The Best (and Worst) Catlins Waterfalls
November 21, 2018
The Catlins region in the south of New Zealand is filled with beautiful waterfalls that everyone should visit. However many people have limited time so this post outlines the ones you should and shouldn’t miss. Here are the best (and worst) Catlins waterfalls!
The Best (and worst ) Catlins Waterfalls
The Catlins is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. This small area in the very south of the South Island is visited by people in search of wildlife, amazing coastal views, and of course, waterfalls! The Catlins is filled with amazing waterfalls that are scattered around its coastal rainforest.
During my last visit to the Catlins I made an effort to stop at every waterfall along the way. I had a few days to spend in this rather small area (most people only have a day or maybe two.) So, this post is about the best and worst Catlins waterfalls – helping you plan all of your waterfall stops without missing out on the best ones!
Here are all of the best Catlins waterfalls in order of best to worst!
1. Koropuku Falls
Koropuku Falls was by far my favourite Catlins waterfall. This small 10m waterfall sits at the end of a beautiful nature walk on an unofficial trail. During our visit, we had the falls to ourselves the entire time and felt like we were well off the beaten path. It was without a doubt my favourite, but it’s also the least heard of. In fact, you won’t find Koropuku Falls on the official Catlins tourist map handed out at the visitor centres. I actually found this waterfall by chance as I was driving through the Catlins Coastal Rainforest!
The easiest and really only way to find Koropuku Falls is on Google Maps. If you don’t have Google Maps then it is exactly 26km from Tokanui (Invercargill side) and 24km from Papatowai (Dunedin side). You must be looking out for a small sign on the side of the road – on your left from Tokanui and right from Papatowai. At the sign is a small pullover bay. Park here and walk for around 10 minutes to the falls. I would recommend waterproof shoes as some parts of the trail cross small streams.
2. Mclean Falls
Mclean Falls is the most popular of the Catlins waterfalls. This spectacular waterfall is truly magnificent in both size and beauty. There are also a few unofficial trails that lead higher up the falls and you will find these to the right of the falls. Although this waterfall attracts some very high numbers it is still well worth a visit. Only because of the hordes of tourist does this fall at number two for me!
You really can’t miss McLean Falls on your way through the Catlins. It is on every map and is very well signposted along the road. From the carpark, the falls is around a 15-minute easy walk.
3. Waipohatu Falls
Waipohatu Falls has earned a very easy 3rd spot on my list. Waipohatu is actually two falls about 2 minutes apart deep in the coastal rainforest. Both falls are impressive but I’d say the falls to the right (you will know what I mean when you go) are my favourite! These falls had no other tourists at them while we were there and we saw no one even in the carpark. So, they are also a little off the beaten path and if you have a campervan you can freedom camp here too!
You can find Waipohatu Waterfalls on Google Maps or Maps.me and they are clearly signposted. These falls have a longer walk than the others, and if you have had recent rain like we had, they can be a little tricky to get to.
The sign from the start of the trail says 3.5 hours return, however, it isn’t quite that long. I’d still allow 2 hours though. You can park further up the road from the first sign and cut 30 minutes off your walk. Also, if you complete the loop it’s actually longer than walking back the same way you came. If you’re short on time, park at the furthermost point in the carpark and walk up and back from here.
4. Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls is a rather wide waterfall that is around 10m high. The waterfall has a viewing platform right in front of the falls which is perfect for taking photos and enjoying the view. This was my 4th favourite but not by much. The heavy rain we had likely had a negative effect on the waterfalls true beauty. Purakaunui Falls is still an impressive waterfall to visit and well worth checking out on your way through!
Purakaunui Falls is located just outside the town of Owaka. The turnoff is very clearly signposted and the road is a horseshoe, meaning it loops back to the main road further up. The trail is around a 10-minute easy walk to the falls.
5. Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls
Both Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls are located along the same trail. This makes them both very convenient to visit. However, I found these falls to not be as beautiful as the rest and would only recommend stopping here if you have extra time or missed one of the falls above.
Matai Falls is located between Owaka and Papatowai almost in the middle. The falls are clearly signposted. The walk to the falls takes around 1o minutes.
6. Niagra Falls
Niagra Falls is by far the worst Catlins waterfall and is not even worth a visit even if you have several years to explore the Catlins. The “falls” is actually a rapid set in an area surrounded by long grass. Maybe, if you would like to have a laugh, you could visit but if you’re short on time then don’t even give them a wave!
The Catlins is one of my favourite places in New Zealand to road trip around and also the best place to view waterfalls. Although this area is filled with many very beautiful stops, it’s safe to say that not all are equal. This guide is intended to help you plan and pick the best places so you have the most amazing time possible in New Zealand!
Please let us know if this blog helped you plan your trip and if you think I got the order right!?