What to Do in Haast: a World Heritage Area
Haast is a small town tucked away on the southern reaches of the West Coast region. Backed by the Mt Aspiring National Park and in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Area, Haast is a place to discover wild and untouched landscapes. Just south of Haast, at the end of the scenic and winding Haast-Jackson Bay Road, is the tiny settlement of Jackson Bay. It’s the only natural deep-water wharf on the West Coast and offers amazing fishing, including the West Coast speciality, whitebait. Learn how you can try Whitebait for yourself, as well as other activities, with this list of things to do in Haast and Jackson Bay.
1. Do the Hapuka Estuary Walk
Haast is full of fascinating environments with rich eco-systems, including the Hapuka Estuary. Learn about the ecology of this intertidal zone through the interpretation panels along a 20-minute loop walk. It’s possible to see native birds like tui, bellbird and wood pigeons, as well as seals. The walk also features a viewing platform which looks out to off-shore islands.
Location: Signposted along the Haast-Jackson Bay Road.
2. Take a Road Trip Down the Haast Pass
One of the popular scenic drives in the South Island, Haast Pass has a wealth of walks and waterfalls to check out. The 66km Haast Pass is 563m above sea level making it the lowest crossing point over the Southern Alps. Stop by short walks like Fantail Falls (2 minutes walk), Roaring Billy Falls (30 minutes return) and the Blue Pools of Haast (1-hour return). For those feeling more adventurous, take more challenging walks with rewarding views like the Haast Summit Lookout Track (1-hour return) and Devils Flat Pack Track (2 hours one way).
Location: State Highway 6. Haast Junction to Wanaka is 142km, 2 hours of driving.
3. Stop by Ship Creek
On your way in or out of Haast, don’t miss Ship Creek. There are two 20-30 minute loop walks here, crossing rolling sand dunes and delving into swamps with huge stands of kahikatea trees. There are viewing platforms along the way to take in the breathtaking coastal scenery. Learn more about these walks and others in the area in our 6 Best Walks in Haast.
Location: Signposted off State Highway 6, 20km north of Haast.
4. Do the Jackson Bay Walks
Jackson Bay is a fascinating little village tucked away in the southern corner of the West Coast region. One way to explore it is on the three walking trails here. Visit the picture-perfect Lake Ellery on the 1-2 hour return Lake Ellery Track. Walk through a wildlife refuge with interpretation panels to read on the 40-minute return Wharekai-Te Kou Walk. Finally, make it a longer outing on the Smoothwater Bay Track taking 3-4 hours to complete the return walk.
Location: Jackson Bay, Haast-Jackson Bay Road, 51km south of Haast.
5. Try Whitebait
Whitebait is kind of a big deal in these parts of New Zealand. Whitebait are translucent fish about 4-5cm long and caught by fisherman as they swim upriver from the sea between September and November. The juvenile fish are a delicacy on the West Coast which can be sampled as “Whitebait Patties” at the Curly Tree Whitebait Company or simply by sweet-talking the locals.
Location: Curly Tree Whitebait Company, Waita River, 10km north of Haast.
6. Jump on the Waiatoto River Safari
Jump in a jet boat to discover exactly why jet boats were invented in the first place: to travel up remote and shallow rivers in New Zealand. Waiatoto River Safari takes you on a nature safari through the Mt Aspiring National Park. You’ll stop for a short forest stroll and learn about the history of this wilderness wonderland from your guide. Enjoy hot drinks and cake alongside the river before taking the journey back downstream.
Location: 1975 Haast-Jackson Bay Road
7. Take a Scenic Flight Over a World Heritage Area
Fly over a UNESCO World Heritage Area with Greenstone Helicopters. See Mt Aspirings and its glaciers, as well as the surrounding untouched wilderness on this breathtaking helicopter flight. Greenstone Helicopters also offers hunter pick-ups and drop-offs.
Location: Haast Airport