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Catlins River-Wisp Loop Track
Rushing rapids, rare birds, spectacular views and delicate orchids - this well-formed track has it all. Beginning near the Tawanui camping area in Owaka, the first part of the track leads you through native silver beech forest alongside the Catlins River. The five hour walk is a chance to see rare forest birds such as the rare mohua (yellowhead) and rifleman. With any luck you'll also see native parakeets. Beautiful lichen, fungi, moss and liverworts are a feature of the forest floor.
Four wire rope suspension bridges form part of the track, and - if you prefer something a bit shorter - sections of the track can be walked separately; as there are several entry/exit points along the way.
Not far from the Catlins River is Purakaunui Falls - a magnificent waterfall surrounded by bush that cascades 20 metres over three distinct tiers. The waterfall is a short walk from a side road off the main Owaka-Invercargill highway. Other waterfalls are McLean Falls and Matai Falls.
Another spectacular sight in this area is Jack's Blowhole, which is located in Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve. A large cavity that's 55 metres deep and 200 metres from the sea, the blowhole was formed after a large subterranean cavern caved in. At high tide during a swell, waves are compressed through the underground tunnel and explode out of the blowhole.
At Lake Wilkie you can see the succession of forest development from lake edge to mature forest finishing at the reflection lake. During summer the red brilliance of flowering rata is stunning.