Having spent a night in the mountains at 1465m, we decided to head back down towards the coast. We stopped at one of the local outdoor stores in Wanaka and got chatting with the owners, mentioning to them that we were heading west. They were happy to share some good walking tracks in the Jackson Bay area; they also warned us of the sand flies and managed to sell Emily a very flattering mesh headnet.
After driving for a couple of hours though the impressive Haast Pass, we reached the coast and headed south towards Jackson Bay. We had decided to camp somewhere along the Jackson River and found a pretty nice spot about 10 minutes along the Jackson River Road. The sunset that night was pretty spectacular, but the thousands of sandflies were a good enough reason to stay in the van, which was home to only a few hundred…if ever in the area, some tips to avoid bites are to cover up and use insect repellant. Additionally, avoid dark clothing as sandflies are attracted to it-as we didn’t know any of this at the time, Emily suffered countless bites all over her legs.
The next morning we were up early and heading back down the road to the start of the Lake Ellery walk. This is only a very short walk (2.9km return), but follows a nice track through the forest up to the lake and seems to be a pretty good spot for trout fishing. We then rejoined the Haast-Jackson Bay Rd and followed it almost to the end.
The start of the Smoothwater Bay track is sign posted next to the highway and has a number of car carparking spots on the opposite side of the road. The track initially climbs through thick forest before dropping back down along the bank of a small creek. After about an hour you will reach a small creek that needs to be traversed and 5 minutes later you will reach the Smoothwater Bay River. Take a right to continue down along the banks of the river and out to Smoothwater Bay. We then made our way back to the car and to a small fish and chip shop in Jackson Called called The Cray Pot which is highly recommended.
All up: Lake Ellery – 2.9kms in 50 minutes
Smoothwater Bay – 9.4kms in 2:40.