Koropuku Falls | An Off The Beaten Path Adventure In The Catlins

Koropuku Falls, tucked away in the lush temperate rainforests of The Catlins, is a hidden gem that you won’t find on the usual tourist map. The lesser-known waterfall offers a chance to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the enchanting and untamed forest that surrounds Koropuku Falls.

On our recent trip to New Zealand, we spent four days exploring the multitude of waterfalls found in The Catlins area, which stretches across the southeastern corner of the South Island. And we can honestly say that Koropuku Falls is one of our top three favourite waterfalls in the Catlins – along with Pouriwai Falls and McLean Falls.

In this detailed guide, we’ll provide everything you need to know to experience this peacefully stunning destination in The Catlins. Included, you’ll find tips on when to visit and inspiring images to fuel your excitement.

Koropuku Falls

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What To Know About Visiting Koropuku Falls In The Catlins

Quick Statistics For The Koropuku Falls Track

Distance
800 m return

Time
15 – 30 minutes

Navigation Difficulty
Easy

Trail Difficulty
Easy – Moderate (can be slippery in wet conditions)

Physical Effort
Easy

Elevation Gain
44 m

Highest Elevation
141 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: Car park

Where Does The Koropuku Falls Track Start?

Campervan parked at Koropuku Falls Carpark

Koropuku Falls is hidden in a dense temperate rainforest, not even a kilometre away from the Chasland Hwy where the track begins. At the trailhead, which is located 1 hr east of Invercargill and 2 hrs 10 minutes west of Dunedin, you’ll find nothing more than a small gravel car park and an old wooden sign.

The closest toilets to the Koropuku Falls car park are located at the Waikawa Recreation Reserve, a 15-minute drive southwest.

How To Get To The Koropuku Falls Trailhead

Google Map Directions to Koropuku Falls

Part of the allure of Koropuku Falls is its lesser-known status. But this also means that there are no public transport options and you’re not likely to find a tour that includes a stop at the waterfall.

The best way to visit Koropuku Falls is to self-drive. You can do this on a day trip from either Invercargill or Dunedin, or take a few days like we did to thoroughly explore the scenic Catlins region. If you are in need of a hire car, we highly recommend Europcar as they’re reliable and competitively priced.

By Car

To reach the Koropuku Falls trailhead, jump onto the Southern Scenic Route from either Invercargill or Dunedin. This will lead you to Chasland Hwy, where you’ll find the trailhead 12 km west of The Whistling Frog Cafe & Camping and 7 km east of the turn-off to Curio Bay.

There is no sign on the road to warn you of the upcoming car park – which is nothing more than a gravel pull-out on the north side of the road – so it’s best to use Google Maps to ensure you don’t drive past. 

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

Who Is The Koropuku Falls Track For?

Hiking through rocks on the Koropuku Track in the Catlins

The Koropuku Falls Track is an easily accessible adventure that makes you feel as if you’re miles away from civilisation – rather than just a few minutes. Unlike most of the waterfalls in The Catlins, you won’t find a groomed trail leading to the densely forested waterfall, but rather a rugged and sometimes muddy track filled with logs and wooden planks that act as stepping stones.

With that said, the trail can be slightly tricky for those with little experience walking on uneven and slippery terrain. To help with your confidence, we recommend wearing a grippy pair of hiking shoes or trail runners.

Best Time To Visit Koropuku Falls

Walking the Koropuku Falls Trail in the Catlins, New Zealand

The Catlins receive reliable rainfall throughout the year, which means that you’re likely to find Koropuku Falls flowing beautifully no matter the season. With that said, the trail is notoriously wet and muddy so it’s best to wait a day or two after heavy rainfall to avoid unfavourable track conditions.

Best Time Of Day To Visit Koropuku Falls

For the best lighting conditions at Koropuku Falls, we recommend visiting in the morning so that the soft morning light hits the plunging waterfall. While this is mostly beneficial for photographers, it will also provide the best experience for all visitors.

Koropuku Falls Track Notes

The Trailhead To Koropuku Falls

Koropuku Falls Trailhead Sign

From the gravel car park, enter the overgrown forest and begin wandering along the rough track that gently descends towards a small creek. Stepping stones assist in crossing the creek and from there, you’ll continue along the narrow dirt track as it weaves deeper into the unruly forest.

Stepping stone at the beginning of the Koropuku Falls Track

A tangle of tree limbs creates a canopy over the trail, providing the perfect environment for rich green moss to flourish. But this also makes the trail quite wet and in the muddiest sections, fallen tree fern trunks have been cut and placed along the trail to act as a spongy boardwalk.

Walking through the dense green forest of the Koropuku Track

After 300 m, you’ll arrive at a seat with a perfect view of the little creek running by. From this point, the track gets a little more rugged with fallen trees and rocks to navigate. Soon after, you’ll cross the creek once more via a wooden plank and climb over one last set of rocks to reach the base of Koropuku Falls.

Sitting on the seat at the creek on the Koropuku Falls Trail

Enjoying Koropuku Falls

Flanked by a verdant forest, Koropuku Falls flows over a sheer rock wall into a shallow pool below. The rock wall is adorned with thriving ferns of all shapes, sizes and shades of green. It’s a beautiful undisturbed waterfall with no viewing platforms or other human-made structures, making this Catlin waterfall feel much more natural and rugged.

Koropuku Falls and pool below with fallen tree

In summer, the shallow pool and the free-falling waterfall offer the perfect location to cool down and spend the afternoon lazing on the rocks lining the banks.

Returning To The Trailhead

Koropuku Falls Track

Once you’ve finished exploring Koropuku Falls, return along the same track to the car park. On your way, take your time to marvel at the wild forest and the incredible display of moss and lichen dominating the thick understory.

The return walk to Koropuku Falls is 800 m and took us roughly 30 minutes, including many stops to take photos along the way and admire the waterfall. However, if you’re short on time, you could definitely complete this walk in 15 – 20 minutes.

Other Important Information For Visiting Koropuku Falls

Leave No Trace

Walking across a bridge before Koropuku Falls

As soon as you step into the dense forest flanking Chasland Hwy, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to an enchanted wood worthy of a storybook. But one thing that ruins the illusion is rubbish along the trail.

When you’re visiting Koropuku Falls, or anywhere for that matter, please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. It’s as easy as sticking to the marked trail and taking your rubbish with you – including food scraps and tissues. It’s each and every one of our responsibilities to protect our natural places and keep them wonderfully wild.

Where To Stay Near Koropuku Falls

The Catlins is an easy destination to explore as a day trip while staying in Invercargill – or Dunedin if you don’t mind a longer drive. However, if you’d like to escape city life for a while and enjoy the blissful quiet of nature, then there are several stunning accommodation options to choose from.

Here are our top 4 suggestions for places to stay in The Catlins.

Camping Near The Koropuku Falls

Campervans camping at Purakaunui Campsite in the Catlins
Purakaunui Campsite

In our opinion, the best way to explore The Catlins is by road-tripping in a campervan. There are plenty of campsites in The Catlins, many of which are free or very affordable. This is how we experienced The Catlins and below is a list of the campsites that we stayed in, all for free with the DOC Campsite Pass.

Final Thoughts

The Koropuku Falls Track is a must-visit destination when you explore The Catlins. The walk to the serene waterfall offers just as much enjoyment as the falls itself and the short nature of the trail means it can fit easily into any itinerary.

But remember, the track is not well-formed like you’ll find at Purakaunui Falls or Matai Falls. It requires a little more care to navigate, especially after heavy rainfall.

Have you visited Koropuku Falls? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the waterfall in the comments below. Or if you have any questions regarding this walk – or others in The Catlins – please feel free to reach out.

Happy Adventuring 🙂