Discovering Sutherland Falls: A Gem in New Zealand's South Island

Sutherland Falls

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    Nestled in the heart of New Zealand's South Island, Sutherland Falls stands as a testament to nature's grandeur. Once believed to be the tallest waterfall in NZ, this cascading beauty has a rich history and offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler.

    History and Geology of Sutherland Falls

    The majestic Sutherland Falls, counted among the world's highest waterfalls, is a marvel of nature that has been shaped over millennia. Comprising three spectacular leaps that total a height of 1,904 ft, the falls are fed by the waters of Lake Quill. 

    This lake, situated in a small rock basin, is a testament to the ice-action during the Ice Age. The water from Lake Quill spills almost directly over the basin's lip, cascading down a near-vertical mountain wall into a valley that was carved by ice. The falls' impressiveness is accentuated by the water's leaping action from two main ledges on the mountain wall. 

    The falls were named after Donald Sutherland, who discovered them. Sutherland, along with J. McKay and J. Malcolm, settled at Milford Sound between 1887-80. An explorer at heart, Sutherland ventured into the surrounding regions in search of a new route to Lake Wakatipu.

    Sutherland Falls in New Zealand

    How tall is Sutherland Falls?

    Sutherland Falls in New Zealand's South Island comprises three cascades on the Arthur River, totaling a drop of 1,904 ft (580 m). Located 14 mi from Milford Sound, its leaps measure 815 ft, 751 ft, and 338 ft, making it one of the world's tallest waterfalls.

    How to get to Sutherland Falls?

    Embarking on a journey to Sutherland Falls is akin to stepping into a world of natural wonder. Situated in proximity to the renowned Milford Sound, the route to the falls offers travelers a visual treat, with panoramic views of New Zealand's untouched landscapes. 

    For those who value comfort and the freedom to explore at their own pace, renting a campervan from Campervan New Zealand is a stellar choice. It not only provides a cozy mode of transport but also allows travelers to soak in the beauty of the region unhurriedly.

    Sutherland Waterfalls in New Zealand

    When is the best time to visit Sutherland Falls?

    Given New Zealand's varied climate, each season paints Sutherland Falls in a different hue. However, for those seeking clear skies and the falls at their voluminous best, the period between November and April is ideal. The falls glisten under the sun, and the fuller flow ensures that they are a sight to behold.

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    How long does it take to hike to Sutherland Falls?

    For the adventurous souls, a hike to the base of Sutherland Falls promises an experience filled with awe and wonder. Starting from the Quintin Public Shelter on the Milford Track, the hike is a 90-minute return journey. 

    While the path can be moderately challenging, the reward lies in the up-close views of the falls, complemented by the lush greenery that envelopes the region.

    View of Sutherland Falls

    Tips to go to Sutherland Falls

    • Stay Hydrated: The hike can be demanding, so carry enough water.
    • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The terrain can be uneven, so sturdy footwear is a must.
    • Respect the Environment: Preserve the beauty of the area by not littering.
    • Capture the Moments: Don't forget your camera! The views are breathtaking.

    Can I swim in Sutherland Falls?

    While the allure of the falls might tempt many, swimming is not recommended due to the sheer force of the water and the cold temperatures. However, the misty spray from the falls offers a refreshing respite for hikers.

    Mountain with Sutherland Falls


    Sutherland Falls is more than just a waterfall; it's a journey through New Zealand's rich history, geology, and unparalleled beauty. Whether you're an avid hiker or someone looking to marvel at nature's wonders, Sutherland Falls promises an experience like no other. 

    And remember, if you're planning a trip, consider a campervan rental from Campervan New Zealand to make your adventure even more memorable. Safe travels!

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