South Island, Pt. 4: Wainui Falls

Abel Tasman National Park. Home to the Coastal Walk (one of New Zealand’s Great Walks) as well as gorgeous views, lush forests, and raging rivers. Named after the Dutch explorer who first brought word of the island back to Europe, Abel Tasman National Park sees thousands of tourists every year. (Incidentally, it was Dutch cartographers who named the country, despite the fact that Maori warriors repelled Tasman’s attempts to claim the land for the Dutch. This is why a country colonized by the English is named after a province in The Netherlands.)

On a rainy Wednesday, I decided to go check it out. This would not be my only foray into the park, but it would be my first.

I don’t much care for rain. But rain does make waterfalls much more intense, so if you’re looking for an outdoor activity to do while it’s raining, going to see a waterfall should at least be on the list!

Wainui Falls is on the Northwest border of Abel Tasman National Park, which is a bit of a bummer since Nelson is far to the Southeast. The drive took well over two hours, which in the rain is also a bummer. That was an intentional decision on my part, though, as I got to drive through a lot of the park and see a lot of sights.

The Wainui Falls Track itself borders someone’s land for the first little bit, but the trail is well-marked.

The trail runs roughly Southwest toward the falls, so this view is looking out at the park.

I was wearing my waterproof hiking hat, a water resistant jacket, and hiking boots. It is my opinion that trying to stay completely dry when hiking in the rain is a fools’ game, since ponchos and rain jackets tend not to breathe well (or at all) and instead of rainwater you’ll just be drenched in sweat by the end of your hike anyway. Opinions differ, though.

The track borders, and occasionally crosses, the Wainui River. The river crossings are all bridged (this is not the Wainui River, it’s just a small stream).

Sometimes the trail would be impassible if not for the bridges and boardwalks installed to help hikers along.

While walking, I noticed this log balanced on top of this rock. I’m not sure why it struck me as it did, but I thought it was funny how it wound up that way. I wonder how long it will stay like that?

Occasionally the track will jog away from the river slightly, leading through lush greenery that feels like a rainforest!

I like how this tree fern towers over the rest of the foliage. I feel some kinship with this fern :)

The rain causes some smaller waterlols due to runoff down the slopes.

Unlike the last hike, I wasn’t confused about whether I was at the falls. Wainui Falls are the largest falls in the region, so this little trickle is just a sideshow.

Being under tree cover does not, in this case, protect much from the rain. The trees are all saturated, so the tree rain is just as heavy as the sky rain!

As I walked along the bank, I was convinced the falls would be in rare form due to all the rain. Even the river is a raging torrent!

Right before the falls is one last bridge to cross. At this point, you can hear the waterfalls even over the already loud river noise.

And there they are!

A kind fellow hiker took a picture of me in front of the falls, which serves as a scale. Not the biggest falls, but certainly very intense thanks to the rain!

I snapped a few more pictures, then headed back. After nearly five hours of driving, the short hike to the falls, and a complete soaking by the rain, I was ready to change into dry clothes and lie about the hostel for the rest of the day enjoying being indoors. And that’s precisely what I did!

Next time, I return to Abel Tasman Park for what turned into one of my favorite hikes on the whole South Island trip! See you then!


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