We turned off the main highway at the south end of the Catlins River Bridge and soon found the Purakanui Falls car park. A ten minute stroll through the forest leads you to this watery wonder which is stacked like a three-tiered wedding cake.
Being close to Owaka, the main settlement in the Catlins, Purakanui is probably the best-known waterfall in the area. Visiting just before mid-day when the sun shines through the trees and then enjoying the picnic area by the car park is highly recommended.
Back on SH96 we kept heading south towards Table Hill Scenic Reserve and Matai Falls. This time, a twenty-minute walk through regenerating forest led us to a wooden viewing platform. The waterfall cascades down a verdant wall of moss-covered rocks and presents a visually meditative experience.
Always up for an extra challenge, we scrambled up the muddy bank and took a peak at Horseshoe Falls. The extra grovel was worth it, but it was difficult to get a good photograph of the falls as they are engulfed by forest. Rather like a passport stamp, I ended up with a muddy backside on my way down as proof of the adventure.
McLean Falls is over 22 metres tall and is definitely my favourite waterfall in the Catlins. Kudos to the Kings High School students and associates who helped build the track in the late 1990’s. The walk in is a little steeper than the access to the other two waterfalls and I would recommend wearing shoes with good tread.
When you come out onto the rocky terrace at the bottom of the falls, the constant flow of water is mesmerising. In warmer weather, you can even swim in the pool at the bottom of the main falls; however, on the day we visited staying dry seemed like a better option.
Back at our cabin, I was surprised at how sleepy I was after the fresh air laden with fine mist from three of New Zealand’s most stunning waterfalls...Just another great day out in the Catlins.