A World of Waterfalls at McLaren Falls Park

Kia Ora from sunny Tauranga! It might be a bit soon in our stay in the Bay of Plenty’s main hub of surf, sand and city life, but we feel like heading on one of the cities must-do day trips: McLaren Falls Park. Because, yes, we have NOT seen enough waterfalls in New Zealand!

My way or the highway

From our accommodation at the Pacific Coast Lodge in the beach bum suburb, Mt Maunganui, we hit the complex network of highways on a 20-minute drive out of the city. (Well, the roads seem complex to us who feel like we have been travelling mostly on humble gravel roads in the backcountry of New Zealand recently). Easy-to-spot signposts direct us straight to the falls the themselves!

SO many waterfalls!

We get out of the car and walk onto a metal and concrete suspension bridge. Below us, two shallow rivers bedded with boulders merge together to create a pretty spectacular display: tall long-drop waterfalls, short waterfalls, fat waterfalls, trickling waterfalls, and gushing waterfalls. As we see a dam at the back of one of the rivers, we only imagine what this place must look like after the dam is released!

McLaren Falls: wahoo! McLaren Falls: wahoo!
Picnic by the stream Picnic by the stream
Can this really be classed as a bay? Can this really be classed as a bay?
Ok, Robin has far too much energy Ok, Robin has far too much energy

It’s only the beginning!

Although we are here marvelling at the falls, this is only the entrance to a huge recreational area of lakes, trees, wildlife and yes, more waterfalls. Just a few hundred metres further up the road, we arrive at the McLaren Falls Park. A single road covered in the red autumn leaves winds its way around exotic trees.

What’s a stroll in the park without a picnic?

We park up at the information centre to see a huge map of walking tracks around the park. We pick our track, but first things first, we’re in a park and we are hungry. Let’s have a picnic!

When setting off on a walking track with sandwiches and bananas in hand, it doesn’t take long to find a picnic bench. We walk over a quaint footbridge, again covered in autumn leaves, and arrive at “Cherry Bay”. Well, this place isn’t exactly a “bay” as it is literally a picnic bench next to a tiny stream. Nevertheless, it makes a most delightful picnic setting.

What an entrance to McLaren Falls Park!

The Waterfall Track

Once Robin starts getting a bit restless by seeing if he can jump over the stream, we decide now would be a good time to really hit the tracks. On the theme of waterfalls, we hit the waterfall track. This waterfall is so no-nonsense that it doesn’t even have a name!

A wild and wonderful forest

We start off on this short loop track which delves straight into a tall forest. The forest looks like it is trying to engulf itself with vines wrapping around trees and trees wrapping around other trees(?!). The trees have grown with some pretty funk shapes, one of which has a pleasingly large hold right through the trunk which invites you to stick your face through. Moss grows everywhere it can, which is a common theme in New Zealand’s forests. Although we can’t really see any wildlife in the forest, cobwebs glisten in the beams of sunlight bursting through the trees.

Walking through some of the stunning native forest of McLaren Falls Park Walking through some of the stunning native forest of McLaren Falls Park
Really, Robin? Really, Robin?
Unnamed waterfall doing its thing Unnamed waterfall doing its thing

A picture-perfect waterfall!

Soon enough, we hear the roaring of a nearby waterfall and sure enough, there it is. In the spirit of the waterfall’s no-nonsense name, the waterfall does one simple long drop into the pool below. No fancy cascades, not too much water, not too little; just right.

Many vantage points around the waterfall gives us good scope for taking a few pictures. We especially love the upper lookout where the waterfall is framed by vibrant green ferns.

Coming back for glowworms

Waterfall admired to the fullest, we continue on the walk back toward the car park. The map we had seen at the information centre did say that there were glowworms down this track, but we are obviously not going to see those shiny maggots in the middle of the day. But, spoiler alert, we are coming back to Lake McLaren tomorrow for a nighttime kayaking tour under a galaxy of glowworms!

Until then, we enjoy the autumn colours of the arboretum best seen in the daylight at McLaren Falls park before making our way back to Tauranga and Mt Maunganui! Join us tomorrow for… well, you know what’s happening. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Just Another wonderful waterfall in New Zealand
Just Another wonderful waterfall in New Zealand Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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