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How to Visit Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls: The Catlins

How to Visit Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls: The Catlins

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Explore 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 are actually two waterfalls at this location; Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls. These are two separate levels of the same stream, but both are worthy of a quick visit.

How to Get to Matai & Horseshoe Falls

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

You won't have any trouble finding the waterfall as the signs for the car park 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.

Map of matai falls in new zealand

Walking to the Waterfalls

  • Distance: 1.2 km return
  • Walk Difficulty: Very Easy

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.

Tip: This walk is dog-friendly.

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Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

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Reaching Matai Falls

Waterfall Height: 10 m

The first waterfall is Matai Falls, a 10 m, plunging waterfall in a small clearing. There is a small wooden viewing platform where you can get a good glimpse of the waterfall 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 shrubs 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

Getting to Horseshoe Falls

Waterfall Height: 10 m

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.

The waterfall itself is not huge, its stream is wide and gentle, which makes 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

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.

Matai falls and horseshoe falls walk
Matai falls new zealand
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.