McLean Falls

Catlins Conservation Park / Catlins Coastal Area, South Island, New Zealand

About McLean Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 40 minutes

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

Waterfall Latitude: -46.56204
Waterfall Longitude: 169.34703

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McLean Falls was one probably either our favourite or second-most favourite waterfall in the Catlins Forest Park or Southern Scenic Drive (the other waterfall was Purakaunui Falls).

What attracted us to this falls was its interesting shape and size as it plunged in a classic skinny rectangular drop before cascading further downstream over another tier.

I believe the cumulative height of this waterfall was said to be 22m.

McLean_Falls_016_12012004 - McLean Falls
McLean Falls

Nevertheless, we also enjoyed the quiet naturesque experience as we made our visit early in the morning after some pretty crazy weather the previous night was clearing up.

The hike was said to be 40 minutes round trip and it was pretty much spot on.

The track was pretty easy to walk as a sign here said that it was improved upon by work done by some local school kids.

In any case, we initially passed through a cattle maze, then crossed a bridge over the creek before the track continued gently uphill for most of the way surrounded by lush bush scenery.

When we encountered the lower cascades, a sign pointed the way to keep going up as we encountered the first of two switchbacks.

Eventually, the track ended at a railing with a frontal view of the pretty falls.

We did some careful scrambling on a flat rock behind us for a slightly more elevated look at McLean Falls without the railings in our shots.


McLean Falls resides in both the Catlins Conservation Park and Catlins Coastal Area in the Otago region. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Florence_Hill_Lookout_009_12012004 - The Southern Scenic Route was still unsealed during our visit in early December 2004
McLean_Falls_040_12012004 - Looking back at one of the gates that we had to pass through on Rewcastle Road
McLean_Falls_035_12012004 - Sharing the Rewcastle Road with sheep
McLean_Falls_034_12012004 - The trailhead for McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_001_12012004 - On the bush track for McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_002_12012004 - Looking along the creek on which McLean Falls belonged
McLean_Falls_008_12012004 - Cascades beneath the main tier of McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_010_12012004 - Profile look at one of the smaller lower tiers of McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_013_12012004 - A sign at the first of two switchbacks telling us to keep going to get to McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_032_12012004 - Walking uphill on the narrow and sloping track leading up to the lookout for McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_019_12012004 - Long exposed look at the attractive McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_030_12012004 - The wooden railings at the lookout for McLean Falls
McLean_Falls_026_12012004 - Another look at the context of McLean Falls and its bush surroundings


We visited McLean Falls from Invercargill via the Southern Scenic Route so we’ll explain the directions from there. During our visit in early December 2004, the route was still unsealed, but the following year, the sealing project was complete. When we drove this route again in December 2009, it was totally sealed and smooth (and easy to have road fatigue).

Anyways, the key to getting onto the Southern Scenic Route from the city would be to get to the Gorge Road-Invercargill Highway (SH92). There were many ways to get there from the SH6 and SH1 junction in the centre of the city of Invercargill, but perhaps the most straightforward way would be to go east on SH1, then making a right onto Queens Dr, before making a left onto McQuarrie St, which then became Scott St. Scott St ultimately became SH92.

At about 101km along the Southern Scenic Route (by now it was pretty straightforward to follow the signs) from the boundaries of Invercargill (or 20km east of the west end of Chaslands Hwy), we turned left onto the unsealed Rewcastle Road. After about 1.7km along Rewcastle Rd, we encountered a gate where I had to get out of the car, open the gate, get back in the car, drive through the gate, get back out of the car, then close the gate (so sheep couldn’t escape). Next, we passed through some pastures sharing the road with lots of sheep. Ultimately, we encountered another gate about 1.6km further where I had to get through the same routine.

A few metres beyond the second gate was the car park and trailhead for McLean Falls.

The Southern Scenic Route could also be accessed from the opposite end at Balclutha, which was about 80km (60 minutes drive) west of Dunedin. From Balclutha, the drive was about 68km southwest along the Southern Scenic Route (mostly SH92) to Rewcastle Road on the right. Once on Rewcastle Road, you’d follow the unsealed road as directed above for the last 3 km.

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

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