You Can’t Go Past Haast
A UNESCO World Heritage Area since 1990, Haast is the southern gatekeeper for the South Island’s well-preserved West Coast. Most of Haast’s sights involve a walk of some kind. Today we’ll concentrate on a few that can be seen with minimal footwork involved.
Snap a Pic of Fantail Falls
Named for sharing a likeness with the tail of New Zealand’s well known Fantail bird, Fantail Falls are a segmented waterfall measuring 23 metres high. A lookout on the five-minute return walk gives a brilliant view of the falls across the Haast River. Due to its low volume in the area, agile folk can cross the river (in suitable conditions) for an up close and personal look at Fantail Falls, just a 37-minute drive from Haast on State Highway 6.
See the Cascade Valley and River From Cascade Viewpoint
If you’re hungry for a good vista try the Cascade viewpoint, a few kilometres past Martyr Saddle, south of Jackson Bay. The remote destination is accessed via a narrow and unsealed road, but it’s nothing a little common sense can’t handle – don’t drive like you’re on a motorway and you’ll be fine. The roadside lookout is complete with educational panels detailing glaciers that once graced the area, wilderness stories, and highly mineralised rocks.
Observe Flora and Fauna on the Kahikatea Swamp Forest Walk
A 13-minute drive north from Haast township, Ship Creek is the starting point for the Kahikatea Swamp Forest Walk. South Westland is home to an abundance of native birds – see if you can spot some during this gentle, 20-minute walk. Looping through dense, undisturbed native swamp forest, the track will have you feeling like you’ve stumbled through a time portal. Be careful not to strain your neck while you look skyward at the massive kahikatea – New Zealand’s tallest native tree species.
While it may appear to be out the back of beyond to some, Haast township and many of its surrounding landmarks are actually extremely well-serviced by road. Haast town itself is just over three hours’ drive from Queenstown, and within 90-minutes of Fox Glacier. If you’re thinking about visiting the region, Heartland Hotel Haast is a great place to stay.