Kura Tāwhiti Access Track

Image: Shellie Evans | ©


Wander through majestic limestone rock formations of special significance to Ngāi Tahu. It's one of our best short walks.

Track overview

1.4 km one way

Walking and tramping

20 min Easy: Walking track

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


From the car park by the main highway follow an easy access track to the site. From here a network of unmarked but worn tracks go up and around incredible limestone formations. Some of these are up to 30 m high. These formations can be seen from the highway but their size is best appreciated up close.

Getting there

From Christchurch, take SH73 towards the West Coast. Kura Tāwhiti is beside the road about 95 km Christchurch.

Nature and conservation

The area was once under a large, shallow inland sea that began to fill in about 30 million years ago. Pressure over time caused extensive uplift, folding and faulting of the Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges. The limestone rock has been eroded by water into the distinctive sculptured landforms.

Kura Tāwhiti is the first reserve in New Zealand established specifically to protect a plant – the Castle Hill buttercup. With just 67 plants in existence, the Castle Hill buttercup can only be found within the 6-ha reserve. 

History and culture

Kura Tāwhiti has Tōpuni status due to the local Ngāi Tahu iwi’s long history of this area for shelter and food gathering trips. This is a legal recognition of the site’s importance to the Ngāi Tahu tribe. The term comes from the traditional custom of chiefs extending power and authority over areas or people by placing a cloak over them.

Know before you go

  • Dogs are not allowed in the reserve
  • Stay on the access track – the paddocks are private property.
  • Use the provided toilet facilities.
  • Refrain from digging holes or disturbing the ground surface – wahi tapu (sacred places) are here.
  • Avoid trampling on endangered plants – use open spaces between rock outcrops rather than the bases of rock faces.
  • Respect fenced areas.
  • Take all rubbish away with you.
  • Do not mark the surface of the rocks.
  • Consider others in the area.
  • Rock climbers should follow the climbing code of conduct.

Thieves targeting cars at Arthur's Pass

There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends.

  • Don't leave valuables in your vehicle.
  • Consider using more public parking sites – ask at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre for alternative options.
  • Report any suspicious activity to police on +64 3 363 7400.


Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 318 9211
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   arthurspassvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   106 Main Westcoast Road
Arthur's Pass
Postal Address:   PO Box 51008
Arthur's Pass 7654
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