Thunder Creek Falls and the Haast River

Get info about and see photos and a video of Thunder Creek Falls and the Haast River on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

What is Thunder Creek Falls?

Thunder Creek Falls is a tall waterfall that tumbles into the Haast River on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

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It is the end of Thunder Creek, which is a tributary of the Haast River that drains a short narrow valley.

Ice once covered the entire area, except for the highest mountains. Glaciers and ice receded during the past two million years in a series of ice ages.

The Haast Glacier extended beyond Haast township and the current West Coast coastline.

The eroding effect of the most recent glaciation period that took place about 18,000 to 20,000 years ago lowered and smoothed Haast Pass, which is the lowest pass (562 meters or 1,844 feet above sea level) through the Southern Alps.

The Haast River cut a canyon the height of the waterfall since the retreat of the glacier ice in the area.

How to get to Thunder Creek Falls

To get to Thunder Creek Falls, you can follow State Highway 6 from Wanaka in the direction of Lake Hawea and then onward toward Makarora.

Thunder Creek Falls in New Zealand

Continue past Makarora until you reach the Gates of Haast Bridge, which is a one-lane bridge. Shortly after crossing the bridge, start looking for a large parking lot on the left side of the road.

You can also get to Thunder Creek Falls from the other end of State Highway 6 when coming from Haast. Look for the parking lot on the right side of the road after you have passed Pleasant Flat.

If you reach the Gates of Haast Bridge without seeing a sign for Thunder Creek Falls, you have gone too far.

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If you decide to drive from Wanaka to Thunder Creek Falls, it should take you approximately one hour to drive the 90 km (56 mi) stretch of highway to the parking lot.

Why visit Thunder Creek Falls?

Thunder Creek Falls is ideal as a short day trip from Queentown if you are staying in Queenstown, from Wanaka, from Cromwell, or if you are driving either to or from the West Coast.

While the waterfall itself is loud, I personally don’t find it that impressive. In addition, its height makes it very difficult to photograph. However, the Haast River can be very photogenic, especially when sunlight falls on it.

It is best to visit Thunder Creek Falls after a period of heavy rainfall.

Video of Thunder Creek Falls and the Haast River

The following 2-minute video takes you on the short walk to Thunder Creek Falls on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

 

Note: Places can change and/or become inaccessible. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.

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