Tarawera Falls is a 35 m high waterfall on the Tarawera River in the Bay of Plenty region in New Zealand’s North Island.
The Tarawera River flows out of Lake Tarawera and across a rhyolitic lava flow that erupted from Mt Tarawera about 11,000 years ago. The river disappears about 30 metres back from the clifftop into flooded caves in the lava and pours out halfway up the cliff on the far side of the flow.
After rain, part of the flow passes over the top of the cliff as a 65 m tall companion fall.
Access is from the town of Kawerau and is a drive of about 45 minutes over unsealed roads, followed by a walk of about 20 minutes.A forestry access permit is required, available from the Information Centre in Kawerau.
Fauna and flora
The vegetation in the area has only developed since the 1886 Tarawera eruption and contains an unusual range of hybrids between pohutukawa and rata. Migrating eels swim as far up as the waterfall and can sometimes be seen on the western side of the falls searching for a way further upstream.
The Te Arawa and Ngāti Awa tribes have traditional associations with this site. Ngāti Rangitihi, one of the eight Te Arawa tribal groups, are the current guardians of the area and consider the site of the waterfall a sacred place.
Most waterfalls spurt over the top of a cliff. Tarawera Falls pours straight through the middle. The crystal clear outflow from Lake Tarawera disappears as it runs into deep fissures in the ancient lava rock – and then spurts out of the middle of a tall cliff-face 25km from Kawerau. The Falls are not unusually high – but surrounded by lush bush they are certainly spectacular. Sheer remoteness adds to the sense you’re looking at something a bit special. Tarawera Falls is well off the beaten track, 60km from Whakatane, 20km of that on unsealed roads You need to start the trip with a visit to the information centre at Kawerau, to pick up a permit to visit the Falls ($5 per car). The drive in is pretty bumpy but the Falls walking track itself is great, well formed and wide (wheelchair access) and about 20 minutes’ stroll. The highlight is not only the Falls but a collection of massive boulders, legacy of the Tarawera eruption that destroyed the world famous Pink and White Terraces. Today the rocks are bound to the ground by twisting Pohutukawa and Totara roots. Under many, there’s a small cave: for children, that’s elves and faeries country.
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|BY THE NUMBERS|
|Total Height||213 feet||65 meters|
|Tallest Drop||213 feet||65 meters|
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|Avg. Low Volume||(12 months)|