Walker in Arthur's Pass National Park
Image: Baptiste Maryns | ©
Arthur's Pass National Park is situated between Canterbury and the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand.
There is a striking difference between the habitats on either side of the main divide. Mountain beech/tawhai dominates eastern slopes. To the west is mixed podocarp rainforest and red-flowering rātā, with a luxuriant understorey of shrubs, ferns and mosses. A historic highway and railway runs through the middle.
Above the bushline, snow tussock and alpine meadows can be seen quite easily on a short walk off the road, at the summit of Arthur’s Pass.
Look out for the kea – alpine parrots famous for their inquisitive nature. The endangered great spotted kiwi/roroa – the ‘mountaineer’ of kiwi – are also found in the park along with more common forest birds like bellbirds/korimako and fantails/pīwakawaka. The open braided rivers of the Waimakariri and Poulter provide nesting grounds for birds such as wrybill/ngutu parore and black-fronted tern/tarapirohe.
Find out more about bird watching in Arthur's Pass National Park.
State Highway 73, the main road between Greymouth and Christchurch in the South Island, goes right through the park and the village of Arthur’s Pass. Winding in places, it is one of the country’s most scenic routes.
It’s a two hour drive from Christchurch in the east, and about one and half hour’s drive from Greymouth on the west coast. Regular bus services operate between Greymouth, Hokitika and Christchurch. The scenic Tranzalpine Express offers a daily, spectacular train journey between Christchurch and Greymouth, stopping at Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass National Park is rugged and mountainous, with weather that can change rapidly with little warning. All visitors should be prepared for wet and cold conditions, even in summer.
For those planning overnight trips, there are many backcountry huts which trampers can use. The tracks are not as developed as they are in other parks and are not continuously marked. Most involve river crossings, with high rainfall causing rivers to rise quickly. Some areas are prone to avalanche risk between May and November.
Check at the DOC visitor centre for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions. Plan your trip to your ability and be prepared for sudden changes in weather
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Arthur's Pass car break-ins: There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends. Don't leave valuables in parked cars and consider using more public parking sites - enquire at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre for alternative options.