Hike to Whiskey Falls

New Zealand Whiskey Falls

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    5 Miles

Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Between the lakes, the forest, and the waterfall, I don't know which is my favorite! Gorgeous flat walk, easy accessible, and a great falls to cap it off, this hike has it all for little to no effort.

Whiskey Falls provides a great way to stretch the legs during a car trip. Or it provides a great day hike option if you are looking to explore the Nelson Lakes area. I had a day to explore and decided to cruise down Nelson Lakes and do a day hike.

Whiskey Falls is located along the shore of Lake Rotoiti in St. Arnaud. St. Arnaud is located right on Highway 63, one route connecting the north of the South Island to the West Coast. St. Arnaud does have some cafe and supermarket options. It also has some lodging if you are in need/interested.

One thing I would recommend is stopping at the DOC center in St. Arnaud. It is a great resources for the area and it has informational displays about New Zealand.

To actually drive to the trailhead for Whiskey Falls, turn off of Highway 63 onto Mt. Robert Road. You will pass through a few campground areas on Mt. Robert Road which are all run by the DOC. The gravel road will continue to wind and start to climb a bit. About 3km up the road (rough estimate) there is a car park on the right hand side of the road. Keep your eyes peeled for the green and yellow DOC sign that is labeled "Lakeside Track". Plenty of easy parking.

The Lakeside Track starts out on the downhill and works its way down to the shoreline of Lake Rotoiti. You stroll along the lake's edge for the majority of the track, sometimes going up 10 meters but ending up back to the lake's shore.

The only true elevation gain is walking up to the base of the falls. The climb to the base of the falls is only about 10 minutes, but does increase in elevation.

Once you reach the base of the falls, you are actually still far from where the water lands. There is a little path down the side of edge and you can stream hop and pick you away around boulders to the true bottom of the falls. ALL THE ROCKS ARE WET AND SLIPPERY. Not only are they covered with moss, but there is a constant amount of moisture and spray in the air from the falls.

Below the falls and just a short 15 meters downstream of the falls there is the classic moss covered rock with gurgling steam to enjoy. Soak it in before returning to the trail.

Explore the falls, take lots of pictures, and enjoy the thunderous roar of the 40 meter falls. Enjoy some lunch by the water's edge, or retreat back to the lakeshore for a bit more peace and quiet.

Overall it is a great day hike taking about 4 hours depending on how long you stay at the falls. Add lunch in there and it could turn into 5 hours quite easily. If you cruise out and back without much hesitation, very feasible to do it in about 3 hours. The hike itself is roughly 8 kilometers or 5 miles round trip. I did not put an elevation gain because it is so minimal.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Lunch
  • Comfortable walking shoes
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Overall rating: 

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The hike was fun, at first it seemed disappointing as it stuck to the Forest away from the lake. It quickly changed and wound its way down to follow along the lake edge, rising and falling. It's an easy hike, despite its length. Waterfalls cross the paths and there are lots of opportunities to get some good lake pics. The waterfall and river at the end are well worth the walk as well! Very pretty and the Forest is beautiful. We spent more then an hour at the falls taking pictures and we finished in about 4 hours. Definitely would recommend!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Nice write up and detail. I would love to check this out soon.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Alex TandeExplorer

Just a bearded guy with a camera. Trying to explore this world one step, pedal crank, or paddle stroke at a time. Always need to find time for the hammock and the 12oz beer curl. You know, the important parts of life

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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