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How to Visit Purakaunui Falls: Catlins, New Zealand

How to Visit Purakaunui Falls: Catlins, New Zealand

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 an easily accessible, yet spectacular waterfall at the end of a short forest walk within the Catlins Forest Park.

Although it’s the most photographed waterfall in New Zealand, Purakaunui Falls is still relatively unknown on the regular South Island tourist trail. That’s because far too few people tend to visit the Catlins.

A short walk through the incredible forest track reveals a waterfall that proves why this region should be a must-visit destination for anybody on a New Zealand road trip.

How to Get to Purakaunui Falls

The Purakauinui Falls Walk is located at the end of Puraukanui Road, just off the Papatowai Highway. Driving to the waterfall car park involves a short 2 km stretch of gravel road. This road is well-maintained and accessible by all 2WD vehicles and campers.

Location: Parking Area

The car park has loads of space for vehicles, as well as a toilet and tap for water (non-potable).

Map of parakanui falls

Purakaunui Falls Walk

  • Distance: 20 minutes return
  • Difficulty: Easy

The walk down to the waterfall follows a gravel track and crosses a bridge before finishing up at a short wooden staircase down to the waterfall.

Overall, the Purakaunui Falls walk is a very easy track that doesn't take more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

While it's not exactly an adventurous track, I was certainly blown away by the beauty of the Catlins Forest Park, passing large ferns, beech trees, and crystal-clear flowing rivers on the way.

Catlins forest park walk
Purakaunui falls walk waterfall in the catlins

Related: Waipohatu Waterfall Loop Hike

What to Expect at Purakaunui Falls

  • Waterfall Height: 20 m
  • Waterfall Type: Tiered / Plunging

Upon arriving at the waterfall, it's easy to understand why it's considered the most photographed waterfall in New Zealand. The waterfall neatly plunges down three even levels into a shallow pool.

This then trickles further down the slopes of the shallow forest canyon. The entire scene is beautiful and definitely worth the quick detour.

Purakaunui falls walk waterfall in the catlins

Some might say that the title of "most-photographed" might be due to its easy accessibility. Still, its multi-leveled tiers and spectacular even flow make for a picturesque scene that would excite any photographer!

After spending some time at the falls or having a quick swim you will return back to the carpark along the same trail.

Purakaunui falls walk waterfall in the catlins
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Purakaunui falls walk waterfall in the catlins

There we have it for Purakauni Falls! For more detailed travel guides and ideas for things to do in New Zealand, make sure to check out some of the article links below.

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.

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