A wonderful world of waterfalls, sea caves, coastal cliffs, rocky headlands, the Catlins is nature lover and walkers paradise with amazing places to explore.
The Catlins is blessed with some spectacular waterfalls. The most famous of these is Pūrākaunui Falls(opens in new window) - 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.
Nearby you'll find the smaller but beautiful Matai Falls(opens in new window) right next to Horseshoe Falls. Further south-west, the 22-metre McLean Falls is a pleasant 40-minute return walk into Catlins Conservation Park. Last but not least Koropuku is somewhat of a hidden gem even though it is signposted off the main Chaslands highway.
Part of the Catlins River-Wisp Loop Track(opens in new window), this walk well-formed track has it all, from rushing rapids and spectacular views to rare birds and delicate orchids. Beginning near the Tawanui camping area between Owaka and Papatowai, the first part of the track leads you through native silver beech forest alongside the Catlins River. The five-hour challenging 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.
Another spectacular sight in this area is Jack's Blowhole(opens in new window), 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.
This marvellous mirror lake tells the story of rainforest regeneration, from mature podocarp forest at the beginning of the track to wetland plants at the lake's edge. During summer the red brilliance of flowering rata is stunning. It is a special serene spot.
Just up the road from Lake Wilkie is another tranquil sanctuary. The boardwalk snakes through wetlands in what feels like a natural amphitheatre in the heart of the bush. It is a magical and mystical place which explains why it is ‘Tapu” which is Maori for a sacred spot.