on May 26, 2010
Looking for a hidden gem on New Zealand’s South Island tourist route? The crystal-clear Haast River is overlooked by many visitors, and not only is it worth a stop for its beauty, it’s worth a stop for a fantastic jet-boat trip into one of the loveliest landscapes on the West Coast.Haast River Safari runs one-way and round-trip outings on its fleet of four enclosed jet boats, which are suitable for all ages and all weather conditions. I joined a tour group, donned a life jacket, and embarked on a 1.5-hour, round-trip adventure with ultra-personable driver and guide Vicki at the helm.Right away, I was completely surprised by both the stunning valley views and the extreme 360-degree turns that had the group of seniors on the boat hooting and hollering and yelling, "Again! Again!" Again, indeed: we did four or five, each one requiring a grasp of steel. As a quintessentially New Zealand thrill ride, this jet boat delivers!Haast River Safari delivers, too, as a wonderful introduction to the area’s natural jewels. The braided river itself is turquoise, clear, and drinkable. We entered a valley surrounded by green hills and soaring mountains, 2,000-foot waterfalls, and the occasional mid-river cow paddock. Even on a cloudy day, I was completely enthralled.At one point, Vicky let us all off the boat on a rocky area in the middle of the river to take photos—and let one enthusiastic fisherman try his hand at Haast River fishing with her fishing rod.No catch, other than a lot of great photos and a huge appreciation for the Haast River.A final tip for Haast: while you’re in town, the huge Haast Visitor Center is worth a stop, as is the nearby Frontier Bar & Café for lunch.
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