Home » WAIPOHATU WATERFALL WALK THE CATLINS – Complete Guide
WAIPOHATU WATERFALL WALK THE CATLINS – Complete Guide
The Waipohatu waterfall walk is a stunning 7 kilometre loop walk in the Catlins Forest Park taking you to two stunning waterfalls. It’s a great mix between a rainforest walk with bits of muddy uphill and downhill track with the Waipohatu waterfalls as points of interest. While the walk starts off as a gentle stroll through stunning rainforest, it will soon become more challenging with plenty of tree roots, muddy, slippery parts and some stairs. Read in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Waipohatu waterfall loop walk in the Catlins.
How to get to Waipohatu waterfall track
The Waipohatu falls walk trailhead is located at the end of Waipohatu Road which is on the way to Curio Bay. There’s a turnoff to a gravel road from the main road which could be easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled! You’ll get to the car park in about 10 minutes where also toilets and a picnic area is located. This is the start of Waikawa forest which takes you to the Waterfall loop track.
Waipohatu falls walk key facts
Before we dive into the details about the Waipohatu falls walk, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you can decide if this is a hike for you!
Hike distance and duration: The total Waipohatu waterfall loop track is 7.8 kilometres and will take about 2 up to 3 hours to complete.
Hike difficulty and incline: Although the trail is quite easy to follow without much incline, only 330 meters elevation gain, there are some slippery parts where you have to take care. It’s a great family friendly forest walk, but be prepared with good hiking shoes. Otherwise it’s going to be a challenge to not slip.
Best time for the Waipohatu waterfall walk
Because of it’s muddy sections I wouldn’t recommend to do this hike right after heavy rainfall. In that case you can expect the trail to be very, very muddy. Like ankle deep mud. There are parts where logs are being placed to cross the muddy sections, but they are not places everywhere along the hike.
In terms of powerful waterfalls, anytime after rainy season is a good time to go. You can expect the Waipohatu falls to be less powerful in the summer season, but the walk is nevertheless beautiful.
What to expect during the Waipohatu waterfall walk
The walking track starts off through stunning, dense rainforest with tall beech trees and lush ferns. You’ll cross a few bridges while making your way deeper into the forest and sometimes you might have to take a jump when the path gets too muddy. There are some logs placed along the trail to save your shoes from getting muddy and wet, but that doesn’t mean you have to find some walkable parts at some point.
After you’ve climbed up the stairs you’ll reach a fork in the path with a sign pointing towards the two waterfalls you can explore. I highly recommend checking out both, as that’s the whole purpose of the Waipohatu walk isn’t it!?!
The path towards the left leads to the lower Punehu Falls, which involves a little bit of scrambling to get down. The right path leads to Pouriwai Falls where you’ll need to cross the river to see the waterfall from the front.
Both waterfalls can be reached within 5 minutes walking from this junction, so there’s no reason to skip one of them.
The Punehu waterfall is a small, wide waterfall surrounded by moss-covered trees. It’s a short but slippery descent down to the natural pool. Here you can sit down at one of the tree trunks and enjoy a little break from the hike. The natural pool is too shallow to take a dip in, and besides admiring the beauty of nature you might want to continue to the next one pretty quickly.
The Pouriwai waterfall is a taller 10 meter high waterfall flanked by a moss covered cliff. When you arrive you won’t have the best view on the waterfall, you will have to cross a shallow stream to get right in front. But be careful when crossing the stream with slippery rocks. Eventually use a stick for balance.
When making your way back to the car park you just follow the orange triangles indicating where the path goes back to the car park. Of course you can also walk the same way back, but if a trail is a loop, then why not hike it as a loop. You will see beautiful tall trees at this last section before the trail pops out from the rainforest onto a dirt road. Just follow this road for about 700 metres before you get back to the car park.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Waipohatu waterfall walk in the Catlins. Make sure to put this awesome hike 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!