South of Haast, the coastline turns westward along a 24 kilometre, gently curving bay to Jackson Head. This headland provides shelter from the prevailing wind direction, and here a fishing harbour has survived since the early pioneer days of seal hunting. Jackson Head also marks the southern end of the west coast's narrow river plains. Beyond this point, the steep mountain ranges plunge directly into the sea - the first of the deep glacial fiords is just 60 kilometres away.
Pre-European Maori tribes prospered in this area, trading valuable greenstone (jade) from the Red Hills and Cascade River valley. Attempts by European settlers to conquer and farm this challenging land proved fruitless; most soon moved further up the coast or over the ranges to Queenstown.
Jackson Bay fishing village offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Southern Alps, which are often painted pink by the setting sun. There are several good walks in the area, ranging from a 15-minute track to Jackson Viewpoint to a two-day hike inland that returns along the coast.
Jackson Bay is one of only two known areas in South Westland regularly used as a nursery area by the rare Hector's dolphin females and their calves.
When you visit this remote and geographically-gifted region, it's easy to see why it has been designated a World Heritage Area.