, but we didn’t know about it when we hiked there last year.

Piora Falls north of the Brynderwyns. One of the waterfalls on the North Island of New Zealand

Piora Falls

Haruru Falls

This may the shortest of the waterfalls, but its roaring waters can be heard from quite a distance. Located on the Waitangi River, the base of the falls is the waters that my niece jumped into two years ago. It’s easy to find, just past Pahia on SH11 You can hike from here to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, or head the other way to the Bay of Islands.

Haruru Falls near the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands New Zealand

Haruru Falls

Rainbow Falls

Located just 20 minutes north of Haruru Falls (following the Twin Coast Discovery route towards Kerikeri), I am not sure why so many tourists skip the 27m drop of Rainbow Falls. It is the tallest of the four waterfalls we saw. I observed it from the lookout, but didn’t make it to the base. I was intimidated by a bee hive and the huge number of bees circling in the tree, and I had been to Rainbow Falls before. Fortunately no one else in our group was bothered by the bees, and Sarah had her camera too.

Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri, Northlands, New Zealand photo by Sarah Albom

Rainbow Falls
Photo Credit: Sarah Albom

Our group included the family and a friend:

Waterfall seekers

Waterfall seekers

Map of the four waterfalls on this page:

waterfalls map northland New Zealand

Practical Information: 

  • There are facilities at Whangarei Falls, but not at any of the other waterfalls listed here.
  • Bring insect repellent, sun screen, and a light jacket. The weather is quick to change, and it is often cooler in the forest, a nice treat in the summer.
  • Bring togs and towels if you might want to swim at some of these locations.
  • If you are traveling to the top of the North Island and returning on the same route, you may want to split your visit, seeing two waterfalls on the way up, and the other two on the way back (this is actually what we did).

***This is a smaller portion of a 4-5 day itinerary around the top of the North Island.***

Have you seen any of these Northland waterfalls? Do you have a favorite?

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Where to find stunning waterfalls on the North Island of New Zealand

This post also linked at:
Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.30.17 pmThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Wanderlust at Justin plus Lauren, Photo Friday at Pierced Wanderings Sunday’s in My City at the Unknown Mami, and Travel Photo Mondays at Travel Photo Discoveries.

White Silica Sand of Rarawa Beach in Northland, New Zealand
Ninety-Mile Beach at Sunset - Northland, New Zealand


  1. says

    Been to three of these falls, need to head to Piroa Falls now 🙂 We loved Rainbow Falls as it was the first waterfall we experienced in New Zealand. Swam here during our first holiday in the Bay of Islands, shortly after we arrived to NZ last April…seems so long ago now! Headed to Northlands again in 3 weeks, really looking forward to it

    • says

      Piroa Falls is really lovely, and there is a huge concrete picnic table there, so with a bit of planning, it would be a great spot for lunch. The hike down is easy, there are steps at the beginning. Bring insect repellent. Hopefully we will get a chance to meet up, for a coffee or a walk, while you are here.

    • says

      LOL – That’s how we feel about a lot of places, as airfare to get home to New Zealand is usually one of the largest travel costs. (That’s why we go for so long when we leave.)

  2. says

    They’re beautiful. That third shot is stunning.

    There was a tiny waterfall deep in the woods near my grandparent’s cabin. It fed into the main river and my cousin and I liked to hike up to it and just bask in the peacefulness.

  3. says

    These are beautiful and indeed stunning. We love visiting waterfalls. We’ve only been to Auckland and a day trip to the glow worm caves years ago. We’d love to return to visit some of these and explore more of North and South Island. Beautiful photos! Happy New Year!

  4. says

    They are so pretty! Breathtaking really! In Nebraska there’s only a few waterfalls, they are like 7 hours away, and they are small. We need bigger ones!

  5. says

    Hi Rhonda – I loved particularly the third shot – it looks so tranquil. New Zealand looks stunning – one day I shall get there! Gorgeous … cheers Hilary

  6. says

    Whangarei Falls remind me a lot about a waterfall I struggled to photograph in Kauai, but the light was not in my favor that day. The ones you photographed here look breathtakingly beautiful.

    • says

      If your friend is headed up to the top of the North Islands, I have a few more tips and recommendations coming in my next few posts. If she is there now, tell her to email me.

  7. says

    Whangarei was our first stop when we arrived to NZ. We were quite tired by the time we got there (after flying for 23 hours), but we enjoyed the walk around the falls and slept like a log in our campervan 🙂

    • says

      I have been here over 12 years, and it was the first time I had seen this waterfall. Funny that it was your first stop. When we first arrived, we stayed in Auckland the first night.

    • says

      There is a waterfall within a 30 minute walk from my house. Nothing like these, but still a waterfall and bush. I will take you there when you come to New Zealand to make us Paella.

  8. says

    Hi Rhonda, Awesome post. I stayed away from waterfalls for a long time because being around them with my little kids made me nervous. They’re teens now, and my goal this year is to learn how to photograph running water. We’ve got a few special waterfalls in Vermont, but nothing as amazing as these. They’re so dramatic!

  9. says

    I hope that you and your family had a Happy New Year and are ready to give us some exciting & beautiful photos in the year 2016. I love looking at waterfalls. The only really waterfalls that I’ve seen was Niagara Falls in Niagara, Ontario, Canada. Very beautiful but very powerful.

    Have a great day Rhonda. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

  10. says

    I love waterfalls, and these pics are gorgeous! I once stayed at a relative’s house and they had a creek with a small waterfall in their back yard. There’s nothing so lovely as falling asleep to the sound of water (waterfalls, babbling creeks, sea waves). 🙂

  11. says

    They are all pretty stunning! I have been to Haruru Falls near the Bay of Islands but I think it would be a toss up between the Whangarei or Piroa Falls. They are both amazing! Also the falls at Huka Falls near Lake Taupo are worth mentioning.

  12. says

    Those waterfalls are beautiful, Rhonda. We used to live in North Carolina and I never tired of seeing the ones that were near our home. My favorite photo of the four you wrote about is Rainbow Falls. Is swimming permitted at all of them?

  13. says

    Nice photos, I don’t know what it is waterfalls even though they can be noisy I always fine them peaceful

    I liked the photo of you together 🙂

    Have a waterytastic day Rhonda 🙂

  14. says

    Love this post and love waterfalls. That is one thing we do not have in Southern California (I mean, there are some but they do not compare to show here). I would be happy to do this drive. I am amazed of all the places that can be visited near Auckland.

  15. says

    That first photo is my favorite. It’s thumbnail on the link up really drew me in. I like that you can both enjoy it from the carpark but that the hike itself isn’t too long if you want to get closer. Does this make me lazy? Anyways, I am scared of bees, too.

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