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Arthur's Pass National Park

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Arthurs Pass National Park [1] is a major national park in the center of the South Island New Zealand. The park is a popular stop from the TranzAlpine train and has hikes both long and short. Arthur's Pass village is a small village within the park and is the location of the train station, motels, cabins and a few places to eat.


Arthur's Pass looking west
Western end of national park

Arthur’s Pass National Park was established in 1929 and was New Zealand’s third national park and the first one in the South Island.

Arthur's Pass was first surveyed in 1864 by Arthur Dobson to establish which pass was most suitable to build a road to the Goldfields of 'West Canterbury' in Hokitika. The road was built and opened in 1865 with stage coaches operating until 1923 when the Otira rail tunnel was opened. The rail tunnel was the longest tunnel in the British Commonwealth. The rail line and road to Arthur's Pass were considered to be major accomplishments which opened up the west coast of NZ to settlement.


The landscape is typical of the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Forests On the east side of the main divide (which divides streams and rivers flowing into the Tasman Sea or the Pacific Ocean), the predominant forest cover is made up of different varieties of beech. The most common is mountain beech, but silver, red and black beech can also be found. The west side of the main divide predominantly has mixed podocarp forest, on account of the heavier rainfall.

Mountains The mountains are primarily composed of graywacke and rise to approximately 1,600 to 2,000 metres. The higest peak is Mount Murchison at 2,400 metres. The mountains receive heavy snowfalls in winter, but are generally snow-free in summer, apart from small glaciers, such as the Crow, on the flanks of Mount Rolleston.

Rivers Several large rivers flow out of Arthurs Pass. On the eastern side of the divide, they tend to become large alluvial rivers. The best, and largest, example of this is the Waimakariri. On the western side, the rivers tend to be more rugged and have a larger number of gorges. Travel through these river systems can be very difficult.


Located in the mountains of the South Island, Arthur's Pass can be colder than elsewhere in New Zealand due to its high elevation. However, this should not stop you from visiting the park anytime of the year, as long as you are adequately prepared for the temperature. In the spring and autumn, mornings and evenings can be brisk. Winters can be a wonderland of snow.

Get in[edit]

  • By Train The Tranzalpine train is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, and offers daily trips to Arthur's Pass. It departs Christchurch early morning, and arrives at Arthur's Pass mid-morning. It continues to Greymouth on the west coast.

It is possible to make a day trip of Arthur's Pass from Christchurch. The train drops you off around 10:15am, continues to Greymouth, then turns around and heads back to Arthur's Pass around 4:15pm and back to Christchurch. Best way to see Arthur's Pass if your time is limited; however an overnight of at least one night is recommended.

  • By Bus
  • West Coast Shuttle [2] departs Greymouth at 7.45am and arrives in Arthur's Pass about 9.15am.or can be caught to travel to Christchurch (via Ch-ch airport 11.15)

From Christchurch at 2.45pm (ch-ch airport 2.45)and arrives in Arthur's Pass 4.45pm and can be caught to Greymouth arriving at 6.30pm.

  • Self Driving Highway 73 goes through Arthur's Pass. The road is majestic and beautiful but can be test of nerves for the driver. Particularly in winter, when snow and ice may cover the road and chains are recommended at times. Consider taking the train or coach instead.


Entry to the park and village is free.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

  • The Arthur's pass train station has an elaborate mural in its waiting room.
  • Mountains, Rivers, Forests -- even if you are not a hiker, there are several short walks right around the town that afford great views of the surrounding scenery.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Hiking - from one hour hikes to the Devil's Punchbowl falls, to challenging overnight hikes.
  • The Arthur's Pass Visitor's Center is larger than most i-centers in New Zealand. In addition to information about the hikes and safety, it has museum-quality displays about the pioneers who settled the area as well as dioramas showing the surrounding mountains and shelters.

Buy[edit][add listing]

If you plan to camp, try to bring what you need from outside of Arthur's Pass. The village is quite small and selection of groceries and other supplies is limited and prices somewhat higher.

  • Possum Fur Pelts -- The visitor's center sells fur pelts made from possum -- an invasive, introduced pest in New Zealand. Buying them helps support small scale hunters and trappers who control the population of destructive possums without the use of poisons.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Bring your own food if you want to cook your own meals! Everything in the village is very overpriced and the cafe sells a few basic food items at three times the supermarket prices.

You basically have three options for eating in Arthur's Pass National Park village.

  • Arthurs phone (03) 318 9236. Located 350 meters west of the Arthur's Pass Visitor's Center. Good restaurant and bar. Arthur's also has powered campervan sites and a B&B.
  • Wobbly Kea Cafe and Bar phone (03) 318 9101. Located 300 meters west of visitor's center. Good restaurant and bar, nice fireplace, friendly atmosphere. Homemade pastries.
  • Arthur's Pass Store and Cafe phone (03) 318 9235. Located 300 meters west of vistor's center across from the Wobbly Kea. Store has some basic groceries especially for camping or hiking, also has sandwiches, soup and ice cream. Pay internet access available. (The store closes at 6:00pm).

Some B&Bs also offer breakfast or other meals; make arrangements with the innkeeper.

Drink[edit][add listing]

All of the restaurants listed above are fully licensed to serve drinks. The Wobbly Kea has happy hours on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Sleep[edit][add listing]


  • Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel[3] Nice motel with a few rooms and ensuite cabins. Located 400 meters towards Christchurch from the visitor's center, not far from the train station. Friendly owner, cheap internet available.
  • Lake Grace Hutel (Howard's Hut), Owned and maintained by Howard Barnes for the Lochinvar Trust, contact [email protected] .A private lodge in the deep mountains of the Lake Grace area of Arthur's Pass National Park. It has been refurbished and includes a flush toilet, shower and electricity. Also the Security of communications with the South Island Mountain Radio Service.
  • Arthur's Pass Village B&B Homestay[4] New Bed and Breakfast/Homestay opening November 2010. Located 200 metres towards Christchurch from the visitor's centre, not far from the train station. Friendly owners.
  • The Sanctuary Backpackers, (03) 942 2064, [5], to the left as you drive in to the town from Greymouth. This is an owner-away accommodation run on an honesty box system. Sleeps eight in the main hall (mattresses and pillows provided, sleeping bags required), and has a kitchen and lounge attached. Beds are $15 a night. Internet is consistent in price and speed with place down the road. Either ring ahead or when you get there, pick up the phone under the balcony.


There is a DOC campground just across the road from the Visitor Center. Suitable for both campervans and tents, there is some grassy spots to pitch a tent. There is a indoor shelter with cold running water and bathrooms. $6 a night.


Stay safe[edit]

If you are walking alone or just want to be careful you are advised to fill out a ticket stating your route and itinerary and leave it at the office in town. Wardens check these nightly. You do off course have to return to remove it on schedule to prevent a search and rescue. Its usually best to let someone else know as well.

If you plan on doing substantial overnight hiking around Arthur's Pass or elsewhere in New Zealand you should consider investing in a radio beacon transmitter. The Arthur's Pass visitor's center has information about renting or buying a transmitter as well as instructions on how to use them.

Avalanches can be a concern during wintertime hikes. Familiarize yourself with avalanche safety and warning signs if you are hiking high in the mountains in winter.

A police station is located about 450 meters east from the visitor's center.


The Arthur's Pass post office is probably the world's smallest manned post office, with service hours from 10:00am to 10:30am daily.

Arthur's Pass Web Scape[6] is a non-commercial community site which lists all information about Arthur's Pass.

Get out[edit]

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This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!