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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

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    A Great Eight Days

    My wife, Shanen, and I had a goal of running a marathon on all seven continents and our seventh took place on March 18, in Rotorua, NZ. So two days after completing our goal, we returned to Christchurch and met up with our guides, Hillary and Dan, along with our fellow travelers. As good fortune would have it we all clicked as a group and off we went.

    For the remainder of our journey it was clear that both Hillary and Dan took great joy in what they do. Furthermore, and of great importance to us, they ensured meals had met our vegetarian and vegan needs. We were never made to feel our dietary needs were inconvenient to them and they were handled in such a way that all of us were able to enjoy our group meals.

    The actual adventure was well planned out and the expectations of each day were always explained. Our group was one that started together, made sure all finished and enjoyed the adventure.

    John Edmundson Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Tui, April 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    A Marvelous Exprerience

    This trip was worth every penny. We had marvelous lodging that we could not have accessed on our own. Our access to trails, parks and activities was all arranged and all we had to worry about was showing up for the experience. We were truly touched by the extent to which our guides went out of their way to respond to our special food needs. I felt truly safe, supported by the experience, training and good will of our guides. I came home stronger and with new confidence that as an elder I can still take on physically challenging experiences and succeed. What a gift that is.
    Wendy Ball Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Kiwi, December 2017
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 298 reviews)

    Weka - New Zealand

    Wow!! What a trip! This hiking & biking tour was breath-taking both figuratively and literally. Our guides made our adventure challenging, yet fun. They were knowledgeable, encouraging and you could tell they are truly passionate about what they do. This tour captured all the great highlights of New Zealand staying just off the beaten path so we could really experience the diverse beauty and savory tastes of the island. Our group enjoyed ourselves so much we are already discussing another Active Adventure trip in 2019. Thank you Active Adventures for a wonderful experience!
    Sue Stohrer Review Image
    – California, United States
    Weka, March 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4982 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
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4982 reviews)

    Chris Darcy review of Rimu Trip

    The term trip of a lifetime gets used far too frequently. This was one. The South Island of New Zealand is likely the most beautiful place on earth, pound for pound. Nowhere else can you find so much beautiful landscape, diverse landscapes and microclimates packed into such a small area, which can be travelled in such a short amount of time while still doing it justice. Our guides, Holly and Claire, were fantastic - wonderful dispositions, knowledgeable, tireless and attentive - and made the trip special. And Kiwis are some of the nicest folks on earth (after Canadians of course) - we didn't have a single negative experience the whole time we were there. If you've been thinking of going to New Zealand don't wait - you can't do better than this trip - just make sure you take extra memory cards for your camera.
    Chris Darcy Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, November 2016

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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.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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