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Sea, lakes, waterfalls and bloodsucking mossies

Summer 12/13 roadie, day 3, part 2

We continued south-west on the Haast Highway, popping out at the coast briefly before the road wound back inland.

Motorhomes, West Coast

A common sight around these parts

Bruce Bay

Named after a paddle steamer called Bruce which brought in gold miners and explorers way back when, it’s hard to picture this remote area being home to 2000 people during the gold rush. With about six permanent residents now, the only rush these days is from inquisitive people exiting their vehicles at this popular photo spot. As well as being a rugged windblown (well it definitely was that day) beach, it has lots of driftwood and amazing pure white stones. There’s also an interesting ritual of writing messages on rocks.

Bruce Bay, West Coast


Bruce Bay

Lake Paringa

This stop was memorable. Not for the natural treasures which this scenic reserve contains, but for the mosquitos, dozens of the little buggers. A few people had been staying in the Dept of Conservation campground judging by the tents, and we wondered how they had coped. Needless to stay we didn’t linger for too long. However, it was a beautiful and peaceful place. Like most major lakes in the South Island, Paringa was formed by glaciers a very, very, very, very long time ago.

Lake Paringa

Lake Paringa

Knight’s Point

Where the highway pops out at the coast again there’s another stopping opportunity. As well as some great views of dramatic coastline and native bush (which we did appreciate through the wind and rain), a plaque at Knight’s Point commemorates the 1965 milestone when the final section of the Haast Highway was completed nearby, which for the first time established a road link between Otago and Westland.

Knight's Point, West Coast

View from Knight's Point

Ship Creek

The small river Tauperikaka acquired a new name when part of a ship was found washed up on the beach, believed to be from a shipwreck off the coast of Australia. Loved this stop – there are so many fantastic natural features to race round with a camera after. Must do the walkways next time, there’s one to a lake and another through the ancient kahikatea swamp forest.

Ship Creek, Westland

Ship Creek, Westland

Ship Creek beach, Westland

Kahikatea swamp forest, Ship Creek

Thunder Creek Falls

We steered back inland again, pausing for a bite in Haast Junction and a mosey through the visitor centre-slash-museum, before continuting toward Haast Pass. This is the lowest of the passes that cross the Southern Alps and forms part of the boundary between Otago and Westland. There’s a truck load of potential stopping points and walks through here but we limited our activities to things that could be done without too much faffing. A five minute return walk fitted the bill nicely.

The height of these falls doesn’t break any records but does indicate the level of the glacier when the Haast River was formed a hundred or so centuries ago. And just the short walk-in alone was worth it.

Thunder Creek Falls walkway

Haast River at Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls, Haast Pass

Gates of Haast

We drove over the single lane iron bridge at the Gates of Haast. While fairly impressive in itself, I spied a glimpse of white water below, so we veered into the carpark up the road and I scuttled back. Here the Haast River narrows and drops and water thrusts over the massive boulders in the riverbed. A tramping track departs from here and goes below the bridge which would have been cool to investigate – but Mike was back with the car and we still had much to do.

A couple of k’s up the road I unfortunately wasn’t onto it enough to be ready for the wee old explosives hut at the side of the road which harks back to when the road was being built.

Gates of Haast bridge

White foxglove

Fantail Falls

Pining for the hut visit and photo that wasn’t, I was somewhat placated by another waterfall stop. This involved another short walk through masses of lush greenery and across a dry part of the riverbed. Just visible at the foot of the falls are the concrete foundation remains of a water wheel used during the construction of the Haast Highway.

Fantail Falls fern frond

Fantail Falls, Haast Pass


Lake Wanaka

We crossed the highest point of Haast Pass and again I was caught on the hop for we sailed on by without stopping for a look and a compulsory photo or two.

‘Twas not long before we were at the northern tip of Lake Wanaka – not an end I think I’d seen before. I’m more acquainted with the southern end where the Wanaka township sits. This is NZ’s fourth largest lake, sitting in a narrow but long glacier-carved channel, and is flanked by mountainous peaks. You can imagine how gorgeous this area can look in winter.

We stopped a couple of times and the strong wind was a blessing as it prevented any lurking mossies from being able to settle on our succulent flesh.

Northern end of Lake Wanaka

Northern end of Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka northern end

Southern shore of Lake Wanaka

Southern shore of Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Nearby and running parallel with Lake Wanaka is Hawea. Back when glaciers ruled, the lakes were connected by ice over a pass now called The Neck which the main road traverses. Today they are part of the massive hydro-electricity network in the lower South Island and the level of Lake Hawea was artificially raised in the 1950s to allow more water to be stored. Like its neighbour, the southern end of the lake is where the township is.

Lake Hawea from The Neck

Lake Hawea from the Neck

Western arm of Lake Hawea from the Neck

Western arm of Lake Hawea


We were almost done. After a well-deserved beverage in Wanaka we drove into the historical Cardrona Valley for our overnight stop.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Marnie #

    Methinks you have a similar passion for waterfalls as your fairy Godmother…can never have/see too many! Was not aware of the walkways around Haast last time we drove through, but come to think of it, that was about 15 years ago. ‘Time’ always puts a bit of a dampener on free-exploring, doesn’t it!

    16 January 2013
    • Well if they’re there I’ll certainly have a gander! The way we tend to approach our trips, no there’s not time to see and do all and have free time for whatever. Free exploring (I like that phrase) without any of the normal constraints would be sooooo great. One day…

      16 January 2013
  2. Ali #

    Look at all those motorhomes! Wow! Not that I ever doubted it, but it really does seem to be the way to see NZ…have you ever tried the motorhome trip? Love the pic of the waterfall…the colours of the water in the creek below are beautiful 🙂

    20 January 2013
    • Thank you. No I haven’t as yet, but I would love to try a motorhome holiday. The extra freedom and independence would be great. It’s difficult on NZ roads though; they have a lower speed limit than cars and with roads that don’t provide frequent opportunities for overtaking, motorhome drivers can incur the wrath of impatient Kiwi motorists. I would need to psyche up for that!

      22 January 2013
  3. I am speechless from Your amazing pictures.

    18 February 2013
    • Thanks, that really brightened my morning!

      18 February 2013

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