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Famous for its central Alpine location and ground zero to some of the most picturesque nature walks in the South Island, Arthur’s Pass National Park is an area rich in history and natural beauty.
Established in 1929, Arthur’s Pass National Park was New Zealand’s third national park and the first for the South Island. Situated on the main divide between two tectonic plates, Arthur’s Pass has contrasting scenery including rainforests and tussock valleys. There are also a handful of stores, cafes and places to stay.
While you can take the Trans Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass, the classic car buff in all of us may feel more inclined to drive there. This is a perfectly good idea as SH73 west from Christchurch helps to make the jaunt to Arthur’s Pass rather delightful. Here is how you can do it.
Its actually quite simple. Head west through Yaldhurst and along West Coast Road. You will start to pass through the rural communities of West Melton, Kirwee and Darfield. As you reach the latter, be sure to stay on SH73 and head towards Sheffield. If you start to feel hungry when passing through Sheffield, then stopping at the famous Sheffield Pie Shop is worth it.
Onwards the straight road continues, but by now the majesty of the Southern Alps are starting to get closer and closer. Passing through Springfield, the road starts to climb. Cross the Kowhai River and you start to enter the outskirts of Torlesse Tussocklands Park. Here the Porters Pass road really starts to climb and twist. Fans of a Special Rally Stage will feel right at home here.
As you near the top of this mountain range, you will reach the Porters Pass Lookout. It is highly recommended that you stop here either on your way there or back for some quick snaps. The view from this lookout is sublime and when the light hits those hills just right, its pure magic.
Further on, SH73 starts to fall a bit as you pass Castle Hill. Here you can stop to marvel at the Kura Tawhitu Conservation Area. Only a 20 minute walk from a designated car park, these large limestone rock formations led to early European settlers naming the area, Castle Hill.
Moving on, you will pass through other scenic vistas like Flock Hill Station and Lake Pearson. Eventually you will be found driving adjacent to the mighty Waimakariri River. There are plenty of places to stop for some photos along this stretch of SH73. Soon you cross the river and come across a sign stating you are about to enter Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Soon you are travelling through the heavily forested area of Arthur’s Pass and before long, you will arrive at Arthur’s Pass Village itself. Here you can enjoy some eats from the local café or check out the visitors centre for a rundown on the history of the area. Watch out for the odd Kea though. This native bird sometimes has a tendency to land on parked cars and have a nibble at various trim pieces. That said, it is still a rare occurrence.
However, if you dont mind venturing up the road a bit, it is worthwhile checking out the Otira Viaduct Lookout. Here you can view what is probably one of the most striking road bridges in the South Island.
Another option would be to get your significant other to stand taking photos from the lookout while you helm your classic along the bridge. There are many people who have been snapped doing just that and it would make for a good piece of art for your man-cave or sitting room.
nly 175kms from Christchurch, those after a longer day trip with a penchant for incredible views and amazing roads will find plenty to love about this one.