The Catlins

Matai Falls / Horseshoe Falls, the Catlins

One of the main reasons to visit the Catlins is the chance to see some stunning waterfalls. The short walk to Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls takes you through lush forest to a couple of awesome viewpoints. These waterfalls aren’t quite as iconic as nearby Mclean Falls and Purakaunui Falls, but they’re definitely worth a visit.

Horseshoe Falls

The two waterfalls are very close to each other and you can choose which order you visit them. We went up to Horseshoe Falls first, which took us above Matai Falls (the view would have been great but it was obstructed by trees). Horseshoe Falls is named after its shape, but that wasn’t immediately apparent when we visited. With a bit more water flowing through it I’m sure the name makes more sense! It’s still a cool place though, and it’s kind of a bonus waterfall since you’re really there to see Matai Falls.

Matai Falls

This 10 metre high waterfall features a fallen tree spread across the front of it, making it a cool place to pose for a photo (hopefully it’s still there when you visit!). It’s another beautiful Catlins waterfall surrounded by trees. The main platform is a good place to view it but it would also be worth getting down to the edge of the water for a different angle. I planned to do just that but a big group suddenly arrived and got in the way. If you visit in the morning (before 9 am) you should have Matai Falls all to yourself, as most people visit Purakaunui Falls first. Apparently the best light for photos is around midday.

Getting to Matai Falls / Horseshoe Falls

The car park for these waterfalls is located on the Papatowai Highway (the main road through the Catlins), around 18 km south of Owaka. The hike forest walk should take 20-30 minutes (return) and is mostly flat — it’s suitable for most levels of fitness but it does get a bit muddy after rain. There are heaps of other things to see in the area, including idyllic beaches, coastal viewpoints and wildlife — keep an eye out for future posts on this awesome region of New Zealand.

READ MORE: McLean Falls, the Catlins

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.
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