Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout In: Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Traveling South on Highway 6 on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, eventually the road turns away from the coast and proceeds into the depths of the island’s Southern Alps.  This road through the Southern Alps traverse New Zealand’s Southwest World Heritage Area known in the local Maori dialect as Te Wahipounamu on its way to the South Island’s tourist Mecca of Queenstown:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The road through this incredible landscape is littered with numerous trails and some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire country:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The road through these mountains known as Haast Pass begins at the pass’ namesake village of Haast.  Just a short drive from the village majestic glacier carved peaks came into view:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

These mountains are called the Southern Alps for good reason because many of these peaks do a good impersonation of their European namesake:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The road through these mountains initially follows along the banks of the Haast River:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The size of the bed of this river makes it easy to imagine what an incredible sight this river must be when it is flowing at its maximum capacity during the spring melt.  Further up the highway the road moves away from the river and traverse a valley surrounded on each side by incredibly rugged peaks:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The peaks on each side of the highway were snow capped and made for quite an amazing sight:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

About half away across the Southern Alps my wife and I decided to stop and hike one of the trails to an area known as the Blue Pools:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The path to the Blue Pools was lined with dense trees and underbrush:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Eventually the trail came to a narrow suspension bridge that crossed a river of incredibly blue water:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Here is the view across the bridge from the opposite end:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Here is a view from a short walk down the river:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The clearness of the water of the Makarora River was amazing:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The reason for such incredibly clean water is because this water is literally come straight from the melting snows of the peaks surrounding this valley:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Across the suspension bridge and short way walk further down the trail we eventually came upon the Blue Pools which easily lived up to their name:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

These pools take on a deeper blue color because they are not flowing like the nearby river is.  When the water from these glaciers is left to stand still they take up a much deeper blue color.  Really incredible.

After hiking back to our campervan from the Blue Pools we then continued down the highway where the valley widened further allowing some farms to operate deep in the mountains:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

These small farms have to have some of the world’s best scenery especially those with clear views of Mt. Aspiring:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Mt. Aspiring is really quite a sight to see.  It is not as high as Mt. Cook being only 3,033 meters (9,950 feet) but it as just as awe inspiring to see as its larger cousin:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Eventually the wide valley gave away to an even wider lake named Lake Wanaka:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Like the many rivers that flow into this lake, the water is incredibly blue and clean and over watched by incredibly scenic peaks:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

This pyramid shaped peak was an especially incredible sight to behold:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Here is a closer look at this scenic peak:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Lake Wanaka is an incredibly long lake that I am willing to bet every natural fresh water lake in all of Australia could probably fit into:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

After a short drive crossing over a mountain range the highway once again provides another stunning view of yet another lake, Lake Hawea:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The highway continues to follow Lake Hawea before reaching the regional population center of Wanaka:

Further down the road the an extremely wide valley opens up that is filled with many vineyards.  One side of the valley containing these vineyards is dominated with snow capped peaks:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

While the other side of the valley actually looks like mountains you would see in a desert:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The road traveling through this wide valley then narrowed down and passed through a rugged canyon on its last stretch to Queenstown:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

While driving through this scenic valley we were able to see a number of people white water rafting and bungee jumping at various points along the canyone.  Really quite a scenic ride.

Eventually the highway left the canyon and rugged peaks of the The Remarkables came into view meaning we had finally reached our destination, Queenstown:

Picture from the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

It was a good thing we had finally reached Queenstown because at this point both my wife and I were at sensory overload due to the incredible scenery we found ourselves surrounded by all throughout our drive over Haast Pass.  Just when you thought you had seen what you thought had to be the most incredible peak, yet another one more spectacular then the last would come into view.  The drive through Te Wahipounamu is a scenic wonderland my wife and I will never forget.

Next Posting: The Tourist Mecca of Queenstown

Prior Posting: New Zealand’s West Coast

Click Here to return to the New Zealand Holiday Journal Archive

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *