South of the glaciers, the West Coast feels even wilder. Many visitors do the run from the glaciers to Wanaka or Queenstown in a day, missing out on some fine remote country. Facilities aren’t completely absent: many accommodation and eating places are clustered around Haast, and there’s an increasing number of other pit stops along the way. There wasn’t a road through here until 1965 and the final section of tarmac wasn’t laid on the Haast Pass until 1995.
SH6 mostly runs inland, passing the start of the hike to the Welcome Flat Hot Springs and through kahikatea and rimu forests as far as Knight’s Point, where it returns to the coast along the edge of the Haast Coastal Plain, whose stunning coastal dune systems shelter lakes and some fine stands of kahikatea. The plain continues south past the scattered township of Haast to the site of the short-lived colonial settlement of Jackson Bay. From Haast, SH6 veers inland over the Haast Pass to the former timber town of Makarora, not strictly part of the West Coast but moist enough to share some of its characteristics and a base for the excellent Gillespie Pass Tramp.