About Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls was probably the one waterfall in the Catlins area that received the most attention from what we had seen.
This was because it seemed to have fronted postcards and calendars more so than the others in this part of the South Island.
The falls itself had “character” as Julie liked to say largely due to its three-tiered 15m drop fell in steps that was really friendly for long exposure photos that showcased its texture.
Plus, this waterfall was pretty easy and straightforward to visit once we got to its car park.
Accessing Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls
As we left the car, we got past the trailhead sign (saying it was a 10-minute walk to get there), and we went onto the well-developed walk in a lush bush setting.
Along the way were a handful of interpretive signs talking about some of the flora that was growing in the area like tawhai (“TAW-fai”) and matai among others.
Shortly thereafter, we followed along the Purakaunui Stream where we got a look over the top of Purakaunui Falls at an upper overlook.
Then, we descended elongated steps leading to a wooden viewing deck with the frontal view of the falls you see in the picture at the top of this page.
With the viewing deck, we could have used the sturdy wooden railings to take the long exposure photos, but I had brought my tripod anyways just in case.
The view of the falls was partially obstructed by foliage flanking our line-of-sight so it was never really completely open.
However, I did notice some scrambling tracks (I doubt the Department of Conservation would approve of this) that led closer to the waterfall shortly before the start of the wooden lookout deck.
I’d imagine those alternate shots of Purakaunui Falls that we saw in the literature were probably a result of photographers bending the wilderness ethics a bit.
That was probably why we saw the informal tracks to get that “unusual” or “non-cliche” shot.
Julie and I had been to this waterfall in December 2004 and December 2009, and in each time, we spent roughly 20 minutes round trip, which made the estimated walk time on the trailhead sign pretty spot on.
Purakaunui Falls resides in the Catlins Coastal Area near Invercargill in the Otago region of South Island, New Zealand. 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.
There were several routes to get to Purakaunui Falls, but we’ll describe only the routes that we took starting with perhaps the most straightforward one.
We followed this road, which coincided with the signposted Southern Scenic Route, for about 36km (becoming Papatowai Hwy along the way) until we made a left onto Purakaunui Falls Rd.
We then followed this road for roughly 9km to the signposted car park and trailhead.
On our visit in early December 2004, we actually drove roughly 4.5km east of Matai Falls to the Waikoato Valley Rd (unsealed and a little rough).
Then, we took it for 4km to the Purakaunui Falls Rd where we turned left and reached the car park shortly thereafter.
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