Purakaunui Falls. (Purra-cow-nui) This is the most photogenic of the Catlins waterfalls, one avid waterfall photographers will love. For non-photographers though, the long drive for such a short excursion might not seem worth it. The quick 5-minute track to the falls features some dense jungly bush, but nothing as impressive as McLeans’ track.
Purakaunui drops about 20m in three stairsteps, spreading out horizontally like a pyramid. Anyone who knows how to slow down their shutter speed will turn Purakaunui Falls into a wispy delight. Bring water shoes if you want to hop off the view platform to try for some different photo angles.
Drive: A 14km road loops to the falls from either side of a saddle to the west of Okawa. The first signed turn is 7km west of Okawa at the bay-inlet bridge, and the more western end of the loop is 14.4km west of Okawa. Coming from the west, the first signed loop turn is 25km from Cathedral Caves.
McLeans Falls. McLeans Falls is the most dramatic of the Catlins waterfalls, especially after some rain. The falls spill about 20m over a ledge and then cascade down some ledges. The 10- minute track to the falls is wonderful—you’ll wish it wouldn’t end! The track criss-crosses a bunch of stream bridges, winding its way through a rainforest jungle of ferns and twisted trees, before ending at a view platform.
Drive: Falls are signed at the McLeans Falls Holiday Park, 700m west of Cathedral Caves Rd. The Holiday Park is $18pp. Falls are 3km past the Holiday Park on the gravel road.
Matai Falls. This waterfall is mostly just a wee dribbler, located about 5km west of Purakaunui’s western loop road. By NZ standards Matai doesn’t warrant a stop unless you are truly waterfall-crazed