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Haast Pass to Wanaka & Queenstown: West Coast Road trip

For inspiration on what to do and see in Wanaka, Arrowtown and Queenstown check out the travel guides and articles for free things to do, what to do on a rainy day or with the kids. Nearby are small towns worth exploring. The West Coast Road trip finishes in Queenstown yet the journey continues with the Southern Scenic Road trip option or CENTRAL OTAGO INLAND GOLD MINING ROAD TRIP through the heart of heritage Otago and sub-alpine tussock country of Central Otago.

1 day or several days
1 night or several nights

Trip Overview

Follow the trail of coal and gold on SH6 where to go and what to see

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sweeping views of glacier country & Tasman Sea
  • Mount Aspiring National Park waterfalls and short walks
  • Salmon farm cafe where the catch of the day is freshly harvested
  • Lake Hawera views
  • Wanaka the iconic tree and lakeside settings
  • Arrowtown picture perfect Victorian era gold mining town
  • Queenstown, the polished hospitality of the adventure capital of New Zealand
Start Fox Glacier
Finish Queenstown

HOW TO USE THIS ROAD TRIP

This trip is part of the Great West Coast Road (West Coast, South Island) check the following sections for details. You can travel this section independently or part of a larger trip. The larger trip is from the top of the South Island, Nelson to the bottom of the South Island, Invercargill.

For details about the kiwi towns the route passes or major settlements, linger, stay, spend as much time as you want.

Start Fox Glacier
Finish Queenstown

Route map

Glacier country (Fox Glacier) to Haast Pass, Lake Hawera, Wanaka, Arrowtown and Queenstown

Glacier country: Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Franz Josef, New Zealand. A group of tourists hiking on Franz Josef Glacier
Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

While there are rivers of ice within easy reach of Franz Josef and Fox townships the area’s rivers, mirror lakes, seas and lagoons are the icing on the cake. An untamed natural landscape is a bucket list destination. The two towns of Franz Josef and Fox are the accommodation and tour operator heart of the region with cafes, restaurants and places to stay.

TIP

Check out What’s so great about Okarito and Whataroa for inspiration what to do and see

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Haast Pass

The blue pools of Haast Pass in New Zealand @vivekvvk
The blue pools of Haast Pass in New Zealand @vivekvvk

From Glacier country the route takes you through the mountain pass from the West Coast to Otago on the Haast Pass. Haast was originally a road workers camp and settlement now it flourishes on tourism. There is a Department of Conservation Visitor Information Centre to support visitor queries about the attractions and activities in the area. The focus of Haast attractions is the outdoors and nature with jet boating, helicopter flights, hunting, fishing, glaciers, bushwalks and extented multiple day tramps. Haast is located inin the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area.

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Lookouts

Haast Pass Lookout Track, New Zealand @Wanaka Tourism
Haast Pass Lookout Track @Wanaka Tourism

Feel like taking in the view?

Not a problem as the road has a number of spectacular lookouts. Pull into each of them and check out the options from walks to waterfalls, lookouts over the Alps or walking trails of Mount Aspiring National Park. LAKE WANAKA LOOKOUT just after “the neck”. This is where Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea once connected and are now separated by a narrow piece of land known as an isthmus or “the neck”.

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Waterfalls

Thunder Creek waterfalls, New Zealand @Flickr
Thunder Creek waterfalls @Flickr

Roaring Billy Falls is a 30 metre cascade in the Mount Aspiring National Park. It is approximately an easy/ moderate 25 minute walk from the car park. Visitors have a well formed path to a viewing point through fern and moss covered forest trees with the path opening up to a wishbone shaped waterfall dropping into the Haast River.  Thunder Creek waterfalls is a mere 5 minutes from the car park. The viewing platform provides glorious views of a 96 metre fall. Thunder Creek is a bridal veil waterfall. Fantail waterfalls (Mount Aspiring National Park) is another short 5 minute walk from the car park.

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Salmon Farm & Café

@TheSalmonFarmCafe
@TheSalmonFarmCafe

It’s fun as you fish for your brunch. The cafe has a farm onsite and visitors are encouraged to grap a dollop of fish food, a net and catch a salmon. If you love your fish, then try out a salmon steak, salmon bagel or just a serving of smoked salmon on toast for breakfast. The deli has freshly smoked salmon. The pond reared salmon fish farm has chinook, king and quinnat salmon. South Westland Salmon Farm  is approximately 1 hour from Fox Glacier.

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Lake Hawera

Lake Hawera, New Zealand @nikolaskhurana
Lake Hawera @nikolaskhurana

The outdoors reigns supreme at Lake Hawera. From an exclusive fly fishing excursion complete with heli picnics in the remote wilderness to rock climbing or easy short walks around the lake the key element is the raw elemental nature perched at the doorstep of Lake Hawea. Scenery is the drawcard and the landscape is the place to call home. For details what to do and see, check out Lake Hawera. Our guides include short easy walks for families and friends. While there are a number of spectacular half day and multiple day tramps for many families, hiking does not correlate with fitness levels or the ages of the family group.

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Lake Wanaka

Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka @kunosch

The landscape changes from alpine forests and mountain peaks to enormous blue lakes. Both Lake Hawera and Lake Wanaka are huge and then there is Lake Wakatipu (Queenstown). The great lakes of Otago dominate the scenery. The drawcard for the district is nature. The Southern Alps magic together the majesty of snow capped peaks, reflective lights in deep azure lakes, pristine forests and the cheeky kea parrot. World class landscapes on a par with the best of Europe and North America. It could even be said that the remote wild elemental landscapes forever untamed by human endeavour have created a special corner of the world.

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Resort town - Wanaka

Wanaka @samscrim
Wanaka @samscrim

Resort town Wanaka ticks the visitor boxes for many people. Wanaka is internationally famous for its over instagrammed mountain, Roys Peak. That takes some doing with millions of outstretched arms backdropped against a striking landscape. Plus it looks scary, is the person going to plummet off the mountain. Wanaka’s charms are year round, summer magic and winter wonderland of iced peaks and power snow for skiers.

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Arrowtown

Arrowtown, New Zealand @Sunshine Coast Daily
Arrowtown @Sunshine Coast Daily

From Wanaka the road leads to Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a postcard tourist town neatly wrapped as a preserved nineteenth gold mining settlement. The town has a glorious main street characterised by cheerful timber facades. The adjacent Arrow river flows through the dappled light of deciduous trees and coupled with a layer of polished urban hospitality visitors flock in their thousands to soak in the atmosphere. Arrowtown is definitely quaint and despite the crowds of tourists is definitely worth time spent exploring.

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Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand @photoholgic
Queenstown @photoholgic

Adventure capital of the world, year round Queenstown is a premier visitor destination. A year round holiday location where glorious scenery and outdoors adventures go hand in hand. Queenstown is a resort town framed by alpine peaks with a beautiful lake at the edge. The town is fun, adrenaline laced attractions, leisurely fine dining and indulgent spa treatments and a place where kids have plenty to do and see. From mellow, chilled out holidays to adventures packed with skydiving, canyon swinging, bungee jumping and heli-skiing Queenstown is New Zealand’s premier tourist destination.

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