Hunting for South Auckland Waterfalls

Douglas Paul
Jul 1, 2022

A question for Aucklanders: how many waterfalls are there in South Auckland? Until relatively recently I thought there were two – the Hunua Falls and an unnamed waterfall you can see as you drive along the Hunua Road through the Gorge. But there are actually several – there are also the falls near Hays Creek Road, including the one in Hunua Gorge, one near Drury just off Ararimu Road, then three near Pukekohe. You can easily pick them off in a day, or add one as a stopping point on a trip through the region.

I have also included the Vivian Falls (also Maoa’s Waterfall). Although this is in the Waikato rather than Auckland, it is not too far from Pukekohe. Unlike the other falls with very short to short walks, you can also add a one hour bush walk to the visit.

If you are still interested after all these, there is yet another waterfall near Pokeno!

Also, thanks to who have made it their mission to describe every waterfall in NZ.

Hunua Gorge and Hays Creek Road

As you drive through Hunua Gorge on Hunua Road, heading towards Hunua, keep an eye out for the unnamed waterfall in the gorge. You should see it just before Hays Creek Road. There is enough room on the road verge to stop about 50 metres after seeing the waterfall. There is a short informal track that will take you to the top of the falls. There is no easy way down however, and you will need to walk back down the road to get a face-on shot.

Shortly after this waterfall, turn on to Hays Creek Road and park near the gated entrance to the road. This is an entrance to the Hays Creek Watercare dam and you are allowed to walk to it. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the dam, with the road following Hays Creek. You can then also follow a fork in the road for another 10 minutes up to an overflow stream, an oddball mixture of concrete barriers and an established steep stream bed. There is a small waterfall at the bottom of the overflow.

There is plenty of grassed area as well to settle down for what will be a very private picnic!

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Waitangi Falls

Waitangi Falls is an exceedingly popular waterfall to the south of the Glenbrook Steel Mill, west of Pukekohe. It is on the edge of the wide and long Waiuku River mouth that feeds into the southern end of the Manukau Harbour.

The pool at the bottom is big enough to soak in and deep enough to encourage kids to jump from the front of the waterfall. It is pretty easy to climb up the side and then leap into the waterfall and clearly the warning sign has no effect.

To get there, drive along Glenbrook Road to Waitangi Falls Road, then park near the end. There is a grassed area above the falls and you can scramble down to the top. There is also a short path that will take you to the bottom, where there are more options for a picnic. The area is surrounded by farms but quite a large area around the falls has been planted in flowering natives, pretty in spring and early summer. Because it is popular, avoid weekends and holidays if you can.

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Wrights Water Gardens

The Wrights Water Gardens are just off Mauku Road, on the outskirts of Patumahoe. It’s only about 10 minutes drive northeast from Waitangi Falls, or a few minutes west of Pukekoe, depending on the direction you’re coming from.

The gardens are accessed through a cafe, with a modest entry fee. They are much more extensive than they appear to be at first glance and you could easily spend an hour wandering around the various trails. Start along the cliff at the top to walk to the stream above the falls, then head down into the gully to the lily ponds below the falls. From the base of the falls, follow the stream, then wind your way back up to more formal gardens and lily ponds that look back to the falls.

Although the gardens could generally do with some investment, the waterfall is beautiful and the lily ponds are fabulous, with a wide range of types and colours. There are a number of other (sometimes quirky) surprises around the trails as well.

Then you can finish off with a coffee and snack at the cafe.

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Henry’s Scenic Reserve, Part 1

Henry’s Scenic Reserve is on the east side of Patumahoe on Hunter Road and just a few minutes drive from Wrights Water Gardens. There is a parking area just before a short bridge, with a signpost for Te Ara O Whangamarie, a walk across farmland back towards Patumahoe. Cross the bridge and you will see the entrance to Henry’s Scenic Reserve.

As much as we try to avoid comments like “best” to describe a place, this short loop walk to a waterfall and stream that tumbles down through a remnant section of forest, strewn with moss-grown boulders and gold and brown leaf fall, is quite magical.

You can do the track as a loop. Head right towards the bottom of the reserve and the stream. Then walk back up the stream to the viewpoint that overlooks the tumbling series of falls and forest enclosed boulders. From there you can scramble your way to the main part of the falls, or walk upslope back to the trail to complete the loop. This first set of photos covers this section of the walk and the upper section of the stream and waterfall.

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Henry’s Scenic Reserve, Part 2

Once you reach the viewpoint on the Henry’s Scenic Reserve loop track, you will have a clear view of the main section of the waterfall. But from there, you can also cross the stream with some rock hopping, then scramble up the rock to the top of the waterfall. There are various viewpoints over the tumbling falls along the way.

At the very top, you can get over the stream to the other side, then scramble back up to the path, rather than heading back down the rock fall to cross back over. But you may need to get wet to do this!

The combination of gnarled trees, rocks and tumbling falls add to the magic of this small reserve. It is easy to spend an hour or so there, for what is just a 20 minute walk.

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Maketu Falls

Access to Maketu Falls can be found on the corner of Ararimu Road and Pratt Road, just to the east of Drury and the Auckland Southern Motorway. This is roughly halfway between the three waterfalls near Pukekohe and the Hunua and Wairoa Falls in the Hunua Ranges.

It is a short but pretty walk from above the small historic cemetery through some attractive remnant native forest to the falls. There is quite a large pool at the bottom of the falls, although the falls themselves are more modest than others in this blog, and not that visible until you walk around the pool a bit. You can also hike to the top of the falls and the interesting rock strewn Maketu Steam above.

The falls are popular with locals so it may be better to visit outside of weekends if you can.

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Vivian Falls Te Wai Heke O Maoa

Vivian Falls Te Wai Heke O Maoa is one of the loveliest as well as one of the historically more interesting falls in the region. The falls are about 12 metres high and are broken into several tumblings streams about halfway down by a large mass of rocks.

They are also a little trickier to get to than the others featured in this blog. Head southeast from Pukekohe to Tuakau, then across the Waikato River on the Tuakau Bridge. Follow Tuakau Bridge Road to Onewhero, then onto Kaipo Flats Road, then Miller Road till you reach a gate. Park by the gate then walk a few metres past it to the short track to the falls.

Shortly after entering the track, there is an interesting sign with the story of Maoa, who freed the people of the Waikato from a particularly tyrannical ruler in the 1700s. The Te Reo name for the falls reflects that history, but it did not include where the more prosaic but pretty name Vivian arose from. Continue down a short set of steep steps to the base of the falls.

After the falls, you can continue to follow the road through a farm into the native-forest-clad Harker Reserve, gifted by the Harker family for public access in the early 1980s. It terminates on Tuakau Bridge Rd and takes about an hour each way.

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Check out our Highlights of Auckland, Northeast Auckland Part 1, and Kaimai Range blogs.

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