Imagine a ‘day walk’ that will take you into a vast amphitheatre surrounded by 2000 metre high snow-capped peaks on the Main Divide of the Southern Alps.
Arthur’s Pass village, 4 km from Arthur’s Pass, lies nestled in a glacial valley at an altitude of 900 metres. Nowhere else in New Zealand offers more direct access to 360° panoramic views of countless snowy peaks marching into the distance.
The village is an excellent base for bushwalks, photography, tramps and climbs; starting with the popular Devil’s Punch Bowl and the Bridal Veil walks. More strenuous climbs include Avalanche Peak (6-7 hours return) where you can look directly along the main backbone of the Southern Alps. Temple Basin ski-field (4 hours return) gives an incomparable view of the Bealey Face of majestic Mt Rolleston. The Casey Saddle and Mingha Deception multi-day tramps start at the village – the latter follows the arduous Coast to Coast Triathlon route.
As well as offering visitors access to a remarkable landscape, Arthur’s Pass is the main stopover point on the Tranz Alpine Express, one of the world’s great railway journeys. This single-track line links Christchurch to Greymouth on the West Coast, crossing river valleys, mountain passes, long tunnels and towering viaducts. The journey can be taken as a one-way trip or a round trip; or passengers can stay in Arthur’s Pass for a few hours before returning to Christchurch. As the train winds through steep-sided glacial valleys draped in native forest, stunning views of craggy rock and ice suddenly burst on the scene – this is one of New Zealand’s most enjoyable alpine excursions.
Arthur’s Pass was named after Arthur Dobson who discovered the pass on a surveying expedition in 1864. The village has a good choice of accommodation including backpackers, hostels, motels and a campsite. Nowhere is more subject to New Zealand’s changeable maritime climate, so it pays to consult visitor centre staff before setting out.
This high altitude hot spot can introduce you to some great alpine experiences; bringing high ridges within easy reach and a nice warm bed to return to, back at your village base.