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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

  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Very Glad We Added Kauri to Our Trip

    We added Kauri to our Rimu trip because we wanted to spend more time with the Maori culture and see the north island. Our wishes were more than fulfilled by this excellent trip.
    Rick Lent Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Perfect

    The trip was impressive and our guides, Jo and Andy, are awesome!
    Frank Chung Review Image
    – , Singapore
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Trip of a life time

    My wife and I planned this trip with some friends to try something new and to maximize the experience of New Zealand. We spent 8 days hiking, biking, and kayaking through the South Island. Every day was action packed with something different to do. We got to try new things, test a few of our limits that we wouldn't have normally done, and learn a few things about local culture along the way. I can't say enough good things about our guides Ben and Liana. They were enthusiastic about everything we did and full of information. They helped us push limits and get the most out of the experiences we had. Everyone I've told about our trip has been wowed by the awesome things we got to see and do.
    Chris Busch Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, January 2018
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Guided Trips are the Way to Go!

    I had been wanting to hike in New Zealand for some time, and finally had enough time off. Trying to figure out the hut system, what to see and how to get around seemed a bit overwhelming. Even moreso since I was traveling solo. Active looked to be a great way to travel without having to stress about the planning, travel, etc. Though I had never traveled like this before, I saw the places I wanted to travel to, and others I would have likely not have found alone. Everyone on the trip was pleasant and easy to talk to, friendly and, like me had a great time. Our guides, Katie and Astrid, really made the trip with their upbeat attitudes, informative revelations on everything we saw, continual answering to our sometimes badgering questions and always being ready to help out.
    Henry Shenk Review Image
    – Louisiana, United States
    Tui, March 2018
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Tui Adventure

    This trip was all I had hoped for and then some. I expected beautiful scenery and exciting activities, but I did not expect the personal touch from our guides. One of the group members mentioned chips and salsa... that night we had chips and salsa to go with our appetizers. They knew I love birds, so I was introduced to every bird possible - along with descriptions of the birds’ personalities and habits. There seemed to be no end to Dani and Emma’s knowledge about New Zealand and that made a huge impact on our trip! We all felt like family by the end of the week, and for a person traveling alone, that is a wonderful gift!
    Janet Slover Review Image
    – Texas, United States
    Tui, March 2018

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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.

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