Exploring the Haast Region, New Zealand

Most travellers planning to traverse thebeautifulHaast Pass and the Southern Alps do so when coming fromWanaka.

With an endless array of spectacular, postcard-perfect backdrops, New Zealand’s South Island is guaranteed to impress travellers who are lucky enough to take to its roads and explore this beautiful part of the world.

The drive around Haast Pass is one of New Zealand’s best, passing some of the most stunning natural sites, weaving from Lake Wanaka to the rugged West Coast. Here’s our guide on how to explore it best.

Stunning mountain scenery

The Haast Pass was named after the famous 19th-century explorer, Julius von Haast. It’s the first of three mountain passes that cross New Zealand’s Southern Alps, a beautiful alpine range that runs down the spine of the South Island.

The other two passes, which are equally as stunning and worth a visit, are the Lewis Pass, between north Canterbury and the West Coast, and Arthur’s Pass. There are some breathtaking drives to enjoy around all of the passes, should you wish to spend longer exploring some of the world’s most scenic landscapes.

The Haast Pass forms part of State Highway 6, which is the longest highway in New Zealand. The road, which was only completed in 1965, was traditionally used as a route by Māori who travelled to the west coast in search of pounamu, a stone highly valued by Māori people, also known as greenstone jade. Since its completion, the road has become a majorly important lifeline for the tourism industry in the region.

Make sure to allow plenty of time to drive over Haast Pass to the coast. There are lots of short walks to enjoy along the way, many of which begin on the side of the road and lead through the rainforest to picturesque waterfalls. A non-stop drive across the Haast Pass takes around four hours, so be sure to plan ahead and add a little extra time for exploring.

The Blue Pools Track

Take a jaunt through beautiful native forests and over a swing bridge to experience the immaculate waters of Makarora River's Blue Pools.

Nestled among mature forest, these pools of deep, clear water allow visitors to see right to the bottom. It’s an enchanting place and definitely one of the best short walks when exploring the Haast Pass.

Please note that there is a limit to the number of people allowed on the swing bridge at any one time. Be prepared to wait your turn if the bridge has reached capacity.

UNESCO World Heritage Area

The Haast region is a UNESCO recognised "World Heritage" area. Its isolation means that there are lots to do in the region for nature lovers and those who love getting back to basics.

The drive from Haast to Jackson Bay is a beautiful one, featuring spectacular beaches, dunes, lakes and wetlands. There are plenty of places for hunting and tramping, as well as many Department of Conservation walks for travellers to explore.

Everywhere you look in the Haast region there’s rainforest and nature in abundance. Great outdoor activities include river safaris, visits to fur seal and penguin colonies, sea fishing, trout fishing, and hunting. Make sure to do the beautiful drive to Jackson Bay, one of the most remote villages in New Zealand.