What is the Must-do in Haast?
First of all, you can’t miss Haast! So many travellers rush past this seemingly quiet town on their way between Franz Josef and Wanaka but they’re missing out on something special. Haast is in the heart of the Te Waihipounamu World Heritage Area, protected on an international scale for its epic wilderness of mountains, glaciers, rainforest and its ecosystem for unique wildlife like the world’s only alpine parrot and the world’s largest carnivorous snail! We go through the must-do walks, jet boat tours, flights and foodie/cultural experiences in this list of the Haast must-dos!
For more travel tips for Haast, see The Complete Guide to Haast.
1. Discover the Amazing Coastal Scenery of Ship Creek
Haast sure has a ton of amazing scenic walks! Good ones to start with, if travelling from Fox Glacier, are the walks at Ship Creek. Enjoy the coastal views and a magnificent display of kahikatea (white pine) swampland that represents what most of the West Coast would have looked like before human settlement. Walks here are well-maintained with boardwalks and an observation tower for watching wildlife and admiring the landscape. 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, as featured in the 8 Things to Do in Haast with Kids.
Location: 7886/10714 Haast Highway, approximately 18km (11 miles) from Haast township.
2. Walk Down to Monro Beach
Another must-do on your way to or from Haast, the Monro Beach Track leads to one of the most stunning and remote beaches of the West Coast. Wind through lush coastal forest ending on Monro Beach, which takes 1h20mins to walk one way. In the spring, look out for the extremely rare Fiordland-crested penguins, keeping your distance and following our tips in 5 Tips for Watching New Zealand Penguins for a more rewarding experience.
Location: Signposted off State Highway 6, approximately 33km (21 miles) north of Haast township.
3. Do a Road Trip Through the Haast Pass
And if you’re travelling to Haast from Wanaka, the Haast Pass Road is an activity in itself! What we and many others consider one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand, Haast Pass offers breathtaking scenery the whole way, as well as short walks to break up the journey and soak in the scenery. Highlights on the drive include the Blue Pools of Haast taking you to a scenic river gorge with crystal clear blue waters. There are also countless waterfalls just off the road, including Roaring Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls – to name a few! Plan for a full day to enjoy this 80km (50-mile) drive between Makarora and Haast.
Location: State Highway 6, south of Haast.
4. See a World Heritage Area via Scenic Flight
It can be difficult for us ground-dwellers to appreciate the grand landscapes of a UNESCO World Heritage Area, but scenic flights make an exception. Haast has a multitude of helicopter and plane operators taking adventurous travellers across the magnificent mountains-to-sea landscapes of the World Heritage Area every day as long as the weather is good. One of the highlights is Knights Point Air, where their reasonably-priced 30-minute flight by plane has you soaring over the rainforest and ascending over the Southern Alps with waterfalls and glaciers beneath you. They also offer “Kiwi Conservation Flights” where you get to join a local ranger gaining population data of rare kiwi species, as well as “Backcountry Flights” taking you to a remote hut to spend the night in nature. Check out your other flight operators using the 7 Luxury Activities in Haast.
Location: Airport Lane, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Haast township.
5. Try Haast’s Famous Seafood and Venison
In Haast, the seafood is legendary. Whitebait, which are immature fish, is a staple of the area typically made into fritters, while crayfish and classic fish and chips here are definitely worth trying with fishermen coming in daily with the fresh stuff. Venison is also popular here due to Haast’s population of avid hunters flocking to the forests to rid them of their pest species (while getting a tasty wild-meat treat out of it). Try these staples at the town’s tavern The Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant, the tiny food trailer of Haast – Otoko Espresso, the supermarket eatery Grumpy Cow Cafe, and the fish and chip shop at the edge of the earth The Craypot 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.
6. Enjoy a Sea-to-Mountains Jet Boat Excursion
Offering a small-group jet boat tour into the Mt Aspiring National Park, Waiatoto River Safari is a journey on a river very few visitors get to experience. The 2h15mins tour has you delving into the pristine wilderness of the World Heritage Area, stopping along the way to soak in the scenery and hear stories of the area’s pioneers to today’s kiwi conservation. The experience also includes afternoon tea in one of the most remote picnic spots you’re likely to ever encounter.
Location: 1975 Hannahs Clearing, Haast-Jackson Bay Road, approximately 22km (14 miles) from Haast township.
7. Walk the Wharekai-Te Kou Track in Jackson Bay
A scenic drive to Jackson Bay is another must-do in Haast, not only to admire the views from its pier and sample some seafood from The Craypot (see point #5), but to also check out the Wharekai-Te Kou Track 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.
Location: End of High Street, Jackson Bay, approximately 52km (32 miles) from Haast township.