More of a region than a town, Haast is the first port of call on the West Coast if arriving from Wanaka / Queenstown. Pass through the Gates of Haast, see pristine rivers, windswept beaches and feel the solitude of one of New Zealand’s most remote areas. Here is our list of the best things to do in Haast!
The road from Wanaka to Haast came fourth in our Top 12 Scenic Drives in the South Island list. From the shores of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka to the pristine rivers, waterfalls and forests of the Haast Pass, the scenery seems to keep getting better.
Gates of Haast
A bridge over a fast-flowing river, the Gates of Haast marks your entry into the West Coast, by far the wilder of the two main South Island coastlines. It only takes a few minutes to visit the Gates of Haast — not quite as cool as the name might suggest but still worth stopping.
Haast River / Waterfalls
Haast River recently made it to number 6 on our Top 12 Rivers in the South Island list. It’ll definitely leave an impression, whether you see it from the comfort of dry land (road views / short walk) or in a jet boat. There are a few rivers in the South Island where you can do jetboating, and from what I’ve seen Haast River might be the most spectacular.
There are also some beautiful waterfalls to visit after the Gate of Haast, including Thunder Creek Falls, Roaring Billy Falls and Depot Creek Falls. They are all close to the main road and very easy to visit.
Haast Beach is a fairly typical West Coast Beach — rough and scenic with plenty of driftwood. Haast Beach seems to stretch a long way along the road to Jackson Bay — overcrowding won’t be a problem!
Located at the southern end of the West Coast, Jackson Bay is about as remote as villages get in New Zealand. The road ends in Jackson Bay, which is a 40-minute drive south of Haast. Further south from there is Fiordland, but there isn’t (and probably never will be) road access from the West Coast.
There isn’t a whole lot to see at Jackson Bay but it’s worth a visit, especially if you’re into seafood (The Craypot is great but shuts over winter).
Ship Creek is a more interesting beach area to stop at than Haast Beach, with walks, viewpoints and a dune lake to explore. The walks are all pretty short and go to interesting places — it’s one of the better West Coast beaches to stop at, especially with kids.
Knights Point Lookout
A little further along from Ship Creek you’ll come to Knights Point Lookout, a place with a lot of potential. The views are stunning but obstructed by overgrown foliage, and while it looks like a place you’d find walking trails there aren’t any. I reckon this place is ripe for improvement in the next few years.
From Haast it takes around 10 minutes to drive to Ship Creek (20 to Knights Point Lookout). Further north from there you’ll find lakes (Moeraki / Paringa), beaches (Munro Beach, Bruce Bay) and long stretches of open road. The next town you’re likely to stop at is Fox Glacier, 90 minutes from Haast.
Other Things to Do in Haast
Other things to do in Haast include scenic flights, hikes (especially around the Haast Pass), fishing or a drink at the pub.
From Queenstown it should take three hours to reach Haast (two hours from Wanaka). If coming from the north it’s two hours from Franz Jozef / three and a half hours from Hokitika.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!
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