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The Matai Falls walk is a beautiful short walk in the Catlins through regenerating podocarp and broadleaf forest. You will get to see two waterfalls from a lookout point which are closely located to each other. The walk is only 15 minutes to Matai waterfall and another 4 minutes to Horseshoe waterfall. It’s easy to do for every age which makes it a perfect family activity in the Catlins. Find in this blog post all you need to know about the Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls. 

How to get to Matai Falls walk

The Matai Falls are located along the Southern Scenic Route in the Catlins, about 18km south of Owaka. The trailhead is located along the Papatowai Highway and clearly signposted so you can’t miss it! 

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Best time to visit Matai Falls  

The water flow of Matai Falls is really dependent on rainfall, so generally the best time to visit is after rainy season or right after rainfall. In the summer months you can expect Matai Falls to be much drier and less impressive. Therefore, if you are short in time you can consider to skip the Matai Falls if it hasn’t been raining for a long time. 

Considering visiting at the best time of the day you’re good at any time. The walk is through forest so you’re covered by trees which protect you from harsh sunlight. 

What to expect at Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls 

The Matai Falls walk starts immediately in beautiful podocarp and broadleaf forest which leads you via a downhill forest path towards the falls. The path splits at the lower section where one path leads to the Matai Falls whilst the elevated section leads to the Horseshoe Falls. It’s a short distance between the two. Only after significant rainfall the last waterfall called Horseshoe Falls, will actually form like a horseshoe. 

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At Matai Falls is a small viewing platform, unfortunately there isn’t another way to access the waterfall and the natural pool is too shallow and small to take a dip in. The short hike through the forest towards the waterfalls is a nice little break from exploring Catlins coastal area. But to be very honest, it isn’t a waterfall that you can’t miss. Koropuku Falls and Purakaunui falls for example are much more impressive. 

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Besides visiting the Matai Falls, you can also walk the Historic Rail trail. This is generally a less popular trail and therefore very quiet so you can enjoy the serene nature. Along this trail you can see the old railway line which is now removed. If you turn left and walk a couple of hundred metres you will see the section where they cut through solid rock, which is very impressive to see if you realise the little tools they had back in time.  

Best tours on the South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is full of adventure, stunning scenery and fun experiences to be made. There are few experiences which are an absolute must when you’re traveling New Zealand’s South Island. Below a summary of the best tours you can book.

Check here the best New Zealand South Island tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best New Zealand South Island tours on Viator

Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak tour

Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small-group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to really take in the immense scale of the bluffs and explore Milford Sound in a unique way.

Book here your Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak tour

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milford-sound-kayak

Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing

A memorable experience to see the Franz Josef Glacier from the air during a helicopter flight above ice falls, snowfields, and crevasses. You will depart from a helipad in Franz Josef and then make your way along the glacier down to a snowfield to see the icy landscape from up close. There you will take in the sweeping views across the maritime glacier. An unforgettable experience on the west coast and a once in a lifetime must do! Because in 10 years from now glacier will be much smaller…

Book here your Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing

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Cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound

The lesser known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Make sure to keep  an eye out for wildlife while taking in the scenery. If you’re lucky you might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins. You naturalist guide will tell you everything and point out interesting sights.  

Book here your cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound

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Take a scenic flight over Milford Sound

A Milford Sound scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the 20 minute helicopter flight you will return to Milford base.

Book here your scenic flight over Milford Sound

Another way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you booked the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise in Milford Sound. Take in the spectacular views of the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen on the picture below. This experience will take your breath away and is a must do if your budget allows it. Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.

Book here your Milford Sound Scenic Fly-Cruise-Fly departing Queenstown

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Best places to stay in the Catlins

The Catlins are some of the most underrated destinations on New Zealand’s South Island but absolutely worth visiting. If your itinerary allows it, I would even recommend staying for a few nights around Catlins to explore not only the Catlins Conservation Park but everything in between from Invercargill to Kaka point. You can either base yourself along the coast, in Invercargill or at some of the quiet camps. There are plenty of options, but here are the best accommodations to stay in our opinion.

Catlins Mohua Park

Located close-by Catlins Forest park are these stunning self-contained chalets with free WiFi and private parking. Each chalet features a fully equipped kitchen, a dining setting and a lounge area with a sofa. Every unit comes with a private bathroom with bathrobes. Bed linen and bathrobes are provided. All chalet’s at Mohua Park do not include a TV so you can fully take in the stunning views from your terrace. Free use of bicycles is available to explore the area and many of the Catlins waterfalls and other points of interest are only a 20 – 30 minute drive away. Truly a stunning and comfortable stay with beautiful views.

Book here your stay at Catlins Mohua Park

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Catlins-Mohua-chalet-view

The Langlands Hotel Invercargill

Located within 400 meters from the city centre of Invercargill you will find the Langlands hotel. Featuring spacious rooms with a fitness centre, private parking, a restaurant and a bar, this 4-star hotel offers all the comfort you need. Invercargill is a great little town with plenty of restaurants. A great choice if you don’t want to be too much off the beaten path and far away from supermarkets and restaurants.

Book here your stay at The Langlands Hotel Invercargill

The Langlands hotel

Kaka point accommodation

Kaka Point accommodation is a beautiful, luxury, self-contained studio in the small sea-side town of Kaka Point at 100 meters from the beach. Surrounded by an abundance of nature and wildlife, you can awake to views of the spectacular coastal scenery.

The studios have fully equipped kitchens with a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, stove top and tea/coffee making facilities. Guests can enjoy uninterrupted, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Nugget Point Lighthouse from the privacy of their unit or relax in their private, therapeutic, double spa bath.

Book here your stay at Kaka point accommodation

Kaka point accommodation

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls in the Catlins. Make sure to put these beautiful waterfalls on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!

Catlins

McLean Falls – The Complete Guide

Purakaunui Falls – The Complete Guide

Waipapa Point Lighthouse – The Complete Guide

Koropuku waterfall – The Complete Guide

Fiordland National Park

Best things to do in Milford Sound – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

Lake Marian track – The Complete Guide

Mirror Lakes New Zealand – The Complete Guide

Key Summit track – The Complete Guide

Queenstown 

Queenstown Hill walk – The Complete Guide

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs Cove nature walk – The Complete Guide

Glenorchy

Glenorchy walkway & lagoon track – The Complete Guide

Earnslaw Burn glacier valley and waterfalls – The Complete Guide