After checking-in to Avalanche (our lovely accommodation at Wanaka), we decided to make use of the good weather and the longer summer daylight, and drove to the Blue Pools. Most people will make a stop at the Blue Pools en route to the west coast via the Haast Pass. Since we were not going to the west coast on this trip, we decided to do a day trip to the Blue Pools from Wanaka, much in the same way as we did a day trip to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch. While it took us an entire day to do the Arthur Pass drive, the Blue Pools only requires about 4 hours or half-a-day. The drive to the pools from Lake Wanaka is only about 1 to 1.5 hours (depending on how much you stop for photos, which you will).
It was a little cloudy when we started our journey. Within a few minutes of leaving Wanaka, we were driving on a hilly winding road along Lake Hawea, which was just a stunning drive. The road was at a much higher altitude than the lake, which meant beautiful views. There were mountains on one side, a distinct blue colour of Hawea, and green patches of grass on the other side. In between were small plots of land, with sheep and deer on them. They looked curiously at us as we took pictures. We managed to stop at a couple of lookout points and got some stunning images of the scenery.
(road along Lake Hawea)
(lovely mountain landscape along Lake Hawea)
(this can definitely be a postcard)
(driving along Lake Hawea)
(a herd of deer)
(gorgeous drive along highway 6)
(stunning landscape everywhere)
(sheep along the highway)
The scenery started to change slowly as we drove into Makarora. The lake and mountain views were now replaced with the lush green forest of the Makarora Valley. Somewhere along the way, we come across a farm on which about 40 deers were running together in a pack, it was such an incredible sight! We finally reached the Blue Pools about 1.5 hours after leaving Wanaka (thanks to all the photo stops we made along the way). We almost missed the entrance of the blue pools and drove right past it. There is a small parking lot on the side of the road and a small board along the highway which says “Blue Pools”. So be careful and watch out.
We found one of the last few spots to park our car (it was crowded even on a weekday in March) and crossed the highway to get on the other side, where the entrance of the Blue Pools is located. There is a clearly marked pathway that leads to a swing bridge where the actual pool is. We walked for about 20 minutes (starting from the entrance) to get to the swing bridge. I was wearing a t-shirt that day, and people coming back from the track were giving me weird looks, almost as if they were hinting something at me. Later, I would understand why this was the case. The Blue Pools and Haast pass area in general is filled with sandflies. They swarm all over you and bite. So, I had to pull on my jacket to keep those sandflies at bay. Amazingly, they still bit us on whatever skin they could find, forehead, neck, etc. My advice to you is apply sandfly/insect repellant before you go to this place.
(entrance to the Blue Pools)
(the walk to the swing bridge)
The colour of the water at the Blue Pools swing bridge was just unbelievable. It was a greenish blue colour, which we had not seen anywhere else on South Island (you can probably find a similar colour at Hokitika gorge, on the west coast). For us, New Zealand was becoming a colour fest, it was all about the wonderful different shades of blue at various locations, be it Arthur Pass, Akaroa, Tekapo, or Pukaki. The reason for these unique colours is the different mineral contents in the glacial salts present in the water. We took a few pictures while dodging the sandflies. As a tradition, visitors at the Blue Pools often make piles of stones, apparently as a mark of their visit. So, even we made one.
(the waters of the Blue Pools)
(stunning colour of the pool)
(one of the lookout points below the swing bridge)
(the waters of the Makarora river)
(the piles of stones made by visitors)
(the swing bridge of the Blue Pools)
After some time, we were ready to proceed to our next stop, Fantail falls. A quick drive through the lush thick rainforest gets you to Fantail falls. Again, drive carefully so that you do not miss the entrance. There is a small parking lot, but with enough space as fewer people make the visit to Fantail Falls than they do to the Blue Pools. A short 2 minute walk along a well marked pathway led us to the falls. We took some quick pictures of the falls (no sandflies here thankfully) and proceeded further on highway 6. We were now heading for the famous Haast Pass.
(driving towards Fantail Falls on highway 6)
(the scenery near the Haast Pass)
(the rainforest along Highway 6)
(driving towards Fantail Falls)
(entrance to Fantail Falls)
(the 2 minute walk towards the falls)
(the cold glacial waters flowing at Fantail Falls)
We left Fantail Falls after spending about 5 minutes there. After driving for a few minutes further on highway 6, we saw a sign welcoming us to the Haast Pass. We were now on the famous road to the west coast. We drove for a few minutes, and then turned back to head to Wanaka. It was an incredible drive, one that I highly recommend to anyone visiting the South Island. And you do not have to include the West Coast on your itinerary to experience this drive. You can just do a day trip from Wanaka instead.
(after a long day, it was time to enjoy NZ’s best ice cream)
(the passion fruit and yogurt flavour is a must)