Cameron Flat Campground, West Coast, New Zealand

Driving through the incredible Haast Pass, New Zealand

One of our all-time favourite drives to do in New Zealand is to drive through the Haast Pass! Located in New Zealand’s South Island, this stunning mountain pass connects the bustling lake-side town of Wanaka to the wild and wind-swept West Coast, and is filled with waterfalls, lush rainforest, native birds, and glorious views of the Southern Alps! What’s not to love!?

In this post i’ll give you a run down on driving through the incredible Haast Pass, including the best places to stop on your journey!

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    Where is the Haast Pass?

    Haast Pass is located in the South Island of New Zealand. It is situated in the Southern Alps, connecting the regions of Otago and West Coast. Specifically, Haast Pass can be found along State Highway 6, which runs between the towns of Wanaka in Otago and Haast in the West Coast.

    How long does it take to drive through the Haast Pass?

    Short answer: 2 hours. However, we took almost two days!

    The route of State Highway 6 from Lake Wanaka to Haast is around 143 kilometres long, and will take around 2 hours to drive without any stops. Where’s the fun in that though! There are so many beautiful waterfalls and hikes to see and do while driving through the Pass, so I would definitely recommend giving yourself a little extra time to fully appreciate this region. We spent a day travelling through the pass, which gave us enough time to enjoy the wonders of the Southern Alps and really enjoy the drive.

    What is the best time to visit the Haast Pass?

    The best time to visit Haast Pass is during the spring (September to November) and summer (December to February) months. This is when the weather is generally more favorable, with milder temperatures and longer daylight hours. During this time, you can enjoy clear skies, lush green landscapes, and the opportunity to participate in various outdoor activities.

    Winter (June to August) brings snowfall to the pass, which can create beautiful winter landscapes but may also make driving conditions challenging. If you plan to visit during the winter, ensure that you have the necessary equipment and experience for winter driving. Check out the road conditions here if you are planning a winter adventure!

    Incredible places to see along the Haast Pass!

    1. Lake Hawea

    Distance from Wanaka: 16km (15 minutes drive)

    Stop one on your drive through the Haast Pass should be the beautiful Lake Hawea! Located just to the north of Lake Wanaka, this lake is its quiet and less touristy cousin. It’s a beautiful place to stop and have a swim on a hot day, and the water is crystal clear (if very refreshing!). 

    Haast Pass, West Coast, New Zealand

    Things to do in Lake Hawea:

    The Gladstone Track

    Lake Hawea is known for its pristine blue waters and majestic mountain backdrop, and is an awesome place to stop for a picnic and a stroll! The Gladstone Track is a lovely mid-length hike that follows the lakefront of Lake Hawea, with incredible views of the beach, lake and surrounding mountains! 

    The walk starts in Lake Hawea township, and travels along the lakefront until it reaches Johns Creek. It takes around 2.5-3 hours return to complete the walk, however there are lots of parking spots along it so you can do as little or as much as you feel! There are also some cool scenic reserves along the way, which offer good places to rest and take in the views. Bonus: these reserves offer toilets, picnic areas and BBQ facilities, so if you don’t have time to walk along you can drive up and enjoy the beach!

    Water Sports!

    The lake is ideal for various water activities, including swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. Rent equipment from local operators or bring your own to make the most of the crystal-clear waters.


    Lake Hawea is renowned for its trout fishing. Cast your line from the shore or hire a fishing charter to explore the lake and increase your chances of a successful catch.

    Fishing in Lake Haea, Haast Pass, New Zealand
    The Neck Beach

    At the north end of Lake Hawea is ‘the Neck’, which is the small section of drive that takes you from Lake Hawea back over to Lake Wanaka. Up here is a beautiful and very quiet beach, which is perfect for a dip and a nap in the sun, away from the crowds! From the Haast Pass road, turn right onto Meads Road. This is a small gravel road that takes you down to the beach!

    Haast Pass, West Coast, New Zealand

    2. The Stunning Blue Pools

    Distance from Wanaka: 72km (60 minutes drive)

    One of the most visited (for good reason!) spots on the Haast Pass are the gorgeous Blue Pools! These natural pools are fed by glacial waters from Mount Aspiring National Park, and are – as the name suggests – incredibly blue and crystal-clear.

    What to Expect:

    The track leaves the carpark located at the edge of State Highway 6, and winds its way through a beautiful native forest of mature beech and podocarp. Along the track, you’ll cross a swing bridge that spans the Makarora River, providing stunning views of the river and surrounding landscapes. Once you reach the other side, you’ll continue walking for a short distance until you arrive at the Blue Pools.

    The Blue Pools themselves are picturesque, with vibrant blue hues created by the glacial-fed water. The pools are deep and clear, and you may even spot trout swimming in the waters. Take your time to soak in the tranquillity and capture photos of this breathtaking natural wonder.

    Location and Parking:

    The Blue Pools are located along Haast Pass Highway, approximately a 60-minute drive north of Lake Wanaka. There is a huuuuuge designated car park specifically for the Blue Pools, making it easy to access the walking track. Look for signs indicating the parking area along the highway.

    Walk Stats:

    The walk to the Blue Pools is relatively easy and suitable for most fitness levels. The track is well-maintained and takes approximately 15-20 minutes (one way) to reach the pools. It’s a short but scenic walk through native beech forest, offering glimpses of the surrounding mountains and river.

    Additional tips!

    • Be cautious when walking on the swing bridge, as it may sway slightly due to its suspension design. Follow any safety instructions or guidelines provided at the site.
    • Wear comfortable walking shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, as the track can be muddy or slippery at times.
    • Remember to respect the environment and keep the area clean by taking any rubbish with you.

    3. Oh-so Many Waterfalls!

    Haast Pass is home to several beautiful waterfalls, dotted all the way along the road! These are definitely a must-see while travelling the Haast Pass, as they all are unique and set in stunning backdrops. Most of the waterfalls are only a short walk from the designated parking space, and so are an easy, quick stop along your journey!

    Fantail Falls

    Distance from Wanaka: 85km (1 hour 8 minutes drive)

    Fantail Falls is a picturesque waterfall that fans out as it cascades down the rocks. The falls are surrounded by lush greenery, and you may even spot native birds, such as fantails, in the area. It’s a quick but delightful stop to admire the natural beauty.


    There is a designated car park specifically for Fantail Falls, allowing for easy access to the waterfall. It is on the left side of the highway when travelling from Wanaka, and well signposted!

    Walk Stats

    The walk to Fantail Falls is very short (at around 200m return) and takes less than a minute from the car park! The track is well maintained and an easy stroll through beautiful forest. 

    Thunder Creek Falls

    Distance from Wanaka: 91km (1 hour 15 minutes drive)

    Thunder Creek Falls is a stunning waterfall cascading over ancient rocks, surrounded by lush rainforest. The walk takes you through kāmahi and silver beech forest to a viewing platform above the Haast River, where you can see the incredible 28-metre waterfall tumbling over rocks! The falls are easily accessible, providing a great photo opportunity and a chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the area.


    There is a designated car park specifically for Thunder Creek Falls, making it easy to access the waterfall.

    Walk Stats

    The walk to Thunder Creek Falls is relatively easy and takes around 5 minutes from the car park. It’s a short walk along a well-maintained track, and about 200m return.

    Roaring Billy Falls

    Distance from Wanaka: 113km (1 hour 33 minutes drive)

    Roaring Billy Falls is a hidden gem nestled amidst the lush forest. The track takes you along the river, through a stunning forest of silver beech and tree ferns! Emerging from the forest gives you spectacular views across the river to the waterfall! Roaring Billy Falls is known for its powerful flow and the refreshing mist it generates. The track provides a pleasant walk through the forest, allowing you to appreciate the natural surroundings.


    There is a small car park specifically for Roaring Billy Falls, making it convenient to access the waterfall.

    Walk Stats

    The walk to Roaring Billy Falls is 1km return along a well-formed track, and will take around 20-25 minutes return. The track is boardwalk and well-maintained, and is wheelchair/buggy accessible to the viewpoint at the top of the riverbank! From here, you can clamber over the rocky riverbed for different views, or to dip your toes in the refreshing water! 

    It’s important to note that weather conditions can impact the flow and appearance of the waterfalls. It’s advisable to check local information and road conditions before visiting, especially during periods of heavy rain or flooding. Additionally, always follow any safety guidelines or signage provided at each waterfall site to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

    4. The Gates of Haast

    Distance from Wanaka: 90 km (1 hour 13 minutes drive)

    This name makes it sound very Lord of the Rings-esque! And it does indeed look like something directly out of the movies, with the incredible Stewart Crags and Hutchinson Spur creating a dramatic view.

    The Gates of Haast refers to a narrow and dramatic gorge carved over millions of years by the powerful Haast River! It is breathtaking to see, as the river rushes through the narrow gap, creating a stunning display of cascading water and sheer rock walls. The deep gorge is surrounded by towering mountains and dense native vegetation, adding to the picturesque scenery.

    To experience the Gates of Haast, you can simply stop at one of the designated viewpoints along the highway. From there, you can admire the dramatic landscape, listen to the roar of the river, and capture incredible photographs.

    Additional Tips for your Haast Pass adventure!

    • Bring some snacks! Haast Pass is a remote area, so it’s crucial to carry essential supplies with you. This includes food, water, warm clothing, a first aid kit, and any medications you may require.
    • Check the weather! As always in New Zealand (especially in mountainous regions) the weather can change rapidly from glorious sunshine to bitterly cold and rainy! Make sure you have good wet weather clothing or a couple of extra layers!
    • Respect the environment: Haast Pass is home to a fragile ecosystem. Take care to leave no trace and follow the principles of responsible tourism. Respect any signage or barriers, as they are in place to protect the environment and ensure your safety.
    • Watch for wildlife! The area surrounding Haast Pass is known for its abundant wildlife. Keep an eye out for native birds, such as kea and tui, as well as other wildlife like seals and dolphins along the coast. 
    • Fuel up and stock up: Haast Pass has limited amenities, so it’s advisable to fill up your fuel tank and stock up on supplies before starting your journey. There are a few small towns along the way where you can find fuel stations, cafes, and grocery stores, but it’s always better to be prepared.
    • And most importantly, enjoy the journey!!

    Where to stay in the Haast Pass!

    Accommodation options in the Haast Pass are limited, however there are a few campgrounds and hotels throughout the Pass if you are planning to take a few days! You can also consider staying in nearby towns like Haast, Fox Glacier, or Franz Josef Glacier, which offer a range of accommodations to suit different budgets.

    Best Boutique Hotels near the Haast Pass

    If you are looking to travel in style, then these boutique hotels are for you! With stunning views of the Southern Alps and incredible surrounding scenery, they are guaranteed to offer a memorable experience during your travels through the Haast Pass.

    1. Lake Hawea Hotel | Lake Hawea

    This boutique hotel offers comfortable rooms with scenic views of Lake Hawea. It features a charming ambiance, an inviting bar, and a restaurant serving delicious cuisine. It’s located near Lake Hawea and is within driving distance of Haast Pass.

    2. Makarora Mountainview Accommodation | Makarora

    Situated in the picturesque town of Makarora, this boutique accommodation offers cozy rooms with stunning mountain views. It provides a tranquil setting surrounded by nature and is conveniently located near the entrance to Haast Pass.

    3. Heartland World Heritage Hotel | Haast

    Located in Haast Junction, this boutique hotel offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities. It provides a peaceful setting amidst nature and is situated near Haast Pass, making it an ideal choice for exploring the area.

    4. The Landing | Haast

    Situated in the small town of Haast, this boutique hotel offers stylish and contemporary rooms. It boasts a serene atmosphere, and its convenient location allows for easy access to Haast Pass and the surrounding attractions.

    5. Westwood Lodge | Franz Josef

    While not directly adjacent to Haast Pass, this boutique lodge in Franz Josef offers luxury accommodation and is approximately a one-hour drive from the pass. It features elegant rooms, breathtaking mountain views, and a tranquil setting, providing a memorable stay.

    Haast Pass, Cameron Flat view, New Zealand

    Best Budget Accommodation near the Haast Pass

    If you are wanting to travel through on a budget, or you just prefer to stay somewhere a little closer to nature, then these budget accommodation options are for you! This is generally how we stay when we travel, and they offer a cosy bed or a cheap camping spot with stunning views!

    1. Cameron Flat Campground | Makarora

    Situated in Makarora, this camping ground offers a scenic setting along the Makarora River. It provides basic facilities such as toilets and picnic tables, making it a suitable spot for a rustic camping experience. It is conveniently located near the entrance to Haast Pass., and opposite the Blue Pools! However, campers beware, as this campground gets overwhelmed with mozzies at dusk and dawn!

    2. Lake Hawea Holiday Park | Lake Hawea

    Located on the shores of Lake Hawea, this holiday park offers camping grounds with stunning lake views. It provides various amenities including powered sites, communal kitchen facilities, and bathroom blocks. The beautiful surroundings make it a popular choice for campers.

    3. Haast River Holiday Park | Haast

    Situated near Haast Beach, this holiday park offers camping grounds surrounded by nature. It provides powered and non-powered sites, kitchen facilities, and bathroom amenities. It’s a great base for exploring Haast Pass and the surrounding area.

    4. Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park | Franz Josef

    While not directly adjacent to Haast Pass, this holiday park in Franz Josef offers camping grounds amidst lush rainforest. It provides a range of facilities such as powered sites, communal kitchen facilities, and modern amenities. It’s located in close proximity to the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier.

    5. Lake Paringa Campground | Haast

    Located near Lake Paringa, this camping ground offers a tranquil setting surrounded by nature. It provides basic facilities including toilets and picnic tables. The campground is situated near Haast Pass, making it a convenient option for outdoor enthusiasts.

    Thank you for reading my post on driving through the Haast Pass of New Zealand! I hope this helps you a little in planning your New Zealand roadie! 🙂

    If you like my stuff and want to see more things to do and where to stay while travelling the West Coast of New Zealand, check out my West Coast Travel guide here!

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