Fox Glacier to Jackson Bay

It’s just a two hour drive to Jackson Bay, as far south as you can drive on the West Coast. It was raining when Dasha and I drove as far as Haast, then turned to go inland to Wanaka, so south of Haast is new territory.

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This is a largely unpopulated area; one of opportunities to observe sea birds and possibly penguins. March/April isn’t the best time time to see penguins but is my preferred holiday time with the weather  more settled and it’s warmer. Maybe I will go earlier than planned, maybe in October/November 🙂

The road from Fox Glacier to Bruce Bay (30 minutes away) is inland and I can’t remember the landscape before the coast but I do remember seeing Bruce Bay and the many rock tributes left by travellers. The beach has a  lot of quartz, presumably washed down from the rivers.


Bruce Bay is also the location of the Te Tauaka Waka a Maui Marae opened on 25 January 2005 which looks directly at the Tasman Sea. Bruce Bay was where Maui first landed in New Zealand from Hawaiki and the marae bears his name in commemoration of this feat. He then traversed the South Island before fishing up the North Island.

Not far south of Bruce Bay is Lake Paringa, a birdwatchers paradise with the rare Australasian crested grebes, scaups, shovelers, mallard ducks, black swans, and black shags on the lake. In the forest, fern birds, kaka, kakariki, falcons, and kereru (New Zealand native pigeon) can be found. And the lake is really pretty too!!


The sort of photo of would love to take!

Tawaki, or Fiordland Crested Penguins, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, are the second rarest penguin on the planet (after the Galapagos penguin). Only in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island can you see these birds and I didn’t see any in April. They are most accessible along the Lake Moeraki coastline (10 kilometres south of Lake Paringa) with an easy 45 minute walk through the native forests to Monro Beach. Monro Beach is breathtaking with rock clusters, blue waters and a colony of Fiordland crested penguins. They appear on the beach between July and December. Since 1989, a bull southern elephant seal, named “Humphrey” returns annually and at times dolphins can be seen surfing in on the waves as they hunt tuna.


The Wilderness Lodge (at lake Moeraki) has a Facebook page that monitors the penguins during the nesting season.

Ships Creek, 20 kilometers south of Lake Moeraki, has an excellent viewing tower for seabird watching and you can choose from two trails: the Kahikatea Forest Walk (30mins) takes you via a boardwalk into kahikatea swamp forest with great bird watching while the Dune Walk (30 mins) goes along the beach and then inland to a small dune lake.


Ships Creek

The Haast Bridge is wonderful and I didn’t get to enjoy it as I was too nervous. The thought of another vehicle coming (it is a single lane bridge) had me with eyes fixed on the other end. There are two passing bays, I could have stopped at either;I didn’t think of that at the time. I plan to stop at many of the West Coast rivers and take photos; many of them have unique bridges. I like bridges 🙂


15 kilometres after the turn off to the Haast Pass, I would like to do the Hapuka Estuary Walk – “It’s just a short 20 minute walk but it has all the features; flax, cabbage trees & kowhai trees around the edge of the estuary, several boardwalks over the wetland, even a small jetty for boats and kayaks, and then the track moves into thick luxuriant rain forest dripping with moss and epiphytes, with a lookout over the estuary out to the coast. And there are lots of birds”. My kind of place!


The West Coast road ends at Jackson Bay, a small remote village 50km south of Haast. The road to Jackson Bay is often rated as one of the West Coast’s ‘best kept secrets’ by visitors. Jackson Bay is the only natural deep-water wharf on the West Coast and the fishing is outstanding. Blue cod, groper and terakihi can be caught not far from shore and in season the tuna is plentiful.


Jackson Bay is one of only two known areas in South Westland regularly used as a nursery area by the rare Hector’s dolphin females and their calves.

European settlement was attempted at Jackson Bay in the 1870s. Conditions in the area were harsh so the population was always limited. The Information Shelter and the Lonely Grave at Jackson Bay give a poignant reminder of their story.


Jackson Bay

I can’t find accomodation here so I may have to go back 30 kilometres to Hapuna Estuary at Okura. I could do the walk the next day, if I run out of time.

Accomodation: Haast Beach Holiday Park
Phone: 03 750 0860

Powered sites $32.

Click to access haast-regional-walks.pdf

Okura to Wanaka . . . . . . over the Haast Pass


This is how I remember the beginning of the road.

A mere 2 hour drive but lots of stops! My mission is to find where the actual Haast Pass is! We didn’t see a sign, I was disappointed. I expected a pass to have a summit, to be evident but it wasn’t. I think it was a pass THROUGH the mountains, not OVER them. Whatever it is, the scenery was spectacular.

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This route was a traditional pathway for Maori journeying west in search of pounamu (greenstone or jade). Haast Pass was first crossed by Europeans during the 1860s gold rushes. Construction of a proper road began in the 1920s and 1930s depression, with unemployed workers wielding picks and shovels – but the road wasn’t completed until the early 1960s; a 140 kilometre road, the highest point a mere 563 meters.

Dasha and I did look for Haast township but didn’t find that either. I now know there are three “Haasts”

Haast Junction is located on the southwest bank of the Haast River, immediately south of the Haast Bridge, at the junction of State Highway 6 and the Haast–Jackson Bay Road.

The smaller Haast Beach is on the coast of the Tasman Sea, approximately 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) west southwest of Haast Junction, on the Haast–Jackson Bay Road.

The larger Haast township is located on the Haast River, approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) south of Haast Junction, on State Highway 6. 

The combined population for the 3 Haasts is 297, they are very small 😉


We didn’t see this and I was looking for it.

Haast has a spot in aviation history as well as the first commercial flight in New Zealand was into Haast by pilot Bert Mercer in 1934, in a DH83 Fox Moth.


There are three or four lovely short walks to waterfalls and I’ll do them again, Roaring Billy, Thunder Creek, Fantail Falls and the Blue Pools. If I’m doing this in spring, I imagine the scenery will look quite different. To the west is West Coast rain forest, a stark contrast to the more semi continental climate of Central Otago, over the pass.

I read “At the Gates of Haast gorge, many travellers stop to photograph the wild water as it crashes over the river boulders”. I wonder where this is?   I found it. “The Gates of Haast. It is a roadside waterfall which is seen from a car when crossing the river. There is a car park on the right after the Gates of Haast bridge when driving towards Wanaka. There is no track . . . . . the waterfall is seen from the bridge. . . . .officially it’s not a waterfall, it’s a series of rapids”. No wonder we missed it 🙂


Gates of Haast Bridge

And here it is, the Gates of Haast Bridge!

The basins that are filled by Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka were gouged out by the Hawea and Wanaka Glaciers .Insect-eating birds such as fantail/pīwakawaka, yellow breasted tit/miromiro and rifleman /tītipounamu thrive in the invertebrate-rich forest. Mohua (yellowed) and kākāriki (yellow-crowned parakeet), are locally common.

lake hawea

Lake Hawea, just one of the many beautiful lakes in the area and, at around 400 meters, the deepest.

Accommodation: Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park,

212 Brownston St
Wanaka 9305

64 3 4437883
64 3 4439086

Wifi: IAC