Nathan Pettigrew — A Day At McLaren Falls

by | Oct 11, 2017 | Columns

Our marine kayaker takes his paddles a few miles inland and explores the freshwater of McLaren Falls.


McLaren Falls is really all about family. Just 15 minutes out of central Tauranga, this small and understated piece of paradise offers something for everyone. There is an array of bird life here, from swans and various kinds of ducks and geese, to pukeko, tui and, something that caught my conservationist eye, a pair of kaka with their unmistakably shrill call coming from one of the many towering trees above. While the more common ducks and geese will offer great entertainment for the kids, especially those with a piece of bread in hand, for me, these kaka were the highlight.

If you’d like something slightly more active, then bring your bikes and kayaks. That way, you could easily spend a good chunk of your family time around the relatively calm and sheltered lake before stopping for lunch and utilising one of the many barbeques scattered around the park. These barbeques are all free to use and, along with the many toilet blocks dotted around the area, make it an ideal camping spot for locals who don’t want to venture too far with little ones. A small fee goes back into the upkeep of the grounds and facilities and is well worth it.

As a kayaker, McLaren Falls is perfect for beginners. As I write this, there are kids out on the water in training for an upcoming multisport event for the AIMS games. It’s so cool that this is available for our awesome Kiwi kids! There are also some dare-devil white water rafting or kayaking opportunities further downstream, when the torrent of water is released from the hydro power station.

Paddling in the Tauranga Harbour this week, I was fortunate enough to paddle with a pod of bottlenose dolphins, penguins and a New Zealand fur seal. Here at the Falls, I saw a good number of trout. They had also clearly caught the eye of a fisherman on the side of the banks trying to land his dinner with great concentration.

The scenery in the park is utterly magnificent, And there are lots of day and night walks. Night? Yes! McLaren Falls offers some of the best glow worm viewing around. Walking the glow worm track is free, or you can go by kayak to another part of the park with a local tour group (fees apply). The track is stunning by day, too, and there is a photographic treat at the turning point of the walk, so be sure to take your camera.

There really is something here for everyone, so pack a lunch, grab your bikes and kayaks, maybe a book, binoculars, and bread for the birds, and get up here. Treat the family to a fun day out. It really is one of Tauranga’s little gems.

Right, I’m off to hit some salt water. See you for more epicness soon!

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