Barrs Falls | An Off-The-Beaten-Path Waterfall In The Catlins

If you’re researching Barrs Falls, chances are you’ve spotted the brown tourist sign while driving along the stunning Southern Scenic Route in New Zealand’s South Island – or scouring Google Maps for hidden gems in the Catlins. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s worth making a little detour to explore this unknown waterfall nestled into the foothills outside Owaka…

We were in the same situation you are now and were almost tempted to skip Barrs Falls after seeing underwhelming images online. However, as the age-old saying goes – don’t judge a book by its cover! Fortunately, we chose to take the detour despite the lacklustre photos and we’re so glad we did.

Barrs Falls may not feature on any tourist map of the Catlins, but despite its less photogenic appearance, it’s well worth taking a slight detour for. A quick 10-minute return walk will guide you through a tangled moss-stained forest, ultimately revealing two hidden waterfalls.

Continue reading for all the information you need to include Barrs Falls in your Catlins itinerary. Included, you’ll find tips on the best time to visit and other epic things to do nearby.

Barrs Falls cascading down the rock face in the Catlins

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What To Know About Visiting Barrs Falls In The Catlins

Quick Statistics For The Walk To Barrs Falls In The Catlins

350 m return

10 minutes

Navigation Difficulty
Very Easy

Trail Difficulty
Very Easy

Physical Effort
Very Easy

Elevation Gain

Entrance Fees

Car park

Where Does The Walk To Barrs Falls Start?

Campervan Parked at the Barrs Falls Trailhead

Barrs Falls can be found tucked into a lush pocket of temperate rainforest that occupies the creases of the rolling farmlands west of Owaka. This rarely visited waterfall in the Catlins features a small pull-out just large enough for one or two vehicles on either side of the gravel road, with a sign pointing towards the short track that begins on the northern side.

The trailhead is located 1 hour 30 minutes south of Dunedin and 1 hour 50 minutes east of Invercargill.

How To Get To Barrs Falls In The Catlins

Google map image of Barrs Falls Location

Due to its lesser-known status, you won’t find any public transport or tour options for Barrs Falls. The only way to experience this enchanting waterfall is to embark on a self-drive road trip through the Catlins.

If you’re in need of a hire car, we suggest considering renting a campervan for your trip. There are plenty of stunning campsites in the Catlins that are scattered throughout, making this the best way to easily explore the sights without having to backtrack too often.

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By Car

To reach Barrs Falls, follow the Southern Scenic Route towards Owaka if you’re travelling from Invercargill or towards Lake Catlin (just past Owaka) if you’re driving from Dunedin. You’ll find a turn-off for Barrs Falls Rd 1.4 km southwest of Owaka that almost immediately turns to gravel.

Follow the well-maintained gravel road west for 3.1 km until you reach the small gravel pull-outs beside a green DOC sign that indicates the beginning of the track. 

Click Here For Directions From Invercargill
Click Here For Directions From Dunedin

Who Is The Walk To Barrs Falls For?

Walking the easy trail on the Barrs Falls Walk

If you’re searching for a quick adventure that is almost guaranteed to be void of crowds, then Barrs Falls is the waterfall for you! Barrs Falls offers an easy and enjoyable 10 minute return walk through lush fern-filled forests that is suitable for most travellers.

While it won’t be the most impressive waterfall you visit in the Catlins, its central location – just 5 minutes west of Owaka – makes it a simple and effortless detour. Not to mention, the ability to enjoy a waterfall all to ourselves made Barrs Falls all the more alluring.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Barrs Falls?

Barrs Falls from above

Due to its smaller flow compared to other waterfalls in the Catlins, Barrs Falls can sometimes dwindle to a mere trickle during dry spells. If you have the luxury of time on your hands, we suggest visiting Barrs Falls after heavy rainfall to ensure you experience this lovely little waterfall at its prime.

When Is The Best Time Of Day To Visit Barrs Falls?

To view Barrs Falls in the best light, we recommend choosing to explore the waterfall in the late afternoon. During this time, the light filters through the forest at the perfect angle to illuminate the cascading waterfall.

What To Expect On The Trail To Barrs Falls

Barrs Falls Trailhead
Walking next to the railing on Barrs Falls Walk in the Catlins

The walk to Barrs Falls consists of a winding gravel path that very gently descends through a bright green forest filled with ferns and a tangled mess of moss-stained tree trunks. You’ll journey towards a creek, almost completely hidden by the thick and unruly forest, before following the banks briefly to the viewing platform for Barrs Falls.

The two streams of Barrs Falls flow over steep dark rock walls, separated by a pocket of spindly trees, into the gurgling creek below. Just past the main waterfall, another plunge occurs over equally dark moss-covered rocks.

Stream after Barrs Falls

Take the time to wander along the creek, admiring the languidly flowing creek and the unique waterfall, before returning the way you came to the trailhead. The 350 m walk took us a total of 10 minutes, including spending a few minutes photographing the waterfall.

Other Things To Know About Visiting Barrs Falls

Leave No Trace

Barrs Falls – and the greater Catlins region – features some of the best temperate rainforests in New Zealand’s south island. Much of the area is regenerating after a history of being cleared and needs our help to flourish.

When you’re visiting Barrs Falls, please take all your rubbish with you – including food scraps and tissues – and use the public toilets and rubbish bins at Owaka. Where possible, stay on the marked trail and avoid trampling any sprouting vegetation.

What Else Is There To Do Near Barrs Falls?

Walking the cliffs of Long Point in the Catlins, New Zealand
Long Point Coastal Walk

The Catlins is a nature lover’s haven, with countless walks leading to secluded waterfalls, rugged coastal cliffs and through lush temperate rainforests. You could easily spend a few days ticking off the long list of things to do in the Catlins, but if you’re short on time then here are our top 5 favourite things to do near Barrs Falls.

Where To Stay Near Barrs Falls

Barrs Falls is located a short 5 minute drive from Owaka, the largest town in the Catlins region. You’ll find a range of accommodation options in Owaka as well as several cafes, a pub and a small grocery store. This is a great place to base yourself if convenience is your highest priority.

Kaka Point Beach in the Catlins
Kaka Point

However, if you’d rather base yourself in the most beautiful setting, then we recommend staying at Kaka Point. This is our favourite coastal village in the Catlins and while it’s a little further away from most of the attractions, it’s worth the extra drive in our opinion.

Below you’ll find a list of our top 3 recommended places to stay near Barrs Falls. 

Camping Near Barrs Falls

As I mentioned above, we believe the best way to explore the Catlins is by travelling in a campervan. There are several incredible campsites that offer 5-star views for a fraction of the price compared to the accommodation options available.

Campervans camping at Purakaunui Campsite in the Catlins
Purakaunui Campsite in the Catlins

Our favourite place to stay in the Catlins is Purakaunui Bay Campground. This beachside campsite is operated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and costs $10 per person, per night. However, if you pre-purchase a DOC Campsite Pass, you can pay a one off fee for either a month or a year of unlimited use for almost any DOC campsite in New Zealand.

Other campsites near Barrs Falls:

Final Thoughts

Barrs Falls Lookout in the Catlins

While Barrs Falls may not top our list of favourite waterfalls in the Catlins, we’re glad we didn’t miss it. The quick and easy walk to this lovely cascading waterfall proved to be a pleasant detour. With that said, we don’t recommend prioritising Barrs Falls over other gems like Koropuku Falls or McLean Falls. However, if you find yourself with spare time and you’d like to escape the crowds, we encourage you to add a stop at Barrs Falls.

We hope this guide has helped you gain a little more insight into this lesser-known waterfall in the Catlins. If you have any questions about Barrs Falls – or the Catlins in general – please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Exploring 🙂