Shine Falls: A Hike to the biggest waterfall in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Jurassic Park or New Zealand? At times, New Zealand really has me wondering whether I’m in a modern-day country, or some kind of prehistoric world that Mother N has reclaimed for herself in all it’s awe-inspiring glory. And taking a hike to Shine Falls will be enough to make you too wonder as you gaze at the cascading falls high above…

At 58m high, it might not be the highest waterfall in New Zealand, but it is the highest waterfall in Hawke’s Bay. And it sure is a slice of Mother N’s paradise that adventure lovers will froth for. Not to mention the invigorating short hike to get there, guaranteed to work up just enough of a sweat to compel you to strip down into your swimsuit and take a refreshing dip. Who’s game?

In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know to plan your trip to Shine Falls, what to expect from the hiking trail along with some tops tips and a few photos to give you an idea of why you might get FOMO if you don’t go.


How to get to Shine Falls

You’ll need some wheels to get to Shine Falls. The car park which marks the beginning of the trail is accessible via a 6km winding gravel road off State Highway 2, through some of New Zealand’s finest vistas of rolling hills and farmland. It’s truly beautiful. But also in the middle of nowhere… which inevitably adds to the charm. The nearest town is Napier which lies 61km to the south, and the Mahia Peninsular which lies some 129km to the northeast, is a great place to head for onward travel from your short Shine Falls day-hike.

The Trail

Although the Department of Conservation (DOC) state that this is a two hour return hike, it should be noted that this is most likely for someone taking a slow to moderate pace. It took us 25 minutes to reach the falls, and 25 minutes to return. The trail itself is mostly uphill to begin with, flattening out after the first km and then small up and downhills as you follow the trail beside the river to the falls. The whole trail is very well marked by the department of conservation, just follow the little path-markers like the one in the picture below.

Follow the trail markers which look like this, as you head to Shine Falls.

At The Falls

Gaze in awe, get soaked up by the mist as you approach the falls, go for a dip, and even enjoy a picnic if you’ve come prepared! After enjoying the area and taking photos there isn’t much more to do here. Expect to spend up to one hour at the falls depending on the photos you want to take and how much you can take of plunging yourself into the freezing cold water (it’s fun, promise!).

The stunning Shine Falls in all it’s glory, New Zealand.

Rocking out at Shine Falls, New Zealand

Top Tips

  • BYO food & drink

As you pull up into the parking area at Shine Falls, you’ll already have noticed you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, so be sure to stock up on any snacks or water before departing from the nearest town.

  • Boot up

Hiking boots are recommended as the trail is muddy in parts, especially after rain. If you are headed there in the dry summer months, sneakers or sturdy sandals should be fine.

  • Driving tips

The road to the falls trail car park is long and winding, and takes you through some pretty remote farmland. If you come face to face with a herd of farm animals just sit back, relax and keep the car still until the farmers and farm dogs have moved along.

  • No public toilets

ARGHHHH the most feared words for anyone with a small bladder, I know. Bear in mind that there are no public toilets and take your number two well before or after your trip to Shine Falls. If you need to go, be respectful of the scenic and natural area and leave no trace, pee well off the trail and take any toilet paper away with you.

  • Take some music

Why not take some banging tunes to enjoy at the falls! I love my WONDERBOOM which you can get fully – like SOAKING – wet and it still works.

Wet & wild with my WONDERBOOM at Shine Falls


Looking for more short hikes to natural gems in New Zealand?

A Guide To Hiking To New Chums Beach, New Zealand


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