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Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
Sutherland Falls / Joel Krauska, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

The most impressive falls in New Zealand are Sutherland Falls. Technically there are higher falls (836 m tall Browne Falls) or more powerful ones (Huka Falls) but Sutherland Falls provide the thrill – noise, quake of soil and magnificent sight. There are few waterfalls in the world that are more impressive.

4.6 out of 10 stars 46.0%

GPS coordinates
44.8001 S 167.7311 E
Location, address
Australia and Oceania, Polynesia, New Zealand, South Island, Southland, stream between Browne Lake and Doubtful Sound
580 m, the tallest drop – 270 m
Average width
27 m?

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Discovery of Donald Sutherland and John Mackay

Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
Sutherland Falls / Fred Hsu, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The first settler in the beautiful Milford Sound was adventurer, soldier, and sailor Donald Sutherland. He looked for silent and calm life here and enjoyed walking in the beautiful valleys of Fiordland, looking for gold and greenstone.

One day arrived his old friend John Mackay and they both together went to explore unexplored valleys south-west from Milford Sound.

After walking for three days on November 10, 1880 they were the first white people to see the giant falls – the distant roar of falling water was heard already in the morning of the day. Both men were hugely impressed and considered that falls are more than one kilometer high. (1)

Surveyors came here in 1888 and measured the falls – they were "just" 580 m tall. Milford Track opened in the same year and first tourists came to see the falls. This has continued since then – falls are available by 3 km long track from Quintin Public Shelter at Milford Track.

Lower cascade of Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
Lower cascade of Sutherland Falls / Fred Hsu, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Giant falls

Sutherland Falls originate from Lake Quill – a comparatively large lake fed by glaciers around it. Arthur River leaves the lake and, after falling down along the Sutherland Falls, continues up to the Milford Sound.

The height of waterfall is that large that even the climatic zones change along it. Above, around the lake, are alpine meadows but after some seconds water rushes down in a temperate rainforest.

Falls have three cascades. Height of each step (from above) is: 229 m, 248 m, 103 m (2). Waterfall falls by 580 m over the horizontal distance of 480 m – thus the mean angle is 56°.

Average volume of water in it: 11 m³ per second, maximum recorded volume – 142 m³ per second, what still is 17 times less than in Niagara.

Donald Sutherland, 1888
Donald Sutherland, 1888 / From Hero Stories of New Zealand, CC BY-SA 3.0

The force of the falling water creates constant winds and fog, making the base of falls constantly damp and dark. In dry weather though it is possible to go behind the last cascade. This is amazing experience – one gets wet instantly, winds are that fierce that it is hard to breathe.


  1. James Cowan, Hero Stories of New Zealand, 1935. Accessed on January 15, 2011
  2. Bryan Swan & Dean Goss, World Waterfall Database, Sutherland Falls.

WorldYellow Linked articles

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Champagne Pool / Photo by Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-2.5

Wonders of New Zealand

The island nation of New Zealand hosts some of the most impressive natural attractions in the world. The number of attractions is divided almost equally between two large islands – the South and North islands.

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, Wikimedia Commons / public domain


Some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound. / Bernard Spragg. NZ, Flickr / public domain

Wonders of Polynesia

Although the landmass of Polynesia is small, the charm and special beauty of this region are some of the most impressive on our planet. These islands are endowed with lush and beautiful nature, with warm oceans and friendly people representing a distinct culture. Polynesia is very rich in both natural and cultural landmarks and many of them are unique.

WorldYellow Recommended books

A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls

Whether you’re on holiday from abroad, or a Kiwi looking for new places in your own backyard, you now have a way to truly experience New Zealand’s scenic diversity. With A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls, nature lovers can find the country’s most spectacular waterfalls in landscapes as varied as serene rainforests, awe-inspiring alpine mountains, mythical fiords, colorful volcanic moonscapes, and soothing sandy beaches.

NZ Frenzy South Island New Zealand

If you’re going to New Zealand to travel on a guided tour bus or planning to stay in just one location…then NZ Frenzy won’t help you too much. But, if like most travelers, you are going to New Zealand to see and explore one of the world’s most incredible and varied landscapes…then NZ Frenzy will be the best money you spend on your NZ adventure.

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