Take a drive on the Southern Scenic Route to embark on a walk through regenerating forest that leads to two of the Catlins’ most photogenic falls.
Matai Falls may not have made the New Zealand national stamp but they’re just as impressive as the nearby Purakaunui Falls, without the crowds. Take a drive along the winding Southern Scenic Route to reach the Matai Falls car park and start your day’s exploration of the Catlins Forest Park. A short walk leads you to both Matai Falls and the adjacent Horseshoe Falls. Embrace the serenity of the dense forest as you enjoy a picnic lunch in the designated area or listen to the cascading water from the edge of the Matai Stream.
Park by the edge of the highway in the carpark to locate the trailhead and begin your walk through the forest. Duck beneath the low-lying branches of rejuvenating podocarp and broadleaf trees. Pass through a tunnel of foliage as you make the short walk to the Matai Stream.
As the forest opens up you’ll begin to hear the sounds of the water cascading down the two sets of falls. Removed from the sounds of civilisation, be amazed by the tranquillity of this secluded spot. Stand beside the 10-metre-tall (33-foot) Matai Falls or continue an additional 2 minutes up the stream to reach Horseshoe Falls. The return journey takes about 30 minutes and after an initial descent remains flat, making the track suitable for hikers of all ages.
Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy afterwards at the designated picnic area, with only the sounds of the forest, or continue to the nearby McLean Falls and Purakaunui Falls. Matai Falls are located approximately 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Owaka and parking is available beside the Southern Scenic Route. The park and falls are free of any admission fees and are open every day of the year. Dress appropriately as temperatures can drop in winter and rain is often unpredictable.