Free (and Cheap) Activities in Haast
Disclaimer: You are entering a World Heritage Area. You are about to experience an onslaught of majestic mountains-to-sea scenery that may blow your mind. However, Haast is a small town where besides riding in helicopters and jet boats, all there is to do is walking – lots and lots of walking. That’s why this “free and cheap things to do in Haast” list is mostly just one walk after the other. Nevertheless, some scenic points, foodie delicacies and souvenir shopping are also included. You’re welcome.
For better budget tips and accommodation recommendations, check out The Guide to Haast on a Budget.
1. Lap Up the Coastal Scenery of Ship Creek – FREE
Let’s begin with the first of many amazing walks to do around Haast. Just a short drive north of the township, Ship Creek is a magnificent display of kahikatea (white pine) swampland that represents what most of the West Coast would have looked like before human settlement. The area is well-maintained with boardwalks and an observation tower for watching wildlife and admiring the sand dunes and windswept coastal forest. The two walks, the Kahikatea Swamp Forest Walk (20 minutes return) and Dune Lake Walk (30 minutes loop) are well worth doing and even suitable for families.
Location: 7886/10714 Haast Highway, approximately 18km (11 miles) from Haast township.
2. Look Out for Wildlife on the Hapuka Estuary Walk – FREE
Make one of your half-day trips from Haast be to the remote Jackson Bay. On the way, find the Hapuka Estuary Walk across an intertidal zone that’s home to seals, birdlife and the all-famous West Coast whitebait. The views from the lookout platform along this 20-minute loop walk overlooking the Open Bay islands are nothing short of breathtaking! Even the drive through the forests toward Jackson Bay is an event.
Location: S Turnbull Road, signposted off the Haast-Jackson Bay Road, approximately 17km (11 miles) from Haast township.
3. Do the Wharekai-Te Kou Walk – FREE
After checking out the Jackson Bay pier and having some crayfish at The Cray Pot (see point #7), head on this popular walk to the rocky shores of Ocean Beach. Information panels along the way tell the story of the tidal pools and wildlife along the shore and in the forest. Look out for shellfish in the pools (but don’t take any) and keep your distance from wildlife like penguins and seals. Look after nature and it will look after you! Check out names of more walks in the area in the 6 Best Walks in Haast.
Location: End of High Street, Jackson Bay, approximately 52km (32 miles) from Haast township.
4. Tackle the Multi-day Hike of the Historic Haast to Paringa Cattle Track – CHEAP
We’ve had to get a little creative with the cheap activities compared to some of our other “free & cheap” lists for New Zealand. Haast, after all, is about exploring the wilderness of the Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. While helicopter flights and jet boats are out of most budget travellers’ price range, that leaves epic multi-day hikes or “tramping”. One accessible option is the Historic Haast to Paringa Cattle Track. The three-day journey includes staying in the Department of Conservation (D0C) huts among the forested valleys. The huts cost NZ$5 per night and have very basic facilities. Learn more in the Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.
Location: Car park signposted off State Highway 6 just after Waita River Bridge, approximately 14km (9 miles) north of Haast township. Or from the Windbag Saddle car park, approximately 43km (27 miles) from Haast.
5. Hike the Moeraki Valley Track – CHEAP
A little further north along State Highway 6, you’ll also find the Moeraki Valley Track, a two-day walk through the glacier-carved valleys. The track has a couple of river crossings, however, so should not be attempted after or during rainy conditions. A bit of backcountry experience is advised for this rewarding hike. For more walks, check out the 6 Best Walks in Haast.
Location: Car park signposted off State Highway 6 near the Windbag Saddle, approximately 43km (27 miles) from Haast township.
6. Enjoy a Road Trip Across Haast Pass – FREE
Between Haast and Wanaka, the Haast Pass Road stands in your way. Luckily, it’s one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand. Highlights on the drive include various shorts walks, like the Blue Pools of Haast taking you to a scenic river gorge with crystal clear blue waters. There are also countless waterfalls, including Roaring Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls – to name a few.
Location: State Highway 6, south of Haast.
7. Try Some of the Famous Haast Seafood – CHEAP
In Haast, the seafood is legendary. Whitebait, which are immature fish, is a staple of the area made into fritters, while crayfish and classic fish and chips here are definitely worth trying for the fresh stuff. While not seafood, venison is also popular here due to Haast’s population of avid hunters. Try these staples at The Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant, Haast – Otoko Espresso tiny food trailer, Grumpy Cow Cafe, and The Cray Pot in Jackson Bay.
Location: The Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant – Marks Road. Grumpy Cow Cafe – 5 Pauareka Street. The Cray Pot – End of Haast-Jackson Bay Road, approximately 51km (32 miles) from Haast township.
8. Relax on Haast Beach – FREE
It’s pretty simple, but why not take a stroll along Haast Beach? With mountain views from the sand scattered in driftwood and shells, as well as miles and miles of pristine coastline, the beach is a wonderful place for a stroll and a paddle. Find it at the coast directly in front of the Haast township.
Location: Haast-Jackson Bay Road, approximately 7km (4 miles) from Haast township.
9. Do the Monro Beach Walk – FREE
Just before reaching Knights Point on your way to Haast (or after on your way out), stop by this trail that leads to one of the most stunning and remote beaches of the West Coast. Wind through the coastal forest ending on Monro Beach, taking 1h20mins to walk one way. In the springtime, look out for the extremely rare Fiordland-crested penguins, which you should not approach as to not scare them from their habitat – find out more in 5 Tips for Watching New Zealand Penguins.
Location: Signposted off State Highway 6, approximately 33km (21 miles) north of Haast township.
10. Pick Up Some Manuka Honey and Merino and See the Bees at Santana – CHEAP
Finally, why not buy your New Zealand souvenirs from one of the most remote souvenir shops in the country? Santana makes up the not-so-vibrant shopping scene of this small town. Nevertheless, their New Zealand-made possum fur, merino and honey products are what the country is famous for. Even if you don’t buy anything, checking out the on-site beehive is pretty cool.
Location: Tahutahi Road, Haast township.