The Catlins

McLean Falls, The Catlins

If you only have time to visit one waterfall in the Catlins, make it McLean Falls. The various tiers and pools, surrounded by lush forest, combine to make this one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. It’s easy to access and, if you time your visit right, you could have it all to yourself.

Walking to McLean Falls

Mclean Falls sits at the end of a short forest track. It takes 10-15 minutes to reach the first small waterfall, which makes for an excellent entree to the main course. The track then continues up the hill before opening out into an incredible scene of crashing water.

McLean Falls

At 22 metres, this is one of the tallest waterfalls in this region of New Zealand. The main drop is mostly hidden behind a series of rapids and falls. We visited early and had the whole place to ourselves. There are lots of rocks to climb over and you can stand right next to the water, making it excellent for photography. I considered trying to climb further up the rocks to get an unobstructed view of the main waterfall but the rocks were steep and slippery — it can probably be done but use caution!

There are other waterfalls in the Catlins, including Matai Falls and Purakaunui Falls, both of which are also pretty amazing. It’s worth visiting them all, but in my opinion McLean Falls is the best of the lot.

READ MORE: Matai Falls / Horseshoe Falls, the Catlins

Getting to McLean Falls

The turnoff to McLean Falls is located just past Tautuku Bay on the Chaslands Highway, the main road through the Catlins. From the turnoff you need to drive down a short gravel road, which is in good enough shape for almost any vehicle. The walk is 40 minutes return (according to the sign) but you could probably do it quicker.

Spending a day or two in the Catlins should be high on anyone’s New Zealand bucket list. There are excellent beaches in the area, lots of wildlife, several impressive waterfalls and some surreal coastal scenery. It’s only an hour or so from Dunedin and you can easily see the highlights on a day trip, although spending the night in one of the camp grounds along the coast is a good idea.

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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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