How to Visit Haast on a Budget
Haast might be a tiny community of only around 240 people but it’s in the heart of some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking landscapes. Part of the Te Waihipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, the pristine and untamed wilderness of Haast is a highlight for anyone who takes the time to stop here a while. Admittedly, that’s not many, which makes the area all-the-more charming and authentic. Tie up those hiking boots, because a budget stay in Haast means hikking the walking trails, whether it’s 20 minutes around an estuary or three days in the mountains.
Plan your affordable visit, with free walks, cheap activities, affordable food and budget accommodation, with this complete travel guide to Haast on a budget.
Budget Tips for Haast
- Many of the accommodations here have seasonal rates, so visit in the low season (May to September) to get the best rates
- Stay in the budget accommodations, many of which have backpacker rooms for the cheapest prices
- Your own vehicle is essential for enjoying the walks and activities recommended in this guide, as there is no public transport available
- Many of the highlights, like Haast Pass and Ships Creek, can be enjoyed on your way to or from of Haast so plan for these before you arrive to save on fuel
- While there are some affordable restaurants and cafes, the best way to save money on food is to stay in self-catering accommodation and pick up supplies from the local supermarkets – the Haast Foodcentre in the main town and the Haast Beach General Store at the beach
- Fill up your itinerary with scenic walking trails, as recommended in our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Haast.
For more general budget tips, check out the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Haast
Let’s start the walking extravaganza you’re going to have in Haast with some of the area’s short walks to mind-blowing places. An excellent place for admiring remote coastal landscapes is Jackson Bay, approximately 51km (32 miles) southwest of Haast. The Hapuka Estuary Walk is a highlight with its 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. Other walks in the area include the Lake Ellery Track (1-2 hours return), Smoothwater Bay Track (3-4 hours) and Wharekai-Te Kou Walk (40 minutes return). Learn more about the latter in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Haast.
Just a short drive north from Haast, Ship Creek is also worth discovering, 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 dune 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.
We’ll leave the Haast Pass road trip attractions for the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Haast list. Meanwhile, our final free activity in this guide is taking a stroll along Haast Beach. With mountain views from the driftwood-scattered sands, 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.
Cheap Activities in Haast
We’ve had to get a little creative with the “cheap” activities compared to some of our other budget guides for New Zealand but they’re still good to know about! 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 – Paringa Cattle Track, starting along State Highway 6 just north of Haast. 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. Get prepared using the Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.
A little further north, 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.
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.
Cheap Eats in Haast
Unlike the bustling tourist hotspots of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers further up the West Coast, Haast has a more affordable dining scene where the seafood is legendary.
The Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant (Marks Road) has an affordable menu of fish and chips, whitebait fritters, burgers and a whole range of crowd-pleasers. Dine among the taxidermies and antlers of this pub which reflects the hunting culture of Haast.
Coffee, venison sandwiches, burgers, smoothies, and – duh – whitebait patties, all of this comes out of a tiny trailer cafe usually parked up in Haast township. Haast – Otoko Espresso offers some of the most authentic Kiwi street food in the country at an Ok price!
Finally, head down to the Grumpy Cow Cafe (5 Pauareka Street) at the local supermarket for their casual “greasy spoon” dining of hot breakfasts, coffee, toasties, fish and chips and… Whitebait fritters! They sometimes do NZ$10 meal deals.