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Drive Wanaka to Franz Josef

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Wanaka to Franz Josef
West Coast Self Drive Travel Guide.

Travel Information  Travel Facts
Distance: 287km (179 miles)
Approximately: 5 hours 45 minutes
Road Conditions: State Highway 6

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Wanaka - Haast Pass - Haast - Bruce Bay - Franz Josef

The Haast Highway, one of New Zealand's most stunning day journeys, has many look outs, walks and water falls most of which are well sign posted and easily accessed from the road side.

From Wanaka township follow State Highway 6 east to Albert Town and Lake Hawea. The drive from Lake Hawea village to Haast Pass rises above the Lakes as we follow the western shore of Lake Hawea passing between the peaks to follow the north eastern shore of Lake Wanaka and on into the Makarora River Valley.

fuel Makarora is the last stop for fuel before heading to the Pass, if needed top the tank here.

The journey narrows as the road follows the River Valley on its climb up to Haast Pass, at 563 metres this is the lowest of the three passes into the West Coast. From here the forest is dominated by Silver Beech that quickly gives way to Kamahi as we move west of the Pass.

Wanaka - Haast Pass - Haast - Bruce Bay - Franz Josef

Having crossed the Pass we follow the Haast River from its headwaters to where it meets the Landsborough before turning sharply west.

This is a region of towering peaks and steep forest clad slopes. At the Gates of Haast, a narrow and breathtaking gorge, gigantic boulders line the river bed, choking the river's passage.

A little fiurther on is the short walk to Thunder Falls before crossing the Haast River just before Pleasant Flat. On a good day the Landsborough Wilderness Area offers spectacular scenic views up the Landsborough and Clarke valleys to the peaks of the Hooker Moutnain range.

Just beyond Pleasant Flat the Haast River meets the Landsborough where both river and road take that sharp turn mentioned previously. From here it is approximately 42kms to the Coast just beyond the settlement of Haast.

Wanaka - Haast Pass - Haast - Bruce Bay - Franz Josef

Fuel At Haast township if needed you can top the fuel tank. The next opportunity is at Fox Glacier township about 120kms north.

Haast is a small township but well serviced with a small supermarket, cafés and fuel. The Visitor Centre has good information about the World Hertiage Area, and the walks in the region.

Leaving Hasst township behind the journey continues in a westerly direction to the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand. Between the river crossing and Knights Point the road mostly follows the rugged coast line passing through forested coastal plains and sand dune ridges.

Ship Creek just north on the Coast is noted for its Kahikatea swamp forest. Here you can experience the primeval scenery of what is claimed by many ecologists to be the best representation anywhere of a 100 million year old swamp forest from the Mesozoic era.

From here it is a short winding journey around steep headland along the the rugged coast to Knights Point before turning inland and skirting the northen edge of Lake Moeraki before crossing the open river plains and through the dark South Westland Forests to Lake Paringa.

Lake Paringa is is surrounded by forest and is a popular spot for camping, picnics and swimming. From here the road continues through the glorious forests and river plains of South Westland crossing the Paringa before gradually easing west again to meet the Coast at Bruce Bay.

Wanaka - Haast Pass - Haast- Bruce Bay - Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand

Littered with drift wood from the surrounding forests, and flanked by Rimu Forest and rows of Flax is another photo opportunity along the way.

From here the road again heads inland to Jacobs Creek before crossing the costal flats formed by the Karangarua and Cook Rivers before reaching Fox Glacier.

The 25 minute drive north to Franz Josef passes through steep forested terrain between Cook Saddle and the Omoeroa Saddle before the final short journey to Franz Josef Village.

Please be aware that both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are moving living, rivers of ice. It is dangerous to approach to closely to the terminal face of either and you should not venture onto the ice unless you are with a guide.


Welcome to Franz Josef - enjoy your stay.

This Guide last Updated: April 2011


Driving Distance and Times


The distances and times within the Travel Guides are based on travel at an average of 80 to 90kmph in good weather and light to medium traffic, allowing for a break of 10 minutes from driving in each full hour.

Allow extra time for:
Sight seeing, Heavier traffic conditions, Inclement weather and any other needs you have.

There are many factors beyond the authors and our control that can and will impact upon the true distance travelled and time taken to complete any journey.

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