Nicols Falls, Dunedin, OTAGO

This is one of my favourite spots in Dunedin. It’s a relatively short walk (though fairly steep) and not many people know about it for some reason. It is definitely a “hidden gem” in lush native forest, which isn’t super common around Dunedin. There is also a great spot for glow worms if you go at night, which is a much easier little walk than to the falls.

Track Facts:

  • 2.2km
  • 40mins
  • Easy-moderate. Some fitness required (it’s all up, up, up)

Getting there:

The start of the track is on Leith Valley Road. Almost every time I come to do this walk, I forget where the beginning is. Luckily it is pretty well sign posted (look for a blue sign pointing to your left), with a small parking area on the right hand side of the road.

The walk:

Head into the forest and start your climb up. After 5-10minutes you’ll see a sign on your left, which gives directions to either the waterfall or the glowworms. The track to the waterfall looks steep from here, but don’t be dismayed!! It’s so worth the climb. Just take it one slow step at a time. And keep an eye out for the orange triangle route markers, there are a few sections where old river beds could be confused with the track!

We made it (with me carrying an 11kg babe on my back) in 20minutes, while chatting and stopping every now and again for a breather.

Once you make it to the waterfall, all your fitness woes will be forgotten. It’s a magical wee place, with beautiful native bush. The fall itself is a 5m horsetail waterfall (my fave). And while 5m doesn’t sound impressive, it’s certainly enough to get all those nature benefits.

We didn’t explore to the bottom of the waterfall, because it felt too treacherous with a sleeping baby on my back, but it is a lot of fun to climb around and dip your feet in! Here is an old pic of Mikey and I at the base of the waterfall (checa 2014ish)

On the way back down you can either head straight to the car, or head left when you get back to the main track to check out the glowworm viewing platform-it’s only a small detour.

I would recommend doing the waterfall + checking out the lookout in the light, and coming back at night time to see the glowworms. It’s been a number of years since I’ve been to this spot at night (I did t do it this trip because summer in Dunedin isn’t the best time as it gets dark sooo late!) but I remember that it was amazing.

Fun fact: I heard recently on a podcast that the only places in the world you can see glowworms is New Zealand, Australia and like one cave in Alabama, USA. Very random! But very cool!

Other things to do:

Mountain biking: there are extensive tracks (with more coming) where you can mountain bike. Just park your car in the same spot, on the other side of the road. Instead of following the blue Nicols Falls sign, go in the entrance on the right side of the creek. There is a map there with tracks and info.

Happy waterfall chasing



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