Arthur's Pass National Park

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New Zealand's famous Arthur

Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson must have been quite a guy as a national park, local village and mountain road pass are all named after him. As chief surveyor, Arthur was tasked in 1864 with finding an available pass across the Southern Alps from a particular part of Canterbury in the centre of the South Island. He found a route, originally used by Maori hunting parties, and returned to Christchurch some months later with a sketch of his proposed pass. As is usually the case, after further exploration it turned out that ‘Arthur’s route’ was indeed the best option, and the rest is history!

Time stands still in these parts

In 1929, Arthur’s Pass National Park was created as New Zealand’s third national park. Today, the village probably isn’t very different than it was 100 years ago with a post office, Department of Conservation (DOC) office, petrol station, tea rooms, restaurant and a few accommodation providers. On an interesting side note, the apostrophe in Arthur’s Pass has been the subject of much controversy between the Geographic board and the local population, but to make a long story short, the apostrophe was re-instated in keeping with historic chic (typically place names no longer have apostrophes these days).

Flora and fauna of Arthur’s Pass National Park

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Arthur’s Pass National Park straddles the main divide, the ‘backbone’ of the South Island, between Canterbury in the east and the West Coast. It’s a park of contrasts with dry beech forest in the east and lush rainforest in the west. The kea (alpine parrot) is commonly seen in the area and a bit of a nuisance to hikers or backcountry skiers who leave their cars for the day only to come back and find that the rubber has been playfully chewed and pulled at by the cheeky birds. The highly endangered great spotted kiwi is also found in the park and is known as being the ‘mountaineer’ of the kiwi family.

How to see Arthur’s Pass

Our Active Adventures New Zealand guides are very familiar with Arthur’s Pass as a number of our trips travel this way on their journey around the South Island, including the Manuka, Tui, Winter Rimu and Kea Family tours.
Another option is the TranzAlpine railway, which starts in Christchurch and threads through patchwork farmland on the Canterbury plains, climbs to Arthur’s Pass, goes through the long Otira tunnel and then chugs down through sub tropical forest, past Lake Brunner and on to Greymouth on the West Coast. It’s possible to do the return journey in a day or take a one-way trip in either direction as part of a longer tour.

The road is the destination

One feature that makes this journey quite an eye-opener, other than the rugged wilderness, is the Otira Viaduct that straddles the Otira Gorge. Now considered a major engineering feat, it was built in 1998, is 440 metres (1443 feet) long and graciously curved to fit in with the surroundings. As the region is prone to earthquakes, the design of the viaduct features state-of-the-art resistance to damage from ground shaking. This also makes it one of the most expensive sections of road in New Zealand!

Year-round adventure

Arthur’s Pass National Park is also home to Temple Basin, one of several club ski areas in the Canterbury region. If you’re driving towards the national park from Christchurch you’ll also pass through the Broken Hill and Craigieburn Ranges where other club ski areas are located. It’s an area that provides plenty of opportunity for adventure holidays, all year-round.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Experience of a Lifetime!

    Active Adventures was an incredible trip. We had two excellent and knowledgeable guides that were a real team and complemented themselves very well--plus the meals they prepared were awesome. They REALLY made our trip special! There were so many new activities for me that I had never done before that I can't even pick a favorite--I loved them all. New Zealand is a beautiful country, and your well thought out itinerary certainly allowed us to see and experience it in unique ways--hiking, cycling, kayaking, wine tasting, etc. Celebrating my 66th birthday with champagne and fresh strawberries after hiking up Searly Tarn trail was a birthday I will truly never forget! Thank you Active Adventures!
    Stephanie Nelsen Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, November 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Amazing Trip

    This trip was amazing - the hikes took us to beautiful vistas, the guides were knowledgeable and fun, and the food was never in short supply ("Food is Fuel!" as one of our guides kept restating).

    Koru and Kim were great guides throughout and everyone had so much fun! I was traveling solo but 2 of the other 4 on my trip were as well, so nobody was ever left out! Having such a small group made the activities much easier to enjoy.

    The hikes, like I mentioned, were truly unbelievable, though somewhat more difficult than I expected. Everything was talked as 'full-on' or by time, but know that NZ hikes are up mountains then back down, so work on hills more than distance before you go! Even some of the small walks we did (Blue Pools, only 5 minutes from the road & the Chasm, 10 minutes from the road) were breathtaking. Kayaking the Milford Sound was another once in a lifetime experience we got to have on this trip.

    The only thing I would have liked (and got jokingly by the end of the trip) were straight communication prior to the hikes about how long they were updates mid-hike about how much longer/further. There was one day with miscommunications leading me to think the hike would be another 3+ hours uphill (nearly inducing panic) but was really only 30 more minutes.

    Overall, I really loved this trip!
    Taylor Ceithaml Review Image
    – California, United States
    Tui, November 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Tui Trip

    The Tui tour was the best trip I've ever had, all the group was great and very friendly, there was a very good feeling with all the group. It was so great to see all the nice places that you have in NZ, the tour passed so fast that I would love to do another one with you guys! And what about the super guides that we had - Jordy and Holly! They are the best ever, I would like to thank them again so much for the great time we had with them, I'm ready to do more! Holly next time we'll do the swimming race in the lake? Thanks a lot again, Ia orana from Tahiti.
    Peva Levy Review Image
    – tahiti teahupoo, French Polynesia
    Tui, May 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Perfect in Everyway!!

    With great guides, fabulous weather and scenery that is amazing, we hiked, kayaked our way through-out the South Island. We learned a lot about the country, the flora and fauna, birds and conservation efforts.
    Sharon Brownfield Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Amazing Honeymoon Experience

    We decided to travel around NZ with Active Adventures for our honeymoon. What an incredible decision! All the logistics were taken care of for us, so we didn't have to worry about any of it while we were focusing on planning the wedding. The staff were terrific....excellent tour guides and went above and beyond for us. New Zealand itself is such a gorgeous place and was a great place to kick off married life. Active Adventures really does it right and the group sizes (max 14) are perfect. We had an amazing experience and plan to travel with Active Adventures again on our next adventure!
    Crista Cohen Review Image
    – Colorado, United States
    Tui, January 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

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