The Catlins are an area on the southeast edge of New Zealand’s south island, with Invercargill as its biggest city. According to the NZ Frenzy guidebook there are some must-see spots there. So instead of heading straight to Te Anau (closest town to Milford Sound) from Dunedin, we drove through The Catlins and spent a night at Invercargill.
One of the must-see spots in The Catlins is supposed to be the Waipohatu Waterfall Loop. In this blog post we’ll tell you if the waterfalls are worth the hike. Spoiler alert: not if it has been raining!
The Waipohatu Waterfall Loop in The Catlins
The Waipohatu Waterfall Loop is a 6.5 km loop track, taking you to two waterfalls. It’s situated in Catlins Forest Park, meaning you’ll be hiking through thick forest. This hike isn’t that popular and the path is not that well maintained, but we managed to find the car park at the trailhead. Keep in mind you have to drive over an unsealed road to get there. About halfway into the walk you’ll come across a junction with steep paths down to both waterfalls. At certain points there are makeshift stairs to make the ascend and descend easier.
Even though the path is not maintained that well, it’s probably a nice walk through the woods if the weather’s nice. However, for us (at least for me) it was a walk from hell! It had been raining that day and we were up to our ankles in the mud. It didn’t start out that bad, so by the time we got to the muddy part we were already committed to seeing the waterfalls and were hoping it would get better around the corner. It didn’t. We should have just turned around then and there.
All that mud made the path extremely slippery, so I ended up on my butt more than once. We read about logs and bridges at muddy parts, but we barely saw them and mud was everywhere. Just when I though this couldn’t get any worse, it started raining. God, what did we do to deserve this?!
In the end it took us 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the loop track that on average takes about 2 hours. We had a fight because I wanted to quit, sit on my butt and whine, and refused to go down the steep, slippery paths leading to the waterfalls. The waterfalls were pretty on the photographs, but it just wasn’t worth the trouble. When we finally reached our campervan, we both started laughing about the craziness of the whole situation. We were just taking off our muddy and wet shoes and pants behind our campervan when a big camper pulled up. Oh well, guess they had seen underwear before.
In the end it wasn’t all too bad and we still laugh about our walk from hell, but I wouldn’t recommend going out there when it has been raining. Not sure if I would have liked the Waipohatu Waterfall Loop in The Catlins if it had been a nice and sunny day. Better go to Curio Bay, about a 20 minute drive from here, to watch the yellow-eyed penguins at dusk. Awesomeness guaranteed! Make sure to arrive in time though, we were kind of late because of this walk from hell.
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