Casting light on scenic site

Wild bush just minutes from Dunedin's main street. Photo by Antony Hamel.
Wild bush just minutes from Dunedin's main street. Photo by Antony Hamel.
For advice on walking tracks, there is no-one better than Antony Hamel.

The 15m-high Nicols Falls are minor by Fiordland standards but make an interesting short walk.

Nicols Falls were a major Dunedin tourist attraction in the 1800s.

Visitors to the South Seas Exhibition of 1889-90 were routinely taken to the falls as they were Dunedin's greatest scenic attraction.

A track was built and a toll of 6 pence per person was charged by the landowner. Tragically, a Mr Jenkins died in 1894 while trying to climb to the top of the falls.

The creek became part of the Dunedin water catchment and by 1920 the public was prohibited access to the area. This has changed in recent times.

Nicols Falls (1 hour, 1.6km, 120m)
A visit is more interesting at night as the cliffs by the water intake and falls are the home to a large population of glow-worms.

The glow-worms lower sticky threads and emit light from their tails to capture insects for food. Once caught, the glow-worm retracts the thread and eats its insect prey.

Follow the vehicle track that winds steeply into the valley past a sign describing the glow-worms. Where the track flattens out, a sign shows the turn-off to the falls.

Continue straight ahead to the water intake in an impressive, narrow, fern-covered gorge.

At night, this is the best place to see glow-worms.

Retrace your steps to and take the track up to Nicols Falls. This track is narrow and can be very slippery after rain.

The track follows an old farm-cart track until it takes a right turn.

A narrow track leads under cliffs down into the creek bed and Nicols Falls.

To reach the base of the falls involves a scramble over rocks. Return back down the track.

South Side option (2 hours, 4.3km, 330m)

Start at the falls and climb past the site of Finnertys house to the macrocarpas on the northern ridge.

It then follows early cart tracks and the boundary fence to an intersection.

By turning left at the intersection it is possible to follow a route down the southern side of Nicols Creek to the Nicols Falls Track.

In 2006, the construction of an easy-graded mountain bike track began up the north side of Nicols Creek.

How to get there
Drive north on George St and turn left into Malvern St (2.1 km).
Continue up Malvern St past Fulton Rd (4.9 km) where the road narrows.
Stop at the next bridge (5.7 km).

This is an extract from Dunedin Tracks and Trails, an illustrated guide to Dunedin walks, tramps and mountain bike routes, by Antony Hamel.

It is a descendant of the previous guide, From Sea to Silver Peaks, and is available at Dunedin book shops and the Visitor Centre.


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