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




Sometimes there is need for a rest day and this could be the perfect place.


Isn’t it pretty?  (one of my photographs)

I do want to go and see the beginning of the Clutha River/ Mata-Au, the second longest river in New Zealand and the longest in the South Island. The ultimate source of the river is at the head of the Makarora River, close to the saddle of the Haast Pass, which flows into the northern end of Lake Wanaka.


I think this may be an idea, weather dependant!

A  bike ride to the start of the Clutha from Wanaka township – the track begins to the right of the playground on the lakefront seems like a good idea. Once past Beacon Point, the recreation ground known as ‘The Outlet’ opens up before you.  The track continues along the riverbank all the way to Albert Town. It is particularly scenic, with constant views of the Clutha’s emerald-green water, the odd trout lurking in the shadows and the tangy aroma of the manuka trees.


Taken, by me, from the Outlet Motor camp with the Clutha River, just out of sight to the left.  😦

Dasha and I stayed at the Outlet Holiday Park. arriving after dark and after driving along an unsealed road. I had quite an adventure parking by our cabin and left in the morning, after a few photos. Little did I realise that we were staying at the source of the Clutha *sigh*


We found a lovely bakery on the waterfront and had dinner in a bar (I don’t like bars, they creep me out) but I had the best ever garlic butter there. It’s almost worth a return visit.


Wanaka with the Clutha River to the far left.


From humble beginnings over 70 years ago as a wooden fence post charged with keeping stock from wandering, the Wanaka Willow has become the beautiful tree we see today with photographers flocking from around the world, all trying to capture the perfect photo


The famous Lone Tree