Matai Falls

Catlins Coastal Area, South Island, New Zealand

About Matai Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 45 minutes (to both waterfalls)

Date first visited: 2004-12-02
Date last visited: 2004-12-02

Waterfall Latitude: -46.50291
Waterfall Longitude: 169.48632

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Matai Falls was the second of the Catlins waterfalls that Julie and I visited towards the tail end of our first trip to New Zealand in early December 2004.

This falls was said to be about 10m tall, but it had a pleasing rectangular shape that was really conducive to long exposure photographs.

Matai_Falls_018_12012004 - Matai Falls
Matai Falls

There was also another waterfall called Horseshoe Falls that we were able to visit on the same hike without too much additional effort to reach.

Accessing Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Our hike began from the signposted trailhead saying it was 30 minutes return to hike to Matai Falls and 35 minutes return to hike to Horseshoe Falls.

At first, we weren’t sure if the stated estimates meant each out-and-back times were for each waterfall individually (suggesting it would take 65 minutes to see both waterfalls).

In any case, after the sign, the track briefly started off open before descending into the shadiness of the bush.

Matai_Falls_026_12012004 - Descending on the well-developed track leading to both Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls
Descending on the well-developed track leading to both Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Within a few minutes of walking in the bush, we reached a signed fork where the left fork went to Matai Falls and the right fork went to Horseshoe Falls.

We opted to take the right fork first, which promptly ascended and ultimately ended up at a lookout where we were able to get a partial view at best of Horseshoe Falls.

There seemed to be more of the waterfall that was more or less hidden from us thanks to the overgrowth.

As we looked around the overlook, there didn’t seem to be a way to improve our views without scrambling off the path so we didn’t linger here for long.

Matai_Falls_006_12012004 - Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls

Back at the signed fork, we then took the remaining path, which was pretty flat and brief as we eventually got right in front of the pretty Matai Falls.

In this instance, I had brought a tripod and made use of it to produce that silky photo you see at the top of this page.

We concluded the Y-shaped hike after having our fill of this falls, and it turned out that Julie and I were able to complete the whole thing in about 30 minutes.


Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls reside in the Catlins Coastal Area near Invercargill in the Otago region of South Island, New Zealand. They are administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Matai_Falls_001_12012004 - At the signposted trailhead for Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls
Matai_Falls_025_12012004 - The signposted fork where each branch led to either Matai Falls or Horseshoe Falls
Matai_Falls_002_12012004 - Contextual view of Horseshoe Falls showing that most of its flow was unable to be seen given all the foliage around it
Matai_Falls_012_12012004 - Context of the lookout and Matai Falls
Matai_Falls_021_12012004 - Another look at Matai Falls in long exposure

We visited Matai Falls after visiting McLean Falls from Invercargill via the Southern Scenic Route.

See the McLean Falls page for directions on getting from Invercargill to the Rewcastle Road turnoff.

From that turnoff, we then continued for another 20km to the signposted trailhead on our left.

Coming from Dunedin in the other direction, we would have had to drive 80km west on SH1 towards Balclutha.

After crossing the long bridge over the Clutha River, we then turned left onto High St (1.2km west of the bridge), and High St became Owaka Hwy.

We followed this road for 48km as Owaka Hwy became the Papatowai Hwy (all part of the Southern Scenic Route), where the signed trailhead was on the right.

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Tagged with: catlins, southern scenic route, invercargill, papatowai, balclutha, dunedin, otago, south island, new zealand, waterfall, horseshoe falls, papatowai, caberfeidh, florence hill

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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