Twilight Over McLaren Falls

McLaren Falls by Abigail Simpson

I’m always surprised by how quickly darkness falls in winter. We were driving home from my parents’ the other day – not that late in the afternoon – when I realised the world was draped in an indigo veil. A thought struck me.

“Can we stop at McLaren Falls?” I asked Tim.

We were about to drive past McLaren Falls anyway. They’re not hard to get to; you can park right next to the lookout. Dusk is a good time for taking long-exposure shots of waterfalls, you see.

McLaren Falls by Abigail Simpson

There were more cars than I’d expected, but a spot soon opened up. I prepped my camera and crossed to the lookout.

I hadn’t been to the falls in a long time. I was fairly certain I hadn’t seen a footbridge over them before. It was one of those slightly shaky suspension bridges, which unfortunately meant I couldn’t get any decent long-exposure shots from it. (These ones I’m showing you are the least blurry ones I got.)

The falls weren’t at their best anyway. That only happens on certain dates when the water is released from the McLaren Falls Dam. Still, they were quite lovely in the winter twilight. The water seemed almost luminous.

mclaren falls

When they release the water from the dam, you can go whitewater kayaking for free!

mclaren falls

I’ve already written an article about how awesome McLaren Falls Park is. Here’s a photo I took a few years ago whilst kayaking on Lake McLaren:

Lake McLaren by Abigail Simpson

Photos from Pukekura Park

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

This magically lit waterfall is in Pukekura Park, in the middle of New Plymouth. Scroll down and you’ll see why Pukekura Park is one of the best city parks in New Zealand.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

This is a picture I took of the waterfall during the day. It’s man-made, but that doesn’t take away from it’s beauty. And at night, it’s beautiful in a whole different way.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The colours are constantly changing. I’ll show you one more before moving onto the rest of the park, because, beautiful as the waterfall is, Pukekura Park would be impressive even without it.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The park is centred on a lake, crossed by some quite striking red bridges. With the aid of a nifty filter, you can see just how striking striking these bridges look in real life.

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

And here’s the view from that bridge when it gets dark. (During the summer, Pukekura has a lights festival, which I attended back before I owned a decent camera, but this is without the additional lights!)

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

A lovely, old-fashioned teahouse sits on the edge of the lake. Their food’s decent, as, indeed, is their tea selection. Here’s a photo of one of their quirky birdfeeders.

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The teahouse sits nestled amongst some gorgeous flowers. As I crouched down to take pictures of these flowers, I became surrounded by a ring of ducks hoping for food.


That photo wasn’t edited in the slightest, would you believe? The petals look like an image from the Hubble Space Telescope! This next one, of course, is edited.


It was actually the same colour as the flower above, but I like this picture. Okay, okay, one last flower photo before I get on with showing you the actual park.


Throughout the park, old-fashioned lampposts emerge from the trees in a way that makes one think irresistibly of Narnia. The park also has a fernery and a few mildly interesting sculptures.

lamppost in forest

One of my favourite features of the park is a grand, Victorian drinking fountain, sculpted out of marble. In fact, this is the image I will leave you with. Check back for more photos of my New Zealand travels!

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

Okere Falls and a Wonderful Bookshop

Okere Falls

I got a new camera for Christmas. Keen to practise using it, I persuaded my family to visit one of the few easily accessible waterfalls in the Bay of Plenty I hadn’t already seen, Okere Falls.

Okere Falls

Okere Falls can be found just outside Rotorua. They’re by no means the best waterfalls I’ve been to, but they’re popular with kayakers and rafters.

Kayakers at Okere Falls

Word of warning: don’t visit Okere Falls during the Christmas holidays. I found it difficult to get a decent photograph partly due to the lack of room on the viewing platforms!

Okere Falls

(The other reason, I found out later, was because I didn’t have a Neutral Density Filter. I’m new to this “proper” photography stuff, okay.)

Okere Falls

One part of the path to the falls is a narrow tunnel with steps carved into the rock. With so many people there, getting up and down the steps was a nightmare, so just beware.

Okere Falls

There’s not really much more to say about Okere Falls. Afterwards, we drove into Rotorua, parked at Government Gardens and walked into the city centre in search of lunch.

I hadn’t explored the city centre itself in years, so I was surprised at how pretty it’s become. We made our way to Eat Streat, an avenue of fashionable bars and restaurants.

Eat Streat

The main reason I’d wanted to visit Rotorua, aside from Okere Falls, was to go to a certain secondhand bookshop my dad had found whilst geocaching. (Don’t ask.) It didn’t disappoint.

It’s called Atlantis, and I was in love with it even before I’d seen the Art Nouveau-style Firefly posters on the wall! It’s got two floors, and the selection is quite impressive, although I was slightly disappointed by the history section. By time I’d finished, I had six books in my arms, including a really old copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So, there’s somewhere to look out for if you’re a bibliophile visiting Rotorua.

Kaiate Falls

If you’d like to read about another waterfall I’ve been to in the Bay of the Plenty, check out my article on Kaiate Falls. They’re much more magical than Okere Falls, I reckon.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls has to be one of the most photogenic places in New Zealand. I went for the first time last weekend and I didn’t get a single bad picture. Choosing which photographs to use for this post was no mean feat!


Bridal Veil Falls are located at the end of a very short bush walk near Raglan, just forty minute’s drive from Hamilton. The bush walk comes out at the top of the falls. If you want to see the view from the bottom, which you do, that means a lot of steps to conquer! But it’s not too strenuous.


There are a lot of nice waterfalls in New Zealand. This is one of the best. If you’re going to be travelling anywhere around Waikato, Bridal Veil Falls is well worth the detour. It’s obviously popular with tourists – I heard a lot of English accents on our brief excursion!


It wasn’t crowded, though. I suppose this is due to the fact that New Zealand is currently in the grasp of winter. The fact that it was winter, however, did nothing to diminish the experience. In fact, I’m incredibly glad it was winter – all those steps in summer would have been torture!


Though I’m sure the pool at the base of the falls would look very inviting come summer, you’re not allowed to swim there. The quality of the water is too unhealthy, having flowed through prime Waikato farmland to reach its destination.


Bridal Veil Falls are 55m high. They’re known in Māori as Wairēinga, or Water of the Underworld. They were quite amazing to watch from the bottom. The force with which the water hit the basin below was surprising, creating a great, white mist and waves that rippled continuously towards us.


Bridal Veil Falls isn’t a daytrip – it’s barely an hour, really. There are, however, other nice places to go nearby. Whale Bay, for example, is a rocky beach with incredible waves. One look was enough to see why Raglan is famous for surfing, and Raglan town itself is lovely.


McLaren Falls

Just outside Tauranga, McLaren Falls Park is a beautiful place. You can feed the ducks and kayak on Lake McLaren, surrounded by stunning trees. You can walk around the lake – so peaceful, and the path’s of a decent length without being strenuous. You can camp there, and it’s got so many wonderful picnic spots – you’re spoilt for choice. Best of all, it’s got the waterfalls.

Last time I went, a few weeks ago, the waterfalls were quite disappointing because it had been a long, dry summer. It was a good chance, though, to see the interesting rock formations that would otherwise have been hidden by water. We scrambled over the rocks and went across the top of the falls. Here, various natural pools just beg you to swim in them. You have to take your togs.

(Oops. ‘Togs’ – that was very Kiwi of me. I meant to say ‘cossie’. And by that, of course, I mean ‘swimming costume’.)

Falls4As you sit with your legs dangling in the water, you look up the wide river and the rocks and trees towering up either side of it, and you just have to appreciate the awesome power of nature. Then you look down. Brave young people jump often jump down the falls, but I’m not one of them. It can be fun watching them from the bridge, though.

Falls2The park has a strangely North American feel to it, although some bits also seem very English to me. It’s because of the trees – New Zealand natives aren’t much in evidence there.

It reminded me of the family picnics when I was a kid, back when we still lived in Britain. The sound of the ducks gossiping and the swans beating their heavy wings, accompanied by the wind in the trees… rippling over the water…

The only bad thing about McLaren Falls is the cornucopia of biting insects. I went well prepared last time. As soon as I stepped out the car I began vigorously applying repellent, but even as I did I was squashing mozzies against my legs. After that I was fine, though. I escaped the park unscathed.

Campervan2Despite the insects, McLaren Falls Park is a fantastic place to camp. Waking up to that scenery is an absolute privilege and it’s only $5 per adult – kids under 16 are free. You don’t need to book and you can stay for up to three nights. You’ve got free barbecues, an animal park next-door and, after dark, you’ve got glowworms. Check it out if you’re ever in the Bay of Plenty with a New Zealand campervan rental.

More from around Tauranga:

Top 10 Things to Do in Tauranga

Shopping in Tauranga

Te Puna Quarry Park

The Tauranga Airshow

Mount Maunganui

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