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Previous Day: Day 26 – Alexandra

Day 27 – Alexandra to Haast

With a change in the weather forecast (and it didn’t look like heading in any direction would let us escape from rain) we decided to head up the West Coast. Alexandra was shrouded in mist, but as we drove towards Clyde and Cromwell we drove through it and into glorious sunshine.


Where Clyde is at one end of Lake Dunstan, Cromwell is about half-way up it. And half of old Cromwell is now under the lake! A number of the historic buildings were saved, and these are now on the lakeside. Worth a short visit, but you wouldn’t need a whole day here.

Cromwell has a nice feel to it, could live there


Next stop was Wanaka – and we were well and truly back into tourist country. In fact, we decided that it was so touristy we wouldn’t stay long – just enough time for a very yummy blueberry & lemon muffin and a Latte in a lakeside cafe.

As the Jasons holiday park guide we had didn’t seem to have anything in Haast, I popped into the local information centre, and popped straight back out again. I have never seen so many people in a small hut! Fortunately I grabbed an AA Accommodation Guide that did cover Haast, so we could make sure we had somewhere to stay.

Wanaka is full of ‘tourist’ type things to do – animal parks, ‘puzzle world’, adventure activities. You could quite easily visit Wanaka, Taupo or Rotorua and think you were in the same place! I much prefer Lake Tekapo.

The Haast Pass

Between Wanaka and Haast on the west coast there is only one road – the Haast Pass. Now I may have mentioned it before, but there is a reason why the West Coast is full of lush green bushland and forest. We started the road in brilliant sunshine and ended in thick grey cloud.

The road goes from Wanaka, along one side of Lake Hawera (which runs parallel to the East),

then back to the edge of Lake Wanaka. There are some good photo opportunities if you want more pictures of beautiful lakes with mountains in the background!

Then on through the Mount Aspiring National Park. Although this is a prime tourist route, you don’t see too much traffic – it’s well spread out – except at stopping places for short walks to places of natural beauty. And here the proportion of camper vans to other vehicles really stands out – in the picture below over 50% were camper vans.

We also stopped at ‘Fantail Falls’, mainly because it said they were a 2 minute walk away. They were very photogenic, but also presented a surprise. On the pebble stream sides, visitors have stacked piles of stones. Not just one or two, but hundreds. Each visitor (including me) has added a couple to a pile, to keep the tradition going.


We’d been through Haast before (on our ‘quicker than a Japanese Tourist’ tour), and had stopped for a break in ‘Smithys Tavern’ – or so I thought. We arrived, and I didn’t recognise a thing. There were loads of new buildings, many more accommodation places and tourist-type shops than before. Art reckoned I’d remembered a different place – but I was so sure!

Jackson Bay

We booked into our lodge, and headed out to Jacksons Bay. This is a 48 km dead-end road that runs along the coast to a bay with more penguins! According to the map, as you drive down it you are next to the sea - but you can’t see it! There is a ribbon of thick bushland between the road and the shoreline. It says there are kiwis in there – but as these birds are very secretive and come out at night, they could have told us anything.

At Jacksons Bay the only wildlife we saw was not penguins but sandflies. Haast and this coast is famous for the quantity and size of its sandflies. We stopped at a caravan/cafe for a bite to eat and a cuppa, and were fighting them off. The proprietor of the cafe was a bit fierce too – I think she’d had a sense of humour bypass! Anyway – we could say we’d been there.

Back to Haast

As we drove into Haast I saw it! Smithys Tavern! Except it was now called ‘The Hard Antler’ Restaurant and Bar’, and had gone through a bit of a facelift. It turns out that the current owners had been bar staff there five years ago, and had bought the lease when it came up. They’ve done a great job there – it has a good restaurant, and is still frequented by the locals too. We were there at 5:00, and most of them had welly boots on – does that say something about the weather??

Another new shop is a gemstone showroom. Most of the pieces in there are from local stone. I was rather taken with a piece that is made fromlocal stone calles Aotea –this is a mixture of fuchite and kyanite in a quartz matrix. So Art bought it for my birthday.

Sandflies dire, even worse at Jacksons Bay

Next Day: Day 28 – Haast to Hokitika

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terris_travelogue/south_island/day_27.txt · Last modified: 2011/02/25 12:43 by art
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