New Zealand is full of hidden natural wonders, some of which are found along the common tourist trail and some of which are tucked away in their own little natural wonderland. Omanawa Falls is the epitome of hidden wonders in the North Island Region, Bay of Plenty. A natural oasis where you are surrounded by dreamy New Zealand Forrest with a Giant waterfall dominating your attention.
Located only half an hour out of Tauranga as you head inland towards the heart of the North Island before turning off a side road in which you get to your location. Turn off highway 29 onto Omanawa Road and drive for a further 15mins. You will arrive a half decent carpark which can fit a few cars just off the side of the road. During the peak of summer, you may have to simply park up the road and walk down.
In recent time the falls have been off limits with signs up warning people away, but no official trespassing signs were erect at the time we went there, just a few warning signs that didn’t have much official authority. The walk and falls itself can be a very dangerous place to be & get to. People have had accidents in and around the falls, some fatal so I must say ‘enter at your own risk’.
Although if you have some basic common sense and have got amongst some adventuring before you will be fine.
Once you leave the carpark you walk down a road for about 10mins, easy walking open gravel road. The road will turn into a path as it goes left and looks out over the falls and the magical basin in which the falls empty into a big deep blue pool.
There is an option to naturally follow the path to which leads down to the base of the pool. But because of the eroding cliff, it has been closed off. I am sure there is a way to get around this, but at the time there were people working on restoring the area which added to the drama of ‘sneaking around’.
They simply said we should not be where we are, and you cannot proceed any further this way…
Basically, turning a blind eye to our presence because they didn’t want to deal with the situation of which we could potentially get fine for according to them. Although this was never officially confirmed.
Now, this is when the real adventure began…. And myself and my best buddy Dalton froth over a sketchy adventure.
Back where the road turns to a path and goes left, well you can also go right and head down into trees. Both being fully competent in battlers in the bush it seemed like another stroll for us. Like animals in the wild previous adventurous humans had made a natural path all of which other humans followed and had somewhat turned into a track to follow.
The semi-visible track starts out easy enough but quickly turns into some gnarly cliffs. The mission to the bottom via this route goes from a stroll in the park to an abseiling and vine swinging Tarzan styled adventure. Put one foot wrong and your seriously injured kind of mission. People before us had put ropes tied to trees which dangle of cliffs. After a few of these, some punga valleys and some intuitive navigation you get to the bottom.
Getting to the bottom is only the halfway point, as you scale down the cliff face you are continually moving away from the falls to avoid falling down to a certain death. This means where you pop out the bottom you must then walk back upstream to the waterfall. Rock hoping over mouldy boulders and crossing over logs. It is possible to do so without getting your feet wet.
After the good part of a couple of hours of bush bashing a river hoping we made it to the bottom of the deep blue pool and staring right into the face of the waterfall roaring at us. We had made it and it was just as epic as we had expected.
After hanging out for a while taking in the scenery we retrace our footsteps and climbed our way back up the track we had just scaled down, dodge the people working there and make out a way to the car.
This place was epic and one of the most epic little day trips I had been on in a long time, although it was something I would say extremely sketchy I would still recommend it. I’m sure in the near future the path will be opened, and it will be a simple 20min round trip. But in the meantime, if you want to get down amongst the juicy views… There is a way. Just be careful.