Touring the West Coast - Ross to Hawea

ROSS TO WHATAROA (75KM, 4–6 HOURS)

From Ross, head south on Highway 6 for 5km and turn right down Bold Head Road. Then, head south on the highway to tranquil Lake Ianthe (26 km from Ross and good spot for a break). Continue down the highway to a small town called Harihari. About 75km from Ross is another small town called Whataroa, which is a good stopping place for the first night.

WHATAROA TO FOX GLACIER (53KM, 3–4 HOURS)

Continue south, past Lake Wahapo and Lake Mapourika to Franz Josef township (30km from Whataroa). This tourist town has many services, and is a good base for a visit to the glacier.

From Franz Josef township, the 23km journey south to Fox crosses three tough hills. Fox township is a similar size to Franz Josef.

The DOC visitor centres at both towns are valuable sources of information. There are two excellent cycle paths leading to each glacier. Both are easy and about 10km long. They are signposted from just south of Franz Josef, and Fox townships.

FOX TOWNSHIP TO PINE GROVE (35KM, 2–3 HOURS)

Accommodation options between Fox and Haast are minimal. Pine Grove, in the middle of nowhere, is one option. It’s basic, but the staff are helpful, and the price is good.

The first 26km south of Fox is mostly downhill and leads to a small shelter and toilets at the start of the Copland Track.

PINE GROVE TO LAKE PARINGA (34KM, 2–3 HOURS)

From Pine Grove, the highway passes through some lovely native forest and across glacial-fed rivers. After 34km, you reach Lake Paringa Recreation Area.

LAKE PARINGA TO HAAST TOWNSHIP (51KM, 3–5 HOURS INCLUDING A WALK AT SHIP CREEK)

From Lake Paringa, continue south, past Lake Moeraki (16km) and on to a recreation area at Ship Creek, with toilets and a shelter.

Ten kilometres south of Ship Creek, near Haast township, is one of New Zealand’s most informative and interesting DOC visitor centres.

Haast township, 3km further along the highway, has a general store, takeaways and good accommodation options.

HAAST TO MAKARORA (80KM, 5–8 HOURS)

From Haast township, the highway follows the broad Haast River inland for 45km to Pleasant Flat Recreational Area. This is a convenient spot for a rest.

After the recreation area, the highway crosses the Haast River and starts climbing. The pass is 564 metres high, and the last 2km are steep. The pass itself, 59km from Haast township, lies within the boundaries of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Almost 20km down from the pass lies Makarora Tourist Centre, a great spot to stop for the night.

MAKARORA TO WANAKA (74KM, 4–6 HOURS)

From Makarora, the highway soon meets the northern tip of Lake Wanaka, follows the lake, then continues to Lake Hawea.

From the Lake Hawea shops, signposted a few hundred metres off the highway, backtrack towards the highway and turndown Domain Road for 1km to Cemetery Road.

On your right, take the signposted Hawea River Track. This easy gravel track ends at Highway 6, just north of a narrow road bridge across the Clutha River at Albert Town.

Cross the bridge on the pedestrian path and head right onto an easy gravel path. This path runs beside the river and leads around the lake to Wanaka. Approximately two kilometres is a bit narrow and bumpy.

Acknowledgment: Information has been adapted from Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.

The Hawea River Trail and other Upper Clutha Tracks are built by a trust in partnership with the Department of Conservation. To find out more about the Upper Clutha Tracks, including a range of maps, photos and trail updates, visit uppercluthatrackstrust.org.nz.

Conditions:

Trail surface: Mostly sealed highway, although there is 24km off road on the last day from Lake Hawea to Wanaka.

Best time to ride: Between March and May when there is less traffic and the weather is generally mild.

There are no bike shops until Wanaka.

From Christmas through to March accommodation should be booked ahead of time, especially for Fox Glacier and Haast township.

 

How to get here

Map of Track

Mountain Safety Council Plan My Trip
Page last updated: Sep 8, 2020, 3:42 PM