Carew Falls and Lake Brunner, West Coast

Carew Falls, close to Lake Brunner on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is pretty off the beaten path. It’s a slight detour from wherever you’re probably heading, but that’s part of the charm. It’s one of the best waterfalls on the West Coast and the drive around Lake Brunner to get there is nice too.

Carew Falls

From the car park it’s a short walk through the forest to reach Carew Falls. It’s nice enough but it does kinda look like any other stretch of forest you’ll see in New Zealand. You won’t have time to get bored though as it only takes around 20 – 30 minutes to reach. The track is mostly uphill but it’s not that steep.

I hadn’t seen many photos of Carew Falls before we visited, and I was surprised at how good it turned out to be. It’s around 30 metres high and cascades down the rocks in lots of little sections – definitely a photogenic waterfall! There isn’t a whole lot to do there but admire the view and take some photos. There are some large boulders among the rapids below the falls which are perfect for sitting on – we had the place all to ourselves and it was a really peaceful spot. From there it’s back down to the car park – the track can be slippery in parts (especially going down) so wear good shoes if you can.

Getting to Carew Falls

From Greymouth or Hokitika (don’t miss Hokitika Gorge) it takes around an hour to drive to Carew Falls. The last 20 km or so are on gravel roads but they are in decent shape. Which road you take to Carew Falls depends on which way you’re coming from – from Arthurs Pass you can turn onto Lake Brunner Road (near Jacksons) and if you’re coming from the West Coast side you should turn down Kumara-Inchbonnie Road (and then, assuming you’re continuing to Arthurs Pass and beyond, leave the area via Lake Brunner Road).

Lake Brunner

Lake Brunner is a popular summer holiday spot and is best known as a fishing and boating destination. There are also a few walks in the area and the town of Moana (the only real town by the lake) is a stop on the Tranz Alpine Train (which travels between Christchurch and Greymouth). We didn’t spend much time at Lake Brunner but it’s a spot we’ll head back to – let me know if you’ve done any of the other walks or if you have any other Lake Brunner travel advice our readers might appreciate.

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.