Tarawera Falls spews from a hole in the rhyolite bluff and tumbles over huge boulders at its base, leaving a white veil in its wake.
The trip to the Falls can be a quick one, but make sure you give yourself time to continue on to the Cascades area (and beyond to the Outlet if you can). The full walk is NZ in its glory. This can turn into a full day trip.
From 1 August 2018, permits to the Tarawera Falls and Tarawera Outlet will be issued from the office of Maori Investments Limited.
Weekends and Public Holidays:
Due to Maori Investments office closure on weekends and public holiday’s permits can be
obtained in advance:
Online via Maori Investments website; or by
Contacting our office during office hours.
Alternatively permits required on weekends and public holidays can also be obtained by
visiting the premises of the Kawerau iSite Visitor Information Centre.
Waterhouse Street Extension, Kawerau
0800 MIL 123 / 0800 645 123
Office Hours: Monday – Friday
8.30am – 5.00pm
Kawerau iSite Visitor Information Centre
The Bus Terminal, Plunket Street, Kawerau
07 323 6300
Weekend Operating Hours
9.00am – 4.00pm
To reach Tarawera Falls you must obtain a vehicle permit from:
Kawerau i-SITE Visitor Information Centre
+64 7 323 6300
Opening hours: 9am to 4pm daily
The gate entering the private forestry land is open between the hours of dawn and dusk, but may be closed due to logging operations or high fire risk.
A map and directions will be given once you’ve got the permit in your hands.
Access to Tarawera Falls is sporadically signposted and passes through forestry roads, which are mostly unsealed. Be extremely careful, drive with your lights on and watch for logging trucks.
From S.H.34 in Kawerau, turn into River Road and then Waterhouse Street. After 1km turn left then right into Rotoiti Road (unsealed) and continue 13km to the junction with Tarawera Road. After 4.5km turn left into Waterfall Road. The roadend is a further 5.3km, where there is a parking area and toilets at the Lake Tarawera Outlet Campsite.
The track is wide, metalled, even and suitable for wheelchairs with assistance.
It climbs gently to a lookout below the falls.
Volcanic eruptions have been occurring in the region of Mount Tarawera for approximately 400,000 years, but most information is recorded from the last 21,000 years.
Between 400,000 and 50,000 years ago, there were 5 or 6 huge eruptions in the region, ejecting approximately 500 cubic kilometres of magma. This caused a collapse of overlying ground to form an 18 by 25km basin known as a caldera. A 10-50-metre-thick layer of ash and pumice coated the entire region and welded to form an ignimbrite sheet.
50,000-24,000 year ago there were 8 smaller eruptions of ash and pumice.
During the last 21,000 years, 80 cubic kilometres of magma have been ejected in 11 separate episodes and built up the Haroharo and Tarawera craters. Around 40 vents have erupted rhyolite magma with pyroclastic explosions of ash and pumice.
18,000 years ago, eruptions began to form the present Mount Tarawera and other rhyolite eruptions 15,000, 11,000 and 800 years ago have accumulated to form the prototype of the present form.
On the 10th June 1886 the largest volcanic eruption in New Zealand’s recorded history formed a gash on the full length of the crater and spurted a column of ash 10km into the air.
Basalt scoria and mud were spread over a large area of the Bay of Plenty and ash fell onto ships 220km from the source. Over 100 fatalities were recorded from nearby settlements in Rotomahana. Lightning in the eruption cloud sent fireballs which set light to buildings in Te Wairoa Bay. There was daylight darkness over the Bay of Plenty and East Cape Regions.
Before the advent of Europeans most of the land in the Rotorua Lakes area was smothered in a dense podocarp/hardwood forest. Towering rimu, totara, rata and kahikatea would have cloaked the land and edged the lakes in a mosaic of innumerable green hues. Much of the original forest has been removed to convert the land to pasture and plant exotic species. Periodic burning sparked by volcanic eruptions has also contributed to a steady process of forest renewal and regeneration. However large pockets of forest remain, especially around Lakes Okataina and Tarawera.
The Rotorua region is home to the Arawa people, whose history can be traced back to the landing of the Arawa canoe at Maketu. The ancestors of the waka settled the area, making use of the hot pools for cooking and keeping warm in the cool winters. The abundance of fish and eels in the rivers supplemented a diet of cultivated kumara and taro. These were grown on the fertile soils, which were liberally renewed with nutrients after showers of volcanic ash.
Lakes were used as navigation routes and portage routes were common. The bountiful resources of the area and density of population led to contestations between tribes and has contributed to a rich and colourful Pre-European history of the region.
The curious architecture of the Tarawera Falls stems from the cracks and fissures in the huge block of rhyolite lava ejected by Mount Tarawera around 11,000 year ago. These weaknesses in the rock capture the course of the river, approximately 30 metres behind the cliff face, and weave an underground network of watercourses that re-materialise through the hole in the cliff.
Rarely do the falls flow over the top of the bluff, but they have done so recently in times of extreme flood, when the deep canyon is also sculpted.
North Island ▷ Rotorua Region ▷ Kawerau
Beautiful lake and walk in the bush where you can see the river and some nice swimming holes.
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Really nice short walk in New Zealand. Do not stop at the falls, keep walking around the cascades.
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Very nice. Worth it. The river is amazing to go to for a swim.
Amazing view, the walk is very nice.
If this walk was located on the main tourist trail, it would be super busy. Luckily it's off the beaten track and is one of the great short walks in NZ. The river here is so clear, it looks like it's come straight of a spring. Which is fitting as the geology has created cave systems so the water changes between a flow above and below ground. Many of the waterfalls seem to originate directly from a rock face. TIP - Don't stop at the Falls. Keep walking around the Cascades and further toward the Outlet as there's plenty to discover past the main falls. The most epic swimming holes in crystal clear water are a huge bonus on a hot day.
Absolutely breathtaking. From someone who has seen many of NZs waterfalls, trust me this is worth the visit. And the river has some sweet as swimming holes
Amazing view - the walk is very nice.
Beautiful lake and walk through the bush where you can see the river disappear underground, then shoot out the cliff face later on.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍