Lake Waimanu & Waitohi Falls

Our beautiful Te Henga

Sensing, holding, being,

Grand and strong as you are

Family Community United

We stand in awe with our feet in your sands

~Trude Bethell


Some folks might be wondering how we’ve found some of the places we’ve visited since we’ve been in New Zealand. Long before we left for New Zealand, I found Scott Cook’s great travel books New Zealand Frenzy. He’s an American who has traveled extensively in NZ and wrote a great guidebook for each island on more of the wild places with tips for freedom camping spots and other helpful advice. It’s thanks to Scott that we found Lake Waimanu and Waitohi Falls actually. The fresh water lake  is  behind Bethells Beach and  features a stunning land locked black sand dune that slopes right down to the water. While the lake is on one side of the dune, there is a great little stream bed walkway that sinuously follows the dunes around to the lake. The water in the stream is  nothing  but flat sand  with an inch of warm water running underfoot. If you follow the stream it takes about twenty five minutes  to reach the lake, but there is a shortcut over the dunes. Beware of the black sand on a sunny day however, it can get super hot and even small amounts seeping into sandals can make you a hot-foot dancer.

Treking in the streambed

Trekking in the stream bed

We’ve visited the area twice now and each time, we’ve seen something new. Our first trip was only to the lake and the sand dune. It was still slightly cool then and with the wind, not warm enough to warrant a swim. Last Wednesday though was hot as all get out and we decided to continue on past the beach onto the path that leads around the lake.It’s known as the Lake Wainamu track and I believe it connects up with the Te Henga Track that leads along  the cliffs of Bethells Beach.

The lake as seen from the top of the dunes

The lake as seen from the top of the dunes

Dramatic scenery everywhere

Dramatic scenery everywhere


After tramping for a good hour and a half, we found our own amazing waterfall and  private pool  spot. I am fairly certain the waterfall is called Waitohi Falls, but I never found a picture online to confirm. No matter though, the place was gorgeous! The falls were two, maybe three storeys high and water plunged  into a deep pool at the base. We carefully made our way around to a nice little spot where we dumped our gear before exploring further.

Waitohi Falls 1

I am so glad we did off load before that exploration. I found myself caught out on some slippery rocks between the pools and just stood there for five minutes planning my next move. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan and I slipped, fell onto my bum and then like  a slide, I went right into the lower pool. I surfaced slightly panicky, but soon got a grip on myself (this ain’t Niagara Falls) and hauled myself out.

Waitohi Falls 2

After spreading my skirt out to dry on a bush, we found a safer way to get back to our gear and had a little lunch. Right as we sat down I happened to glance down at the water and saw this huge eel swimming practically under my feet. We might have disturbed him as he swam away not to be seen again. But after that we just KNEW he was there. Made getting into the water to check out the falls slightly more scary, especially if you’re practically blind without your glasses. Here’s the weird thing, I’ve never had a problem swimming in the Atlantic ocean even though I really can’t see well without aid; here though….well it took me a bit longer. Of course the water was bracing as well. Marc took some cheesecake pictures and then we settled into this natural hollowed out spot to the left of the falls. We could sit on the bank and lean back against   a soft mossy wall while soaking up a few rays. It was absolutely beautiful and while the peace was occasionally broken by the visits of other parties tramping past, only one other person stopped long enough for a  swim and photo-op.

Waitohi Falls Me

Soon enough, it was time to go, and we carefully gathered up our gear and made our way back to the track. We had a long walk  ahead of us because I didn’t want to go through foot torture again with those sand dunes. It was hard to keep a good pace too because we didn’t want the day to end, but we had promised to make dinner for friends that evening. Thank goodness we’ve got some awesome, understanding  friends here. When we arrived, all we had to do was grill the sausages and onions on the grill and dinner was done! Then, they even helped with the clean up! Many thanks to Rachel, Dave, and our wonderful flat mate Jane for everything and more. You guys are the best!

Afternoon sun and sand dune

Afternoon sun and sand dune

Gotta go now

Gotta go now


3 thoughts on “Lake Waimanu & Waitohi Falls

  1. Lil says:

    Sounds like fun… and a little scary!

  2. Joanne says:

    Beautiful and great memories being made.

  3. Warwick Pryce says:

    Nice waterfall shots. You obviously like the action shot (fast shutter speed) which records the lovely detail of the patterns of fragmenting water. The time exposure style used by so many professionals just blurs all that glorious detail away to record blank white areas with no appeal whatever. Keep up the good work!

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