A One Day Guide To Arthur’s Pass National Park
Arthur’s Pass National Park is a landscape of two worlds. Home to the peaks that connect Canterbury with the rugged West Coast, its eastern flank is characterised by endless beech forests and riverbeds, whilst the west descends into dense rainforests and gorges.
The historic road which runs through Arthur’s Pass is considered one of the most scenic drives on the South Island. And with the park located just 2 hours from Christchurch, it’s the perfect day trip out of the city. Or if you’re driving the whole route from Greymouth to Christchurch it’s great to spend a day exploring the park as you travel through. So here are the top things not to miss on a day trip through Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Arthur’s Pass Village
Right in the middle of the park lies Arthur’s Pass Village. This small township is within close proximity of lots of activities you can easily fill your day with. There are lots of walks which you can start from the village as well as many landmarks also close by. It has a visitor information centre and also has a couple of restaurants and cafes you can stop for lunch.
Devil’s Punchbowl is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Arthur’s Pass National Park. It’s located just outside of Arthur’s Pass Village where it plunges 131m into the canyon below. There’s an easy 2km return trail that takes you up to a viewing platform at the base of the falls. Yet the view from the bridge at the start of the walk is also rather remarkable.
There are countless walking trails in Arthur’s Pass National Park where you can experience the area’s stunning beauty. For a shorter walk, the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track is a 2 – 3-hour return trail that takes you from the village to the Arthur’s Pass summit. Whilst Mount Bealey and Avalanche Peak are great day-long hikes if you have more time to spend in the park.
Otira Viaduct Lookout
This lookout is less than a 10-minute drive north from Arthur’s Pass Village and offers the most epic view of the Otira Viaduct. From here you can look down at the highway winding its way through the pass below with towering mountains on either side.
Otira Falls & Rock Gorge Shelter Lookout
Just a little further along the highway lies another interesting lookout of Arthur’s Pass National Park. At this lookout, you can spot two very interesting examples of civil engineering. The Rock Gorge Shelter which protects a section of the road that is prone to falling rocks. And the Otira Falls, a man-made aqueduct waterfall tumbling into the gorge.
Meet a Kea
Keas are the world’s only alpine parrot and are only found in New Zealand’s South Island! They are very curious animals so it’s not unusual to spot them in car parks and around lookouts. As beautiful as they are, make sure to also keep an eye on your belongings when a Kea is nearby. As part of their inquisitive nature, they are known to steal food and even bite rubber parts off cars!
Spot the TranzAlpine Express
Considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the TranzAlpine Express connects Christchurch to Greymouth. This historic railway cuts right through the heart of Arthur’s Pass so make sure to look out for it and the train itself which passes through twice a day.