Plan a Family Trip to Haast
Don’t make that mistake so many families make of driving all the way between Wanaka and Franz Josef in one day. Break up the journey with a stay in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the town of Haast. Whether you travel through the Haast Pass or along the rugged West Coast, there are many unmissable short walks, waterfalls and lookouts to enjoy with the kids. Once you get to Haast you have some of the most underrated jet boat and helicopter tours in the country taking you to pristine wilderness areas.
So plan your family trip to Haast, along with tours and accommodation, using this complete travel guide to Haast for families.
Things to Do in Haast with Kids
- Explore the easy walking trails of Ship Creek
- Check out all of the waterfalls along the Haast Pass Road
- Visit the Blue Pools of Haast
- Admire the coastal views from the Knights Point Lookout
- Blast down the river with Waiatoto River Safari
- Or opt for a shorter trip down the Haast River with Haast River Safari
- Splendour in the scenery of a World Heritage Area on a scenic helicopter flight
- Take the kids to the beach.
For more information and locations of each activity, check out the 8 Things to Do in Haast with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
Haast’s family-friendly outdoor adventures consist of exciting helicopter flights to free short walks – both offering amazing perspectives of the West Coast landscape.
Starting with something easy on the travel budget, on your way in or out of Haast, be sure to stop by Ship Creek. There are two fantastic short walks here taking you through kahikatea (white pine) swamp forest that showcases what the majority of the West Coast would have looked like before human settlement. Kids love climbing up the ladder into the elevated observation deck on the Kahikatea Swamp Walk (20 minutes return), while the Dune Lake Walk (30 minutes loop walk) takes you over boardwalk along the sand dunes, suitable for strollers until you reach the part of the walk that heads into the coastal forest. Check out more walks in the area in the 6 Best Walks in Haast.
While you’re on the Haast Pass Road, treat the kids (and yourselves) to some spectacular viewings of waterfalls. Roaring Billy Falls is one of the closest to Haast and a walk that’s just a 25-minute return trip along a forest-lined track to the boulder-formed Roaring Billy cascades. Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls are further down the Haast Pass Road, taking just five minutes to access from the roadside car parks.
Finally, for families looking for something pretty special, check out the helicopter flights from Haast. Haast is an ideal base for seeing some of the lesser-seen regions of the Mt Aspiring National Park, as well as the Haast Coast and even all the way to Milford Sound – yes, it’s closer than you would think! Flights with HeliServices.NZ and Greenstone Helicopters depart from Haast Airstrip, taking you to the far reaches of New Zealand that otherwise would be difficult to access with children. Children under three years old can sit on an adult’s lap on the flight.
For more family adventures, like checking out the Knight Point Lookout and visiting the Blue Pools of Haast, visit the 8 Things to Do in Haast with Kids.
Family All-weather Activities
Whatever the weather, you can enjoy a jet boating adventure on the rivers of Haast thanks to Haast’s innovative jet boat designs with all-weather roofing. Waiatoto River Safari is one of your offerings, starting with a fun tractor tour from the base with the jet boat in tow (not officially part of the tour but it’s still worth mentioning). You’ll hop into the boat with the kids to be launched into the Waiatoto River. From there, it’s a scenic journey into the remote wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park along shallow glacial rivers. There’s an optional short walk at the end of the line, as well as refreshments and drinks provided. Then, it’s back down to the Tasman Sea where kids love the 360º spins!
Your alternative jet boat option, this time on a bit of a larger boat, is with Haast River Safari. The difference? They take you on the Haast River but is similar in its awe-inspiring scenery amidst the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Their tour is only one hour though, making a good option for those on limited time or budget.
Family-friendly Restaurants in Haast
After a day of walks, helicopter adventures or jet boat safaris, treat the family to a satisfying meal at Haast’s most family-friendly cafes and restaurants.
A highlight is the Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant (Marks Road), a characterful tavern-like establishment which captures the hunting culture of the Haast area with deer antlers and taxidermies on display. The restaurant serves hearty portions of lamb shanks, fish & chips, as well as burgers and toasties ideal for the kids. They also serve whitebait fritters, a West Coast speciality.
On a similar theme, The Frontier Cafe & Bar of the Heartland Hotel Haast (Haast-Jackson Bay Road) is a country-style pub serving venison pies to whitebait salads. They also offer a carvery buffet in the summer season to fill you up in between playing games of pool.
And if you have some time on your hands, say 40 minutes to get there, dine at one of the most remote restaurants in the country at The Craypot of Jackson’s Bay (The Esplanade). As the name suggests, it’s all about fresh local seafood with fantastic fish and chips options for kids, blue cod fish baskets, whitebait fritters and more.