Nicols Falls, Dunedin
Why visit Nicols Falls?
This surprisingly impressive waterfall is just a short drive and hike from downtown Dunedin. The track to Nicols Falls makes for an excellent (and often muddy) place to hike through wild New Zealand bush. You can also hang around until after dark to see glow worms on a nearby track.
The Hike to Nicols Falls
The track to Nicols Falls starts of parallel to Nicols Creek and soon veers left up a hill. It was pretty muddy when we did it, so you’ll want to wear suitable shoes if there has been recent rain. The track continues uphill but eventually levels out — it’s not particularly challenging but mud makes everything harder. At the top of the hill we heard what I think were tuis (native New Zealand birds) singing. We eventually caught a glimpse of one but couldn’t get a good photo. The track heads downhill as the sound of crashing water gets louder.
I grew up in Dunedin but hadn’t heard of this waterfall until a few months ago. I was shocked to find a spectacular rush of cascading water framed by foliage, fallen trees and mossy rocks. It’s definitely underrated — it should be on every nature lovers Dunedin itinerary. In saying that we did visit a few days after heavy rain, so it might not always be as impressive.
We crossed over the stream and made it up to the base of the falls. It’s pretty easy to do but watch out for slippery rocks. I’ve heard that people swim in Nicols Creek but it would have to be pretty hot outside to consider that.
There are a few more waterfalls further upstream but I saw them on a video and they aren’t anything special. If you are after a longer bush hike they could be worth seeking out though.
The hike back
We decided to head along the path close to the river in the hope that it would take us back to the road. It didn’t, so after about five minutes we had to walk back to the waterfall and return the way we came. It was a slippery walk home, but that’s the price you pay to see a waterfall in its post rain prime.
Getting to Nicols Falls
Drive down George Street towards North Dunedin. Turn off at Duke Street, which soon becomes Malvern Street which soon becomes Leith Valley Road. The entrance to the falls is just before a small bridge soon after entering Leith Valley Road and it isn’t well signed — if you’re driving on a gravel road you’ve gone too far (which is exactly what we did). The hike to the falls and back should take around 40 minutes, but it might take a bit longer if it’s wet.
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