Tarawera Falls

Tarawera Falls Walk, Rotorua

The Tarawera Falls walk is a gentle walk, situated on the edge of Lake Tarawera that takes you to the Tarawera Falls. This walk meanders through native bush on a gravel track to a beautiful waterfall which emerges from underwater caves, a unique feature not seen at many other waterfalls.  

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The Tarawera Falls Walk

The Tarawera Falls is a great walk for families and day adventurers or extended for those looking for an overnight hike. This walk you can easily do in a couple of hours with lots of stops. 

There are two paths you can take to get to the waterfalls 1) Tarawera Falls carpark; 2) Tarawera Outlet campsite. 

Tarawera River pool

Tarawera Falls carpark to Tarwera Falls

Distance: 700m (return trip)

Time: 30 mins (return trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Tarawera Outlet campsite to Tarawera Falls

Distance: 10km (return trip)

Time: 4 hrs (return trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Tarwaera River which feeds the Tarawera Falls

With either option, the tracks meander through native New Zealand bush, and at points along the walk, you’ll see peeps of the Tarawera River and a smaller waterfall leading to the main waterfall. This water is fed from Lake Tarawera and flows across a lava flow that erupted from Mt Tarawera approximately 11,000 years ago. The water in the river is crystal clear and certainly makes for stunning photos. Along the way, there is also a smaller waterfall you’ll get to see, which lives below the main fall. 

Tarawera River small waterfall

The Tarawera Falls themself are 35 metres high and emerge from the centre of a cliff. During significant rainfall, a second waterfall at 65 metres high, which flows over the top of the cliff, can be seen.

Tarawera Waterfall

Not far above the Tarawera Waterfall, the river goes from being a significant body of water to simply disappearing underground into flooded caves. This water then re-emerges from the middle of the cliff as the main waterfall. If you continue your walk up past the waterfall view-point you can see this natural phenomenon. 

Tarawera River disappearing into underground caves

What to know about The Tarawera Falls walk

  • Phone reception is patchy so if driving to the carpark, be organised and know where you are heading in case your phone’s GPS stops working.
  • The closest shops by car are in the town of Whakatane, therefore, bring with you everything you need for your stay. 
  • Best time of year to visit: Summer is the best time of year to visit, but is also the busiest time of year. Spring and Autumn are great times of year to visit as the tracks will be quieter, just make sure you have enough daylight hours to be able to do the walk. The track and all other facilities will be very quiet if not empty in winter, but it will be much colder too! 

What to Bring – Tarawera Falls

  • Enough food for your trip
  • Warm clothing and rain jacket
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
  • Water
  • Phone/camera/Go-pro

What to Bring – If staying at the campsite overnight:

  • Eating and cooking utensils
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Head torch
  • Charger/battery pack – there is no electricity at the campsite
  • Plus everything from the Day Trip list

How to get to The Tarawera Falls Track

By Car

Location: Tarawera Falls Carpark, Mount Tarawera, 3073, New Zealand

Drive times to The Tarawera Falls Walk:

  • Rotorua to The Tarawera Falls carpark: 1 hr 20 mins
  • Whakatane to The Tarawera Falls carpark: 50 mins
  • Taupo to The Tarawera Falls carpark: 1 hr 45 mins
  • Tauranga to The Tarawera Falls carpark: 1 hr 30 mins

Access to Tarawera Outlet is from Kawerau township (off SH 30 between Rotorua and Whakatāne) via private forestry roads which require permits. The forest gate is closed during the hours of darkness. The forest road may be closed in summer when the fire risk is high. You can order a permit online here for $10, or they can be purchased from the ​​Kawerau i-SITE Visitor Information Centre

Be sure not to leave any valuables in your car. 

By Boat

Head over to the Tarawera Outlet campsite and start the walk from there along the Tarawera Outlet track to the waterfalls. Note that the walk from here is longer (approx. 5km one way)

Accommodation near The Tarawera Falls track

Lake Tarawera is fairly remote, however, there are campsites spotted all around Lake Tarawera. The most accessible campsite from the Tarawera Falls walk is The Tarawera Outlet Campsite a 5km walk from the waterfall.

The Tarawera Outlet Campsite

The Tarawera Outlet Campsite is situated on the edge of Lake Tarawera and has 50 on-powered tent sites. Consequently, it is a stunning spot to stay, lakeside, where you can enjoy everything the lake has to offer. 

Bookings for the campsites are essential. 


  • Boat launching and Jetty
  • Non-flush toilets
  • Shelter for cooking
  • Tap water – must be treated before drinking

Cost to stay:

  • Adults (18 + years) – $15/night
  • Children (5-17 years) – $7.50/night
  • Infants (0-4 years) – Free

Where to book: DOC website

Other Activities in the Area

Wairua Stream

Surrounding the edge of Lake Tarawera Edge and feeder streams there are pockets of thermal hot water. The Wairua Stream is one of these areas and as a result a small natural hot pool has been built here. Anyone is welcome to use this for free and it is a fun experience. This is accessible either by boat or via the Tarawera trail. Well worth a visit if you like natural hot pools.  

Wairua Stream Hot Pools at Lake Tarawera
Source: hotspringsofnz.nz

Tarawera Hot Water Beach

As the name suggests, Hot Water Beach is another location where natural thermal hot water exists. The water is so warm in places that it heats up the beach, so much so, when you jump out of your boat onto the sand you can sometimes get the shock of landing in boiling hot sand. Build your own natural hot pool in the sand on the edge of the lake and then lay back and soak in the scenery. If the pool gets too hot, you can simply jump in the lake. At the end of the beach, just round the point, there is also a more substantial natural rock pool that normally has hot water feeding into it which you can use.

Hot Water Beach also has a DOC campsite, so why not got for a longer period of time and enjoy everything that Lake Tarawera has to offer!

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