Dawson Falls

Egmont National Park, North Island, New Zealand

About Dawson Falls

Hiking Distance: 500m round trip
Suggested Time: 20 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-18
Date last visited: 2010-01-06

Waterfall Latitude: -39.32499
Waterfall Longitude: 174.10717

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense



Dawson Falls was our convenient waterfalling excuse to explore more of the conical Mt Tarnaki – the centerpiece of Egmont National Park.

The funny thing about this classically-shaped volcano was that it actually doubled as the iconic Japanese volcano Mt Fuji in the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai.

In any case, the 16m waterfall appeared as a double-barreled drop that reminded me a lot like a smaller version of Havasu Falls in Arizona (without the colors).

Dawson Falls

However, on a later visit five years later, the waterfall looked different as it barely had its second parallel drop flowing.

The scenic rating we put up accounted for this latest observation.

Accessing Dawson Falls

From the car park of the Egmont National Park Dawson Falls Visitor Centre on the southeastern slopes of Mt Taranaki (see directions below), we walked back along the narrow road towards the signposted Kapuni Loop Trailhead.

It didn’t look like there was sufficient room to park the car at this trailhead, and I wondered if we were allowed to park here in the first place.

So that was what necessitated the walk along the road.

Once we were on the track, we immediately descended into the lush native bush towards a fork.

Signposted junction after the initial descent en route to Dawson Falls

At first, we went right at the fork, which took us down to a somewhat contextual view of the falls spilling over the bush.

We could have continued on the trail then looped back to the base of the falls. But instead, we opted to go back up to the fork, then continue to down the shadowy steps leading directly down to the base of Dawson Falls.

From down here, it was a little misty on our first visit in November 2004, which had a bit of volume. This meant I had some trouble taking photos from this close.

When we tried to get a little further away for a better photo, we had to be careful of the slippery rocks as we were scrambling around the wet area (yielding the photo you see at the top of this page).

When we came back here in January 2010, the photographing difficulties weren’t as prevalent as it seemed to have significantly lower volume than before.

However, it looked like an unbalanced waterfall as the lone thick column (now the left column instead of the right column) left only a trickle for the right column (formerly the larger column from back in 2004).

How Dawson Falls looked on our second visit in 2010

I guess it just showed us how Nature runs by her own rules. What we had previously thought would be “normal” was really just a snapshot of Nature being itself at any given moment when left to its own devices.

Even though our hiking only took less than 30 minutes total (it was only 5 minutes walk from the trailhead to the falls), we did have the option of extending our hike towards Wilkies Pools, the Enchanted Track, or other tracks that go up and around Mt Taranaki.

That said, we didn’t do them so we can’t say more about those options.


Dawson Falls is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.



From the SH3 and SH43 junction in the heart of Stratford, we went south on SH3 for about 1km, then turned right onto Celia St. We followed Celia St (which then became Opunake Rd) for about 14km. Then we turned right at the intersection with Manaia Rd to go onto Manaia Rd, and we followed this road up the mountain to the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre after about 9km. We had to be careful on this section of Manaia Rd because it was narrow (like about 1.5 lanes) with some blind turns and heavy bush cover.

There were other ways to get to Manaia Rd from other rural streets and roads. However, if you happened to be on the Surf Highway (SH45), Manaia Rd also junctions with SH45 at the township of Manaia. It would be about 19km between Manaia and the Opunake Rd/Manaia Rd intersection.

Finally for some context, Stratford was about 30 minutes (40km) south of New Plymouth or 4 hours drive (312km) north of Wellington. New Plymouth was 4.5 hours drive or 361km south of Auckland.

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Bottom up sweep of the falls viewed from just downstream of its base

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Tagged with: taranaki, egmont, stratford, new plymouth, manaia, opunake, surf highway, north island, new zealand, waterfall

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