Matai Falls: The Catlins
Most visitors to the Catlins explore the rugged coastline with its rocky outcrops, caves, lighthouses and wild critters. On our second day in this forgotten corner of New Zealand, Geoff and I decided to turn away from salty flavoured activities and head inland to hunt for waterfalls. Technically, there are over 70 waterfalls along the Catlins coast and we decided to visit the big three: Purakaunui Falls, Matai Falls and McLean Falls.
Waipati Beach is home to the Catlin’s version of the ‘Cathedral Caves’. The two caves are linked in a ‘V’ like formation and in places, their cavernous roof is thirty metres high. The rocky ceiling creates a natural acoustic resonance, with the sounds of the Pacific Ocean’s waves in the background you can hear why Dr T. M. Hocken named them ‘Cathedral Caves’ in 1896.
The caves can only be visited for an hour either side of the low tide. When you check the tide table make sure you factor in the twenty-minute bush walk and five-minute beach stroll to get there. There is a $5 fee charged to cross the private land to reach the caves, this goes to maintaining the access road and tracks to the beach which is not a cheap exercise.
Just south of the Cathedral Cave’s turn off, Newcastle Road has a sign that points to the start of the Mclean Falls track. The car park is at the confluence of Tautuku River and Duckaday Creek, and the twenty-minute walk takes you to the Tatuku Rivers most stunning falls.
At 22 metres high, these are the tallest falls in the Catlins, and on a hot day, the slippery scramble to the pool at the bottom of the main falls is worth the extra effort.