Fairy Falls are in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Auckland. They're bigger than you’d expect from the name and utterly enchanting. Definitely take a picnic, as you’ll want to stay a while, and definitely take some swimming gear – you won’t be able to resist the lure of the perfect, little pools.
Fairy Falls are multi-levelled and require a certain level of fitness to get to. There are two paths leading to the falls: one is punishingly steep and the other includes a few stream crossings. Neither way, however, is too long a walk, and the stream crossings are easy – you can usually manage without getting your feet wet.
Hunua Falls are a short drive from South Auckland. It’s an easy walk to the falls from the car park, only taking a few minutes, and the approach is quite lovely. Though the water is muddy, it’s a good place to swim.
McLaren Falls are located just outside of Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty. You can watch the water swirling over the spectacular jumble of rocks – and the daring young people jumping off them – from the bridge where you park. You can also clamber carefully down some rough stone steps and have a picnic on the very edge of the falls. The rocks create many inviting pools to relax in, and form a barrier so you can swim safely in the river before the water drops away.
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls are located near Raglan, a short drive from the city of Hamilton, and they are amongst the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen. The top is a few minute’s bush walk from the car park; the bottom can be reached by descending several steep staircases. The view gets better the further down you go. You can’t swim at Bridal Veil Falls, but they’re more than worth the detour.
Tarawera Falls are not as readily accessible as the other waterfalls on this list. For starters, you can only get there by a rough forestry road that you need a permit to drive on. You have to get the permit from the information centre in Kawerau, a town about halfway between Rotorua and Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty. Once you get to the car park, it’s a twenty-minute walk to the falls. Needless to say, they’re worth it.
Marokopa Falls are near the famous Waitomo Caves in the Waikato Region. They’re an easy, five-minute walk from the car park they’re magnificent.
Huka Falls are perhaps the most famous falls in New Zealand. Just north of Lake Taupo, the mighty Waikato River narrows into a canyon, making for a breathtakingly powerful display – and there’s a bridge right over it! It’s an easy walk from the car park, but you can also catch a Huka Falls jet boat ride.
Rainbow Falls are in Kerikeri, Northland. They're surprisingly spectacular and take absolutely no effort to reach.
Pukekura Falls are the only falls on this list best viewed at night, during the Festival of Lights. You’ll find them in New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park, in Taranaki. The park is beautiful at any time of day or year, but the Festival of Lights takes place from mid-December to late-January and is truly magical. I saw the Pukekura Falls all lit up during the 2014 WOMAD, an amazing music festival that takes place around there during March.
Taranaki Falls are not in Taranaki, but Tongariro National Park. You can view them on an easy and very beautiful two-hour loop walk. As well as an impressive waterfall, you get to see the volcanoes Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe in the distance.