The Gravel Road That Leads To Tarawera Falls
I drive an early 2000 Toyota Avensis, which isn't the best kind of car to drive on a gravel road. There were potholes that made me wonder if I would have a front bumper by the end of it, and that is definitely something to consider when you go to visit the falls.
The adventure begins
Before you head out to the falls, make sure to get your forest road permit from the Kawerau i-Site. It’s $5 per car, and the guy gave me a week long pass (at no extra cost) in case I wanted to go back the following weekend. With the scorcher of a summer we’re having at the moment, it’s a beautiful place to cool off! There are instructions on the permit, and there are signs along the way.
One point I do have to emphasise is that it can feel like you’re driving forever to the middle of nowhere before you get to the Campground and Falls junction that they’ve included in the instructions. I was driving pretty slow (as I’ve mentioned before that my front bumper is pretty low), so don’t be surprised if it takes 20-30 minutes, and not the 15 minutes on the instructions. From there, you probably have another 15 minutes of driving until you get to the falls car park.
From the campground to the falls
There’s a track that connects the campground to the falls, and we had taken two cars so that we can just walk one way then drive back to the campground for a swim. Unfortunately, about an hour and a half into the two hour walk, I realised I left my keys in the car that was back at the campground...so we didn’t quite finish the walk.
At the campground, drive down down the hill from the office and you will see camping spots to your right (there are a couple of toilets). If you get to the boat launch area, you’ve gone too far. There are parks right where you start the walk. You’ll see a walk bridge over the river (usually a lot of swimmers too), walk over that and then turn left.
The track follows the river and it was rare not to hear the water throughout the walk.
Interesting change of terrain
It’s an easy walk, with clearly marked tracks. There were plenty of swimmers along the way, often walking in jandals, as well as runners. We stopped a few times to take photos and to check out potential swimming spots.
As we reached the highest point of the walk, I was surprised by the sudden change of terrain and vegetation. The vegetation were similar to what I’ve seen in other nearby geothermal hot spots I’ve been to, like Hell’s Gate in Rotorua and Craters of the Moon in Taupo. There wasn’t much shelter here, so we were glad to escape the midday sun as the path began to descend back into the native bush.
We came across a steaming waterfall right before I realised my keys were back at the campground. The water was warm and the force was truly captivating!
Take your time
There are plenty of places along the way where you can have a picnic, so if you can, make a day of it! Just pack a picnic blanket if you can. We packed a few snacks, water, and stopped when we felt like it. I found this nice little spot right by the water.
Driving home always feels faster doesn’t it? It seemed like I got home in record time, but really, I was just enjoying the drive. I know there are bigger waterfalls in New Zealand, but this one is just in my backyard, so if you’re ever in my hood, add this to your must-see places!