The Catlins

Purakaunui Falls, the Catlins

Purakaunui Falls is one of the more popular spots on the Catlins tourist trail. It’s known as one of New Zealand’s most beautiful waterfalls (which I’d agree with) and it’s only a short walk from the car park. A visit to Purakaunui Falls is recommend for pretty much everyone – keep reading for everything you need to know!

The Short Walk to Purakaunui Falls

From the park (I’ll explain how to get there at the end of this post) you’ll have a five-minute walk through the forest before reaching Purakaunui Falls. It’s a nice enough walk – you’ll see plenty of native trees and some small cascades. It’s mostly flat and very easy – even the fussiest of kids won’t mind this stroll through the forest.

Small cascades in the Catlins, New Zealand

Purakaunui Falls

Once at the falls you’ll see a big wooden viewing platform. From there you get a great view of the falls. This three-tiered waterfall looks amazing after heavy rain, but it still looks good when the water isn’t flowing as hard. It can get busy at times, and you may get frustrated trying to take a photo when there are people in the way, but you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a quiet window.

Purakaunui Falls seen from the viewing platform, Catlins, New ZealandPurakaunui Falls, Catlins, New Zealand

It’s good to get another angle of Purakanui Falls (in my opinion the best angle). You’ll see some rocks near where the viewing platform starts – this is a good angle for taking photos of the falls and it’s also the direction you’ll need to walk if you want to get a photo of yourself in front of them. Take care though, as the rocks can get slippery! I wouldn’t recommend trying to swim there (it’s probably too shallow anyway) and there really isn’t much else to explore. That makes it a quick, easy and very scenic stop on your road trip through the Catlins.

The beautiful Purakaunui Falls, New Zealand

Getting there

Purakaunui Falls is located on Purakanui Falls Road and there are few different roads leading to it. If coming from the north (after visiting Nugget Point, Cannibal Bay etc) it’s best to turn onto Purakaunui Falls Road just after the bridge across the Catlins River (not too far from the town of Owaka). There are other roads leading to it and the signage is pretty good – it’s one of the most popular spots in the Catlins so I imagine it’d be hard not to find it. Also check out Purakaunui Bay and the other waterfalls nearby, including McLean Falls and Matai Falls.

Are you planning a road trip around New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

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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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