Tours, Attractions, Hikes and Places to Visit in the Arthur’s Pass National Park
Escape to the heart of the Southern Alps of New Zealand where the alpine wonderland of Arthur’s Pass awaits. Share your exploration of towering mountains to lush forests with the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, which are prolific in the area. Of course, in true national park spirit, the best thing to do in Arthur’s Pass National Park is to hit the walking trails. There is, however, a scenic train journey and skiing to enjoy, as well as exploring the quaint village in the middle of the national park. So, start planning your visit with this list of the best things to do in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
1. Take the Train to Arthur’s Pass
A popular and fairly unique way (in New Zealand, at least) to see the stunning scenery of Arthur’s Pass is on the TranzAlpine. The scenic railway journey between Christchurch and Greymouth takes you into the heart of the Arthur’s Pass National Park with huge windows and special viewing carriages so you won’t miss a thing.
Make a day tour of it by taking the train to Arthur’s Pass Village where Canterbury Trails will meet you for a minivan tour and stop at places that the train misses on the way back to Christchurch. Find out more about this tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, train tickets from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass are available on Klook.
Location: Start from Christchurch Railway Station, Addington, Christchurch.
2. Walk to Devils Punchbowl Falls
A must-see waterfall and a must-do short walk on the South Island, the Devils Punchbowl Walking Track takes you to various viewpoints to admire a 131m (450ft) waterfall. There are various bridges to cross over rivers and creeks to get to this iconic natural feature of the Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Location: Punchbowl car park at the northern end of Arthur’s Pass Village.
3. Do the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track
A 2h40min return walking trail, the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track is well worth doing if you have the time. The first part of the trail takes you to see the long cascading Bridal Veil Falls before meandering through alpine shrub/wetland to reach the historic Jack’s Hut. The track continues through the Bealey Chasm car park and the Temple Basin car park with views and a memorial to check out along the way.
Location: The recommended start is from the Punchbowl car park at the northern end of Arthur’s Pass Village.
4. Hike to Avalanche Peak
For adventurous hikers, Avalanche Peak is the only peak in the Arthur’s Pass National Park that’s along a poled route, i.e. it’s harder to get lost when bagging this peak! The six-to-eight-hour return slog rewards hikers with vistas of surrounding mountain peaks and the company of cheeky kea – learn more about kea in the 19 Amazing Native Birds in New Zealand. Visit the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre first to see if the conditions are suitable for hiking.
Location: Start behind the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre, Arthur’s Pass.
5. Go Skiing at Temple Basin
Ski or snowboard in how nature intended at the ungroomed off-the-beaten-track ski field of Temple Basin. Although it’s a club-based ski area, rather than a larger commercial field, anyone is welcome to ski there. Be prepared to do some of the hard work yourself though, as your introduction to the ski field is a 40-minute to an hour hike to the base of the ski area! See more ski areas in the Top 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
Location: Temple Basin car park, approximately 6km (3.7 miles) north of Arthur’s Pass Village.
6. Check Out the Otira Viaduct Lookout
If driving on the Arthur’s Pass highway, i.e. State Highway 73, then you have plenty of roadside stops to park up and admire the views. One of the highlights, however, is the Otira Viaduct Lookout. See the long winding viaduct among the mountains and you’ll also likely be joined by a friendly kea parrot.
Location: The road to the lookout is well signposted on the eastern side of State Highway 73, approximately 6.3km (3.9 miles) north of Arthur’s Pass Village.
7. Stay on a New Zealand Sheep Farm
Arthur’s Pass has a few welcoming accommodations to choose from should you want to spend more time in mountainous serenity. For accommodation with an experience, however, check out Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass. Join naturalist and sheep farmer guides to experience life on a working merino sheep farm.
Location: Cora Lynn Road, approximately 15km (9 miles) south of Arthur’s Pass Village.
8. Explore Arthur’s Pass Village
For a bit of relaxation in Arthur’s Pass, why not have a potter around Arthur’s Pass Village? The attractive alpine settlement has its own small selection of cafes, a bar and historic hotel and a gift store. They are perfect to fall back on especially on a rainy day.
Location: Arthur’s Pass Village.
9. Enjoy One of the Arthur’s Pass Short Walks
Perfect for when you have limited time between catching the train or if you have children in tow, the Arthur’s Pass short walks are well worth exploring. Venture down the Millennium Walk to see the Avalanche Creek Waterfall lit up at night, see huge boulders on the Bealey Valley walk, and learn about the flora of the national park on the Dobson Nature Walk. Get details of all of the short walks on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website.
Location: Arthur’s Pass Village.
10. Do a Multi-Day Hike
And in true New Zealand national park form, there are plenty of multi-day hikes or “tramps” for those looking for adventure. Arthur’s Pass spoils for choice with their well-formed and poled alpine routes with huts to stay in along the way, including the Mingha – Deception Route, Harman Pass Route, Edwards – Howdon Route and many more.
Location: Check the DOC website for multi-day hike locations.
More Things to Do in Arthur’s Pass National Park
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Arthur’s Pass National Park. Get more Arthur’s Pass activity inspiration from the following guides:
This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.