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 16244 reviews)

    Exceeded my Expectations. A Trip to Treasure.

    Active adventures provided an outstanding New Zealand experience. Our guides (Tory and Jordie) went above and beyond during our South Island Rimu trip. Their passion for the outdoors as well as the traditions and culture of NZ enhanced the two week journey. As guides, I was most impressed by their attention to detail and safety. I appreciated the warm smiles, gems of knowledge and yummy meals on even the challenging hike days. For my birthday, during the three day hike at Nelson Lakes National Park, Tory and Jordie surprised me with two delicious cakes to share with my new hiking family. A moment I will treasure, enhanced by the breath taking views of the alpine lake at Angelus Hut.

    The beauty of the country surpassed my expectations, particularly sites like Milford Sound and Mt. Cook. Such a diverse, lush landscape, each hike offered a unique perspective of the stunning views. Combined with the kayaking and biking options, allowed for an exciting and interesting mix. The highlight of my two weeks was my heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier, such an unforgettable experience.

    I'm looking forward to future Active Adventure trips, but will definitely keep a little piece of NZ in my heart. A truly bucket list destination.


    Gigi (from The Bahamas)
    Gigi Smith Review Image
    – West Virginia, United States
    Rimu, July 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 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 16244 reviews)

    Outstanding Adventure Vacation

    Our Active Adventures trip was outstanding! The entire process was a tremendous experience. Staff were responsive and friendly during the "sign up" phase. Our guides Jordie and Holly are two of the finest professional, friendly and knowledgeable guides we've had the pleasure to work with. Shout out for both of these wonderful people! They did a marvelous job managing group dynamics to ensure everyone was motivated and individual needs were met. Well trained and both have mastered the skillful art of quality customer service. Keep up the good work!
    Lilly Golden Review Image
    – Texas, United States
    Tui, July 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    5 day Kauri Trip

    Tongariro Alpine Crossing was the best hike of my life!
    Grace Zheng Review Image
    – Hawaii, United States
    Kauri, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    New Zealand is Majestic...Thanks Active Adventures!

    This was my first trip traveling alone and traveling overseas. Active Adventures made this trip amazing and so easy. From initial planning of trip, to the moment of pick up at the airport, until drop off at the end of the adventure all details were taken care of. The guides (Amanda and Joe) were fabulous and the prepared meals were fantastic. New Zealand is truly beautiful. Thanks for sharing your country, can't wait to go back!
    Jennifer Smith Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Rimu, December 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

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