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.
From Christchurch, take SH73 towards the West Coast. Kura Tāwhiti is beside the road about 95 km Christchurch.
There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends.
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.
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.
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.