Franz Josef to Wanaka – The Haast Pass
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The drive from the Franz Josef to Wanaka over the Haast Pass is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. The journey winds its way along rugged coastline, temperate rainforest and glacier country before entering UNESCO registered Mt. Aspiring National Park, Haast Pass with its tranquil native Beech forest. If that isn’t enough, you’ll finish along the shores of not one, but two of New Zealand’s biggest mountain lakes, Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. This is a drive you certainly don’t want to rush.

The Haast Pass also known as Tioripatea Highway is a 140km section of State Highway 6 that travels through some of the most diverse and scenic landscapes you will see here in New Zealand. The forested section of road passes right through Mt Aspiring National Park and offers plenty of short walks with magnificent scenery. Driving without stopping and during fine weather takes about 4 hours, but we recommend allowing at least 5 or 6 hours so you are able to take in its beauty!

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As there are so many walks we just can’t list them all! We recommend stopping in at a DOC visitor centre or isite and picking up their brochure “Walks Along the Haast Highway”. This brochure offers information on all the walks and history of the area. Meanwhile, here are our favourites…


  • Blue pools – Top of Haast Pass

30 minute return walk (1.5km)

This is an easy walk through the forest  and ending up at the crystal clear Blue Pools. The water will be so inviting and tranquil you could stand and look at it for hours.


  • Thunder Creek Falls

5 minutes return walk(0.2km)

This is another easy walk along a sealed track to view Thunder Creek Falls. You will walk through a forest of kamahi and silver beech trees.


  • Roaring Billy

25 minute return walk (1km)

This is another gentle walk through podocarp and silver beech forest which then ends at the Haast river. This walk gives you a fantastic view of the Roaring Billy Waterfall.


  • Makarora Bush

15 minute loop walk (1km)

This walk starts from the carpark of the Makarora Visitor centre and loops through the podocarp and silver beech trees.  There is a pitsaw display which shows the pioneering timber milling technique.


It’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading off, that way you know what to expect.  Although the pass is only 563m above seas level it is prone to snow in the winter.  Rain can be very heavy on the west coast side of the pass all year round.


Enjoy your trip and drive safely.  Remember to save some room on your camera memory card, as Wanaka has even more to offer!  See you soon.


Useful links:-

Franz Josef DOC

Wanaka DOC

Activities to do in Wanaka

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Blue Pools Walk – Haast Highway