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Along the windy roads that lead south towards Wanaka and Queenstown on New Zealand’s gorgeous West Coast, you can stumble upon a lot of breathtaking hidden gems – one of them being the stunning Thunder Creek Falls.
This journey that takes you through New Zealand’s glacier country, beautiful forests, and mountain landscapes is a well-traveled one. However, it can be easy to miss some highlights including Thunder Creek Falls as you get lost in the amazing views.
Most of the time, only a small sign that can be hidden by trees is all that points you in the right direction.
However, to make things easier and to ensure you get to experience this magical place, I have written a short guide on everything you need to know about visiting Thunder Creek Falls, New Zealand!
About Thunder Creek Falls, New Zealand
Thunder Creek Falls is a 28m (92 feet) high waterfall that feeds into the Haast River. The waterfall is fed by melting glacier water and the entire area is pristine. It is definitely one of the best destinations on the South Island.
The waterfall is made up of one single stream that bursts out from the steep cliffs that line the Haast River. That cliff is covered in thick, green, lush vegetation.
Thunder Creek Falls is truly one of New Zealand’s most beautiful waterfalls (trust us on that, we have seen a lot of waterfalls in New Zealand!)
Related Read: Experience the grandeur of Milfords Sounds by cruise
Where is Thunder Creek Falls located?
Thunder Creek Falls is located only 1.5 hours north of Wanaka along the most common route for anybody doing a South Island West Coast road trip – the Haast Pass. To hit all of the best spots around Thunder Creek Falls and save on accommodations you’ll want to rent a camper van while in New Zealand.
To get there from Wanaka take South Highway 6 and head north for 90km/60mi until you see the sign. There is a small parking lot on the left side and a large pullover bay on the right!
If you are heading in the other direction then the falls are a 2 hour, 170km/106mi drive from Fox Glacier Township heading south.
You can easily find the location on Google Maps, just keep your eyes open because you don’t want to miss it!
How long is the hike to Thunder Creek Falls?
The hike (if you can even call it that) to Thunder Creek Falls is only 5 minutes at most and the path is well maintained and flat.
This hike to Thunder Creek Falls could be completed by almost anyone and the path could even be accessed by wheelchair. You don’t even need shoes, thongs (flip-flops) would suffice.
It isn’t often that such a beautiful waterfall is so easily accessible. Take advantage of this short 5-minute detour on your road trip and check it out!
Related Read: Learn how to take better travel photos with these easy tips.
Are there any facilities at Thunder Creek Falls?
There are no toilets at Thunder Creek Falls! The nearest public toilet facilities are at Pleasant Flats just a few minutes drive down the road.
There is a viewpoint at the end of the path and a few stairs that lead down to the river if you want to get a closer look.
Signs are posted at the start of the trail and have information about the falls and the surrounding area.
Tips for Visiting Thunder Creek Falls
- Visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon – Thunder Creek Falls can get very busy midday in the summer months. Busloads of tourists visit making it not so peaceful. Going earlier or later in the day will help you avoid these tour groups.
- Wear bug repellent – there are many sandflies in the area and while their bites don’t seem too bad at first, later on, you will be very itchy! Any type of bug repellent will do the job for this or just cover up.
- Bring a tripod – If you want to take some awesome slow-shutter photos you will need your tripod!
- Wear a swimsuit – If you want, brave the ice-cold water and go for a dip!
Attractions near Thunder Creek Falls
Fox Glacier – located near Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier is another cool place to visit. Seeing the signs that show how the glacier is retreating is a real eye-opener!
Franz Josef Glacier – Franz Josef is New Zealand’s most popular glacier and the free hike to the lookout is truly a sight worth seeing.
Blue Pools – This amazing blue water is definitely worth checking out! There is also a pretty cool suspension bridge here!
Fantail Falls – This waterfall is not as amazing as Thunder Creek Falls, however, it’s a great place to check out and explore!
Where to Stay near Thunder Creek Falls
While there aren’t an abundance of choices to stay near Thunder Creek Falls your closest option that doesn’t involve a tent is 20 minutes south at the Wonderland Makarora Lodge in Makarora. They have a range of rooms from dorms to private bedrooms at budget prices.
The Haast Beach Motel is nicer and offers more expensive studio and apartment options in a more scenic beach location, but the site is located 40 minutes away in Haast.
There are camping options at one of several campgrounds near Thunder Creek Falls and the Cameron Flat Campsite has some of the best reviews. Bookings are required before you can camp, you can book a basic campsite here.
Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand
The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)
You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.
You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!
JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.
We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! You must act quickly, though, as this code is only valid for bookings made before June 30, 2024, with travel dates before December 21, 2024!
Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.
Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!
Thanks for reading!
Overall, Thunder Creek Falls was for sure one of my highlights on our journey from Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown. The waterfall is really something special and it is a great place to enjoy a quiet lunch and a breath of fresh air.
I hope this blog post has both helped and inspired your amazing journey through this amazing country. New Zealand’s landscapes never stop inspiring us.
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below, we love to hear from our readers! If not be sure to check out all our other New Zealand blogs here or check out these related articles below: