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Where Are the Best Waterfalls in The Catlins?

Where Are the Best Waterfalls in The Catlins?

When road tripping around the Catlins you’ll almost definitely want to visit some waterfalls. It’s one of the things the region is most famous for, but where are the best waterfalls in the Catlins? There are a few waterfalls to see, including Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls, as well as some more off the beaten path options. Join us as we explore the best Catlins waterfalls!

I wrote individual posts about the best Catlins waterfalls, so didn’t go into much detail about them. Click on the links for information on how to reach them etc.

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls is the most iconic of the waterfalls in the Catlins and it’s also the easiest to visit. It only takes five minutes to walk there from the car park and it’s almost completely flat. Purakaunui Falls is a three-tiered waterfall surrounded by native bush – it’s very picturesque and it does get busy, so you might have to wait around for a few minutes to get a clear photo.

Waterfalls in the Catlins, New Zealand -- Purakaunui Falls

McLean Falls

If you’re looking for the best waterfalls in the Catlins, you can’t go past McLean Falls. It’s my personal favourite, mainly due to the scale of it and all the different little sections. It’s surrounded by native bush and there are lots of big rocks nearby, meaning it’s a good place for photos of people! The walk there is fairly easy (although longer than Purakaunui Falls) and there’s a good café nearby (Whistling Frog) – don’t miss McLean Falls!

McLean Falls, one of the best waterfalls in the Catlins

Matai Falls

Matai Falls is another beautiful waterfall in the Catlins. It’s not quite as impressive, or popular, as the two listed above but it’s well worth checking out. The walk there is nice and the track also takes you to Horseshoe Falls (listed below).

READ MORE: 23 of the Best Things to Do in the Catlins

Best waterfalls in the Catlins, New Zealand -- Matai Falls

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls isn’t as impressive as nearby Matai Falls, but it’s still worth a look. I reckon it’d be impressive after heavy rain.

Horseshoe Falls, New Zealand

Waipohatu Waterfall (number 1)

These next two waterfalls in the Catlins take more of an effort to visit. The track starts near Curio Bay (far further south than the others) and it’ll take you 2-3 hours of hiking to see them. That means the crowds tend to avoid this place. The first waterfall we visited (you can visit them in either order) is tall and surrounded by beautiful native bush. It’s a bit hard to see the whole thing as it’s obscured by trees and rocks – hopefully they make a proper viewpoint there at some point.

READ MORE: Hiking the Waipohatu Waterfall Track

Waipohatu Falls, one of the best waterfalls in the Catlins

Waipohatu Waterfall (number 2)

The second waterfall on the Waipohatu Waterfall Track is smaller and far easier to see. It’s a bit like a smaller version of Purakaunui Falls and looks beautiful on a nice sunny day. I’d put it as my third favourite waterfall in the Catlins, behind Purakaunui and McLean.

Waipohatu Falls, New Zealand

Koropuku Falls

Koropuku Falls is accessed via a muddy forest track and I’m sure, in better conditions, it would be beautiful. There wasn’t much water in it when we visited though so it looked a little unimpressive – I’d say visit the ones above first and leave this one last / skip it if conditions seem a bit dry.

Koropuku Falls, New Zealand

Niagara Falls

This isn’t even a waterfall, just a set of rapids. Someone thought it’d be funny to name it Niagara Falls, but you might not be laughing when you try and visit and can’t even tell what you’re supposed to be looking at. Is that it in the photo below? Who knows!

Barrs Falls

We visited Barrs Falls in dry conditions and there wasn’t much to see. It could be worth a look if you’ve seen all the other waterfalls in the Catlins, but if not, I’d suggest skipping it (unless visiting after heavy rain – it could look really good!).

Which Waterfalls in the Catlins Should You Visit?

That completes our list of the best waterfalls in the Catlins. As you can see there are heaps of them, but some are better than others. If you’re planning your first trip to the Catlins I’d make sure to at least visit Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls. If you aren’t satisfied with those, I’d check out Matai Falls, and if you’re keen to stretch your legs a bit more you can’t go wrong with the Waipohatu Waterfall Walk. So many options!

Are you planning a trip to this beautiful region of New Zealand? Check out our Catlins itinerary!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.