It was a beautiful bright day, so we decided that this would be a good day to explore Mt Aspiring National Park and do some of the child friendly walks that are just off the Haast Highway (also known by it’s more boring name, State Highway 6).
The Haast Highway is a scenic road winding through Mount Aspiring National Park and connecting Wanaka with Haast. The tall, rugged mountain ranges are a beautiful backdrop to most of the road. The lush rainforest of Mount Aspiring National Park features tall silver pine and beech trees hung with moss, which made it the perfect location for the mystical elven forests of Loth Lorien in the movie, Lord of The Rings.
Our first stop was at the Blue Pools Track, which is roughly 45 minutes drive from where we were staying in Wanaka.
From the carpark, a stroll through the silver beech trees brought us across a swing bridge, then across a boardwalk towards another bridge suspended over the bright blue waters of the Blue Pools, at the mouth the Blue River.
We could see for miles up the river gorge, bounded by mountains on both sides where the Blue River ran like a sparkling ribbon in the sun.
The water in the Blue Pools was utterly incredible – a clear and brilliant blue – and we could see the occasional flash of silver where the occasional rainbow trout ventured out from the shade of the rocks.
The Barn Owl and J amused themselves by skipping stones across the water, watching the ripples fanning out across the surface of the water. We would have loved to linger on, however unfortunately, our walking by the riverside disturbed stinging clouds of sandflies, so the only way we could escape their bite was to stay on the move.
You might notice from the pictures above that we dressed J and Little E in long sleeves and long trousers even though it was a very warm day. This was to protect them from sandfly bites as nothing else except DEET would keep them away, and we were trying to avoid using too much insect repellant.
Our original plan was to have a picnic lunch at Pleasant Flat which is next to a little mountain stream under the shadow of Mount Hooker, and then continue onto the town of Haast where we could spend some time on the beach.
However, once we got to Pleasant Flat, the whole place was swarming with sandflies which covered the windows of our car like a blanket. We hurriedly ate our picnic lunch from the inside of the car, windows tightly shut.
In the end, we decided not to drive to Haast, which was not only another hour’s drive away but and also a hotspot for sandflies. Instead, we headed to Thunder Creek Falls walk.
This is a short walk from the carpark through the ancient kahami forest on a sealed track – so it is wheelchair and stroller friendly – to a lookout point where you can see the 96 metre Thunder Creek Falls tumbling into the river.
We decided to clamber down the rocks to get a closer look at the base of the falls and dip our fingers in the cool water of the Haast River.
It’s hard to describe the sound of the falls as it roars over the cliff and splashes onto the rocks, the clamour of it echoing through the forest. Definitely a great way to round off a week in Wonderful Wanaka.