Highest on the North Island
Wairere Falls

If you’re driving along Highway 27 just north of Matamata on a clear day (possibly having just seen some Hobbits) it’s near impossible to miss the splendour that is Wairere Falls. At 153 metres, this two step waterfall is the highest in the North Island and definitely worth the short detour to see up close as it tumbles over the Kaimai escarpment. How close depends on how much time you have and whether or not you enjoy stairs, and lots of them.

From the carpark near the base of the waterfall it’s about a 45 minute walk to the lower falls lookout. A well formed and well maintained track winds its way up towards the falls through picturesque native forest, crossing the Wairere Stream several times via wooden bridges. There are a few tricky sections along the way where you need to watch your footing as you walk over wet and slippery moss covered boulders, but for the most part, we’d say it’s an easy walk. That is until you meet ‘the staircase’. For thereon, it’s a bit of a slow and sweaty slog up to the lower viewing platform but you’ll be rewarded with an excellent view of the falls.

Wairere Falls lookout

For many visitors who’ve managed to haul themselves this far, this is the end of the road and after taking a few photos they head back down to the carpark. But if you’re feeling more adventurous and don’t mind another fairly tough, muddy and slippery uphill slog for another 45 minutes then you should definitely head to the top of the falls.

The view from the upper falls lookout is really something special as you look out over the patchwork that is Waikato. As an added bonus, depending on the wind, you may even be treated to a free shower. That’s certainly what we experienced on the day that we visited as the wind was gusting from the west, turning the falls into horizontal rain. So, as you head up, don’t be surprised if some rather drenched folk pass you on their way down. Just look forward to a rather refreshing cooldown.

Wairere Falls