Kerikeri’s impressive ‘new’ waterfall

By: Cornelia Luethi, Photography by: Cornelia Luethi


Kerikeri local Cornelia Luethi shares an insider tip on how to get off the well-beaten Northland tourist trail and discover a secret spot hidden for decades

Summertime Kerikeri is a bustling affair: as you circle the one-way system looking for a carpark, it can feel more like an Auckland suburb than the sleepy Northland backwater it once was.

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Wairoa Stream waterfall is Kerikeri’s ‘new’ waterfall, after public access was lost for 60 years

It’s hardly surprising Kerikeri is so popular, with wineries and markets to explore, well-stocked stores for provisioning your travels, and beautiful beaches just a short drive away.

But if you’re yearning to get off the well-beaten tourist trail and get among nature, then hunt out the Wairoa Stream waterfall on your next visit.

Introducing the wairoa stream waterfall and track

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The Wairoa stream track links up with a network of other walking tracks, including a route to the Kerikeri basin

Last year, new walking tracks were opened to the Wairoa Stream waterfall, also known as the Te Wairere Waterfall. Public access to the 20-metre-high waterfall was lost for 60 years due to changes in land ownership and impenetrable weeds blocking the routes.

Volunteer groups negotiated land access with private landowners, whacked their way through the weeds, and created new bush tracks and footbridges to reach the waterfall.

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Crossing a stream en route to the Te Wairere waterfall

In Kerikeri’s horticultural heyday of the 1920s and 1930s, the waterfall and swimming hole below it were popular with citrus orchard workers.

Even now, it’s a cool, leafy spot, a perfect respite from the blistering Northland summer heat and the commotion of Kerikeri township. Relax and rest a while on the wooden bench.

There’s little more to do than identifying birdsong above the roar of the waterfall echoing around the shady basin or naming all 50 shades of green on display here.

As the Wairoa Stream waterfall is yet to be discovered by the masses, it still has that magical, primordial charm of a natural gem in the raw. The tracks leading to the waterfall are rugged, over gnarly tree roots and mossy rocks.

So if you’re a little unsteady on your feet, bring your walking poles or stick, as the track is slippery and requires a small amount of fitness and agility.

How to access the waterfall

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The tracks leading to the Wairoa Stream waterfall are all a tangle of tree roots and rocks

There are three ways to get to the waterfall: a 10-minute walk from Dalton Memorial Reserve on Kerikeri Inlet Road, where there’s a small carpark; or you could begin your walk at the Pa Road access, near Pagoda Lodge camping ground; or from a path running alongside Orchard Estate housing development on Cobham Road. The latter takes you to the top of the waterfall, with a steep path to the base of the falls.

Track network

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The network of walking tracks in Kerikeri makes it easy to walk to the historic Stone Store

What makes a visit to the Te Wairere waterfall particularly enticing is the network of walking tracks it links to.

You could visit the historic Stone Store and Mission House, where there are also refreshments to be found. How about a long, cool drink, freshly-baked cake, or fish and chips for dinner?

From the Stone Store, it’s a 3.5km walk along the Kerikeri River Track to Rainbow Falls—a waterfall that is firmly on the tourist trail. Nearby, there’s a new teahouse in a 1920s villa, as well as the NZMCA park. See how all the tracks link together at kerikeriwalks.kiwi.

Motor camps near the walking tracks

  • Rainbow Falls NZMCA park, 60 Rainbow Falls Road, Kerikeri.
  • Pagoda Lodge has camping and glamping options, as well as powered and non-powered sites. 81 Pa Road, Kerikeri.

Refreshment options

  • Honey House Café near the Stone Store in the Kerikeri Basin at 246 Kerikeri Road. Open 10am to 3pm Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and coffee. 
  • Also in the Kerikeri Basin is The Pear Tree (215 Kerikeri Road), open seven days from noon to 2pm for lunch, and open in summer for dinner from 6pm till late. 
  • Rainbow Falls Tea House offers breakfast, lunch, set tea, and cakes, at 74 Rainbow Falls Road. Summer opening hours: 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday; closed Sundays. 

Do check availability, as hours can change, especially out of season.

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