Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls are two easily-accessible waterfalls stemming from the Matai Stream in The Catlins.

Visiting Matai Falls in the Catlins is a worthwhile stop on any Catlins road trip. This waterfall actually caught me by surprise, having missed it on my research of the area and only spotting the waterfall sign spontaneously on the side of the road.

I was double-surprised to find out that there is actually two waterfalls at this location; Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls. These are two seperate levels of the same stream, but both worthy of a quick visit.


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Getting to Matai Falls

The Matai Falls carpark is located located in Table Hill Scenic Reserve on the Papatowai Highway. The carpark is approximately half way between Papatowai and Owaka.

The best way to get here is to follow directions to the pin below. You won’t have any trouble finding the waterfall as signs to the carpark are well-marked.

If you’re coming from Owaka, (or Dunedin) I’d recommend also taking the short detour to Purakaunaui Falls, which is only 15-20 minutes away.


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Waterfall Walk

Walk Difficulty: Very Easy, 10-15 minutes

After leaving our car in the car park, we were in for a fairly short 10-minute walk through a beautiful native podocarp and broadleaf forest.

The track is very well maintained and accessible for every fitness level.

After walking for a few minutes, you’ll come to a junction where you can continue straight or turn left. Turning left will take you to the lower waterfall; Matai Falls, and continuing on will lead to the top waterfall; Horseshoe Falls. Both tracks are short and easy to access.

Matai Falls

Waterfall Height: 10 metres

The first waterfall is Matai Falls, a 10 metre, plunging waterfall in a small clearing. There is a small wooden viewing platform where you can get a good glimpse of Matai Falls and snap some shots.

MATAI FALLS NEW ZEALAND

Although it’s not technically on the track, I detoured off to get a glimpse of Matai Falls from above by walking through some shrub and down to the stream. However, if you do this, make sure to be careful as the rocks are very slippery and the waterfall drop is steep.

MATAI FALLS NEW ZEALAND

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Horseshoe Falls

Waterfall Height: 10 metres

Following the right track, you can continue a short ascent to the upper waterfall level; Horseshoe Falls.

In my opinion, Horseshoe Falls was more impressive than the lower Matai Falls. Although they’re both beautiful waterfalls, Horseshoe Falls was surrounded by trickling streams from all sides. Although the waterfall itself is not huge, its stream was wide and gentle, which made it fun to photograph.

HORSESHOE FALLS NEW ZEALAND SOUTH ISLAND

After walking down the stream a bit further I was also able to get some nice light looking back up at Horseshoe Falls.

MATAI FALLS AND HORSESHOE FALLS WALK

More Waterfalls in the Catlins

I hope you found this guide to Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls helpful. If you’re looking for more waterfalls or adventures to be had in the Catlins, make sure to check out the list of free guides below, or read this blog for a full list of things to do in the Catlins.

For now, here are some more photographs of these great waterfalls to get you motivated to make the short stop!

MATAI FALLS NEW ZEALAND
MATAI FALLS AND HORSESHOE FALLS WALK

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For a list of all my recommended photography gear (including what I use and why) check out my guide to camera gear for travel.

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