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Kiwi Towns

What’s so great about Jackson’s Bay

  • 3 minutes

Jackson's Bay, West Coast

Jackson’s Bay there are plenty of things to do. A mini road trip from Haast. Take your time and discover Hapuka Estuary and the Arawhata Valley. Find the end of the road where nature reigns supreme. JACKSON BAY is bracketed by the sea and impenetrable dense forested ravines, buffs and a National Park. Discover the farthest extent of the West Coast’s road network south. Places to go include walks exploring a historic cemetery, peering out into the harbour for Hector’s dolphins and sampling fresh off the boat crayfish and blue cod at Craypot cafe.

51 km from HAAST PASS, a no exit road destination

Jackson Bay / Okahu is a gently curving 24 km bay on the southern West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It faces the Tasman Sea to the north, and is backed by the Southern Alps. It contains the settlements of Hannahs Clearing, Waiatoto, Neils Beach, and the fishing village of Jackson Bay at its western end. Wikipedia


  • Relax into the timeless West Coast scenery and contemplate a crayfish meal from, where else CRAYPOT cafe, Jackson Bay
  • Wander among the historic gravestones where whalers and adventurers have their final resting spot
  • Known nursery spot for the very rare Hector’s dolphin
  • Join Waiototo River Safaris jet boat tours and journey into World Heritage territory on Waiototo river. An ocean to alps waterway tour. The company is located 1975 Hannahs Clearing Haast 7844, Haast-Jackson Bay
Waiatoto River Safari, New Zealand
Waiatoto River Safari

Jackson Bay Okahu walks

For an easy walk head to the rocky shore where kids of all ages can explore tidal pools, or follow an old pioneer’s track before continuing down the river to the coast.

Wharekai-Te Kou Walk

  • Time:                          20 min
  • Track category:          Short walk

This short, interesting walk from sheltered Jackson Bay to the rocky shore at Ocean Beach is great for kids. Read stories about tidal pools and the life of the rocky shore.on interpretation panels. Explore the tidal pools but leave shellfish untouched for others to see. Return via the track – no coastal access.

Lake Ellery walk, Jackson Bay Okahu walks @ DOC / Shellie Evans
Lake Ellery walk, Jackson Bay Okahu walks @DOC / Shellie Evans

Smoothwater Bay Track

  • Time: 1 hr 30 min – 2 hr
  • Track category: Tramping track

This track offers a variety of terrain. For the first 45 minutes it follows an old pioneer’s track until the Smoothwater River is reached. The more adventurous will continue down this clear-flowing river, keeping to the riverbed. The reward for 40 minutes of wet feet is the beauty and solitude of Smoothwater Bay. Sturdy footwear recommended.

For further details check Department of Conservation, Jackson Bay Okahu walks – West Coast. Check DOC resource for up to date information.


Between Neils Beach and Jackson Bay is the historic cemetery for whalers and European settlers. This is the burial site for some of the first European settlers to come to Jackson Bay.  There was a failed farming settlement programme in the 1870’s.  The headstones narrate the stories of failed dreams, of the Arawhata community hardship and premature death.


Claude Ollivier (22 years old), who arrived with his brother Charles on the schooner ‘Ada’ in 1862, caught pneumonia and died.  The grave where Charles buried him is located close to the foreshore at Jackson Bay. Claude Ollivier’s grave is located on the foreshore of Jackson Bay, near the start of the Wharekai–Te Kou Walk, (1862) is the earliest recorded European gravesite on the West Coast.


(15 km from Haast on the Haast-Jackson Bay road)

Signposted 15km from Haast on Haast-Jackson Bay road, is the gentle half hour Hapuka Estuary Walk. An excellent walk in spring when kowhai trees are flowering and attract many birds. You can see or hear bellbirds, tui, kereru, fantails and grey warblers in the bush, and oystercatchers, bitterns, pukeko and pied stilts on the estuary. Panels give information about whitebait, tiny transparent fish, once abundant in the area. They are even more highly prized now they are harder to catch. The track takes you through coastal forest to the estuary, then through rimu forest to a lookout to the Open Bay Islands. A Maori Reserve, the islands are a breeding place for Fiordland crested penguins and fur seals.

New Zealand Endemic Fantail Piwakawaka
New Zealand Endemic Fantail Piwakawaka



  • Spring colour, forest green has bursts of colour with vivid red rata in bloom.
  • Arawhata River bridge is a ‘viewing platform’ up the wide valley
  • Hapuka Estuary Sanctuary


Your strongest indicator that the remote community works on its own schedule is the cafe notice on the road to Jackson Bay stating open or closed. Their opening hours can be a bit spasmodic so make sure you check before you go.  There is usually a sign along the main road, just out of Haast to indicate if the Craypot is open.


Follow the well signposted track meandering alongside the Ellery creek. You are walking through mountain beech forest to the glacier formed Lake Ellery. It is remote, beautiful and it is likely you are the only people walking through this area of forest touching Fiordland.

Pukaha, Kereru wood pigeon, New Zealand
Pukaha, Kereru wood pigeon


Discover birdlife, Tui, Kereru and eels in the wetlands. Find out about the West Coast delicacy Whitebait who breed in the calm estuary waters. The short walk (approximately 30 minutes) has Department of Conservation information plaques describing the wildlife and estuarine environment. The walk is through an intertidal zone. This is a great walk in spring with kowhai in flower, birds nestling and mating calls echoing along the boardwalk. A viewing platform looks out to the Open Bay Islands of Taumaka and Popotai. This walk is signposted from the Jackson Bay Road. The well maintained flat paths are wheelchair accessible.


Approximately 15 km from Haast on the Haast-Jackson Road.

Check Haast Regional Walks in the travel pack section for details.


Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Hamilton & Waikato Region nearby attractions and events.

The remote settlement is primarily a working fishing / crayfish port. Jackson Bay, West Coast is sheltered from the predominant south and westerly winds. The safe anchorage encouraged the fishing companies to establish a small port, warehousing and commercial interests led to a sealed road between Jackson Bay and Haast.


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