Graced by Franz Josef glacier to the north and Lake Wanaka to the south, the Haast pass finds itself the winding and eye opening drive leading all to amazement. This stretch of highway on the south island of New Zealand is visually beautiful, to the point it is distracting too even the most conscientious of drivers. Wherever your launch point may be, Wanaka or the west coast, the pass could easily be driven in just a few hours. But why rush?
The Haast Pass is jammed with micro hikes, lakes, mountains, waterfalls and river bends for your enjoyment. Take the day, even two, making sure you stop and stretch those legs while hoping rocks over to fantail falls or hiking off the side of the highway to see the forest and blue river winding around a grey stone playground. You will discover that you’re doing yourself a huge favour by taking your time.
There’s a plethora of waterfalls to see, an abundance of hikes and endless forest covered mountains – the drive can become like a choose your own adventure trip. But choose wisely as there is some definite highlights (at least i think so).
The waterfalls, everybody loves them, are spotted intermittently all the way down the pass:
Fantail falls is a crowd pleaser. Take a short hike to the base of the fall and the fantail is right in front of you. It isn’t the largest of the falls but well worth taking some time out of the car.
Thunder creek falls, a 28 meter drop of water being drawn down onto the boulders and rocks below. These falls surrounded by greenery of the forest – you can lay and sit on the rocks and admire the view from across the river. During the drier summer months it is possible to hop your way across the river on dry rocks.Even hop your way down and around the corner to find some peace and more striking visions of blue waters amongst the forest. Be careful, smooth rocks are slippery and no one wants wet shoes.
Roaring billy is for those looking for a longer walk. Still as easy walk through the forest greenery, it takes you to the haast river. Roaring billy is bursting out of the mountains across the river. The grey stone underfoot the product of thousands of years of water rushing over them and creating a smooth and unique look. They are perfect for making a stone tower, like the one pictured below.
The Blue pools are exactly what you expect. Pools of water that glow a striking blue all year round. You cannot miss this one, figuratively and literally. There is a large parking bay right on the side of the highway for you the safely park and the trusty DOCS have a big sign to inform you ‘Blue pools’ are somewhere hidden just beyond the forest. Making your way across the suspension bridge the forest opens its doors to the river below and the sky above. Crystal clear waters and a picturesque little scenery awaits you. The best thing you can do now is strip down and dive into the frigid waters. Yes, it is freaking cold. Yes, it will be a short lived experience. However, the feeling when you get out is invigorating and you feel amazingly fresh and clean.
The pass offers a few very relaxing options as well, including all the ‘flats’: Cameron flat, Boiler flat, Davis flat and Pleasant flat. All flats areas can be found on the road side or a short walk away, picnic tables with stunning and diverse landscape free of charge.
This journey winding you and your travel partners through mountains covered in greenery and snow all the way along. The valley floor wraps and bends with the river as you make your way through the pass. Be sure to get out of your car at every possible occasion. At the end of the day what is better than really discovering your natural surrounds and enjoying the road trip for everything it can be?
Don’t pass on Haast pass.