Makarora Haast Pass

The scenic drive from Wānaka to Haast Pass is one of contrasts, from arid dry terrain through to rain forest

Head out of Wānaka past Mt Iron and across the mighty Clutha River at Albert Town, the original site of Wānaka (previously named Pembroke) and site of the of the old punt across the Clutha River.

Continue on across the river terraces, alongside Lake Hāwea, and through “the Neck”, a low saddle between Lakes Hāwea and Wānaka - note the 65m difference in lake height! As your journey ventures closer to the Haast Pass, look across Lake Wānaka at pockets of beech forest, alpine mountains and permanent glaciers in the Mt Aspiring National Park. Makarora sits right on the edge of the park and the crystal clear Makarora River. There are numerous accessible walks and lookouts easily accessed from the roadside between Makarora and the Haast Pass. Return to Wānaka at your leisure.

Highlights along the way:

Wānaka to Albert Town - 7 minutes, 6 km

  • Grab a coffee at one of the many Cafes in Wānaka before setting off for the day or stop at Hook for refreshments and even a quick fish
  • The Mt Iron walk is great to do if you have time and gives panoramic views over the whole Upper Clutha basin.

Albert Town to Lake Hāwea - 8 minutes, 10 km

  • Try to spot a trout in the clear waters of the Clutha River (NZ’s largest river by volume) in NZ. The famous Deans Bank fishing spot is just up the river.
  • Spend some time at Hook and let the kids try their hand catching a salmon while you enjoy a coffee 
  • If you have time take the mountain bikes and ride around the Deans Bank Mountain Bike track - 12km of flowing single track with banks and berms

Lake Hāwea to Makarora - 33 minutes, 43 km

  • Stop off at Lake Hāwea for a top up at Sailz Cafe
  • Pull into The Camp - Lake Hawea for break down by lake
  • Numerous photo opportunities – including The Lookout, The Neck (the narrow isthmus between Lakes Wānaka and Hāwea – note the height difference of 65m)

Makarora to Haast Pass - 16 minutes, 24 km

  • In Makarora there are two cafes to choose from: Makarora Country Cafe and Wonderland Makarora Lodge. These are the last chance you'll have to grab some caffeine and food before you start walking.
  • Enjoy the beautiful 15 minute Nature Walk located near the Visitor Centre.
  • Ten minutes up the road past Makarora is the Blue Pools walk through beech forest to beautiful crystal clear pools
  • Stop at Cameron Flat campsite for great elevated views of valley and a nearby walk to the lookout
  • At the Haast Pass, walk for 20 minutes to the lookout to enjoy big mountain views and beech forest
  • From “the Neck” to Haast Pass note the marked change in terrain and vegetation – from arid and dry to rain forest.

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Driving to Wanaka Explore the Region

Driving to Wānaka

Driving on the South Island roads of New Zealand is a great way to experience the region, with relatively quiet roads and some of the most amazing scenery right outside the window.

Major car and campervan hire companies are all located at Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown airports. There are also a number of rental car companies based in Wānaka.

How to get to Wānaka

Explore the Region

Wānaka is unique and captivating; it inspires you to discover, and gives you the freedom to explore.

Located in the stunning alps of the South Island, New Zealand, visitors from around the world are drawn to the Wānaka region by its outstanding beauty.

Explore Wānaka

  1. Mount Aspiring
    National Park
    54 min
  2. Christchurch 5 h 14 min
  3. Ashburton 3 h 56 min
  4. Geraldine 3 h 19 min
  5. Tekapo 2 h 17 min
  6. Mt Cook 2 h 6 min
  7. Twizel 1 h 39 min
  8. Omarama 1 h 21 min
  9. Franz Josef 3 h 32 min
  10. Fox Glacier 3 h 6 min
  11. Haast 1 h 43 min
  12. Cromwell 39 min
  13. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  14. Milford Sound 4 h 34 min
  15. Te Anau 2 h 52 min
  16. Dunedin 2 h 52 min
  1. Mount Aspiring
    National Park
    54 min
  2. Coronet Peak
  3. The Remarkables
  4. Cardrona
  5. Treble Cone
  6. Snow Farm
  7. Heli Skiing
  8. Heli Skiing
  9. Makarora 50 min
  10. Lake Hawea 1 h 7 min
  11. Wanaka Airport 11 min
  12. Luggate 13 min
  13. Tarras 27 min
  14. Cromwell 39 min
  15. Arrowtown 53 min
  16. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  17. Queenstown Airport 59 min
  18. Matukituki Valley 51 min
  19. Raspberry Creek 1 h 6 min

Flights to Wānaka

Getting to Wānaka is easy - click on your city to see how close you are to Wānaka. It’s a short, scenic 60-minute drive to Wānaka from the closest international airport, where you will find all major rental car companies and scheduled bus services that provide transport to Wānaka throughout the day.

How to get to Wanaka