October 2019: Waireinga / Bridal Veil Falls, Waikato
There are many waterfalls called Bridal Veil Falls in New Zealand and the rest of the world. However, the subject of this article is the plunge waterfall located about 51km away from Hamilton and about 28km south of Raglan along the Pakoka River in the Waikato area of New Zealand, with the Maori name of Waireinga (meaning “leaping waters”, referring to the spirits that seemingly jump over the falls).
The walking track to Bridal Veil Falls is easy and well maintained. It starts with a short walk through the forest with lush native greenery following the Pakoka River for most of the way. The path leads to a viewing platform at the top, with 3 further viewpoints from the top, middle and bottom of the falls.
The waterfall is the long-term result of a volcanic eruption that happened around 2 million years ago that spewed lava down a river valley, which then solidified over the older sandstone. This harder basalt then remained intact as water flowed over it and cut a deep pool in the softer sandstone underneath. The plunge from the top goes down 55 meters into a large 5-metre deep pool before it disappears into the thick bush.
As you are walking down the many steps to the bottom of the falls, the middle viewpoint is a welcome stop to have a look at the surrounding lush greenery. There are many ferns, nikau palms and other palm and native trees to see from here, and they create a three-dimensional effect with the waterfall being the focal point. The reason for the English name of the falls also becomes obvious, because the stream of water does resemble the veil of a bride.
If you want to see the view from the bottom, which you do, you have about 270 steps to overcome. Personally, I liked this viewpoint the best. The water like a running tap, albeit at very high pressure, the green vegetation underneath the hard basalt rock, and the soft sandstones that circle the deepest part of the pool that let the water flow through make the view quite intimate and serene.
It’s a strong contender for the North Island’s best waterfall, I think.