A complete list of things to do in Arthur’s Pass, South Island New Zealand– Visit heart of the Southern Alps near Christchurch.
In terms of scenic drives, they really don’t get as awe-inspiring as State Highway 73 to Arthur’s Pass. Located in a highland region just northwest of Christchurch, this alpine highway connects Cantebury to the famous West Coast.
Due to this, driving through Arthur’s Pass on a New Zealand road trip is both scenic and convenient! In this guide, I’ll make some travel plan suggestions for you to make the most of your trip to this incredible destination.
- 12 Awesome Things to do in Arthur’s Pass
- 1. TranzAlpine Journey to Arthur’s Pass
- 2. The Arthur’s Pass Walking Track
- 3. Arthur’s Pass Village and Visitor Centre
- 4. Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
- 5. Bridal Veil Falls
- 6. Avalanche Peak Hike
- 7. Avalanche Creek Falls
- 8. Castle Hill Limestone Boulders
- 9. Cave Stream
- 10. Temple Basin
- 11. Otira Viaduct Lookout
- 12. Spot a Kea Bird
- Arthur’s Pass Hotels and Accommodation Guide
- Everything You Need to Know About Arthur’s Pass
- Arthur’s Pass Without a Car
- Camping at Arthur’s Pass
- More Free New Zealand Travel Guides and Blogs
12 Awesome Things to do in Arthur's Pass
With that out of the way, let's get into the reason why you're here; an epic list of things to do in Arthur's Pass.
Note that since most people are driving this route, I've also included things to do along the entire SH73 Highway.
You can refer to the map below to find the location of each attraction to help you plan your visit to Arthur's Pass.
Travel Hack: Click on map above and it will load on your Google Maps app. Next, save it by clicking the grey star at the top, which will add it to "Your Places" on your Google Maps account. This way, you have a handy digital app on the go with all the best things to do in Arthur's Pass– just refer back to this article (or bookmark it) for the explanations!
1. TranzAlpine Journey to Arthur's Pass
Perhaps the most iconic attraction in the region, the TranzAlpine Rail Journey is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Arthur's Pass and the Southern Alps from Christchurch.
If you're looking to spend a day at Arthur's Pass, then this is the most scenic and convenient way to do it. The train runs through the Canterbury Plains, through the Waimakariri Gorge and into Arthur's Pass, where an informative local guide will take you on a mini-van tour to all of the attractions in the area.
2. The Arthur's Pass Walking Track
- Hike length: 6.8 km
- Hike duration: 2-3 hours
- Hike difficulty: Easy
Strapping up the boots and hitting the Arthur's Pass walking track is one of the most popular things to do for those arriving in the village. What's great about this walk is that you can do the whole thing or just complete sections of it.
Many people choose to walk from the village to the Dobson Memorial at Arthur’s Pass summit. The hike has a gradual incline and is relatively easy, yet rewarding.
Highlights include views from Arthur's Pass summit, lush, native beech forest, clear, flowing streams, waterfall views and a chance to see the Dracophyllum in Spring and Summer.
3. Arthur's Pass Village and Visitor Centre
Arthur's Pass Village is the hub for many of the things to do here, including all waterfalls listed here, as well as the hikes.
A great bet is to stop by the new visitor centre to get some information about what's on offer in the area.
If you're looking to depart on any longer hikes or tramping routes, make sure to stop by and ask for weather and track conditions.
4. Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall
Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall is arguably the most impressive waterfall in Arthur's Pass.
The huge, 131-metre waterfall plunges heavily down the steep mountain slopes.
There is a dedicated walking track to a wooden viewing platform just below the falls. You'll also spot it along the Avalanche Peak Route (below).
5. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is the lesser-known little brother of the Devil's Punchbowl waterfall. While not as impressive, it's still a worthwhile stop and a very scenic 40-minute hike.
If you're already planning on hiking Arthur's Pass walking track, then you'll be pleased to find out that the track to Bridal Veil Falls joins up to that same track.
Remember not to get confused with the more popular Bridal Veil Falls in New Zealand's North Island.
6. Avalanche Peak Hike
- Hike length: 9.2 km (loop)
- Hike duration: 4-6 hours
- Hike difficulty: Moderate - difficult
The Avalanche Peak track can be completed in a loop that joins up just a short distance apart on the main road of State Highway 73. The track begins just near the visitor centre and climbs steeply up the lush forest slopes.
After a long, steep climb, Arthur's Peak track opens up above the treeline to an exposed alpine area complete with tussock slopes and tall bluffs. The route to the summit is marked.
The Avalanche Peak Route is one of my favourite hikes in Arthur's Pass. However, this one isn't for the inexperienced or light. Remember to stop by the visitor centre to get up-to-date information about the route and conditions.
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7. Avalanche Creek Falls
Right near the start of the Avalanche Peak track, you'll come across yet another waterfall.
This one is much smaller than the others, but if you're looking to see yet another beautiful waterfall, then you can do a section of this track before turning around at the falls.
8. Castle Hill Limestone Boulders
Located further south of Arthur's Pass village, the Castle Hill limestone boulders are one of the most popular things to see around Arthur's Pass.
Whether you're a climber, photographer, history nut or die-hard LoTR fan, then you'll want to stop here. The limestone formations atop the hill just beside the Arthur's Pass highway are a beautiful and incredibly interesting geological phenomenon.
9. Cave Stream
For those up for a raw and epic caving experience, I’d highly recommend visiting the nearby Cave Stream Scenic Reserve.
This is a unique cave-walk experience with bolted in ladders and ropes to help you navigate against a flowing stream within the cave that runs over 590M underground between the two entrances.
The great thing about this caving adventure is that you don't need to be an experienced caving professional. In saying that, you'll need a good level of fitness to navigate through the flow and to climb up and over several ladders and fixed ropes.
10. Temple Basin
Temple Basin is the name of the skifield area near Arthur's Pass. In winter, by far the best thing to do in Arthur's Pass is to visit this skifield.
However, if you're visiting outside of skiing season, then you can still visit the Temple Basin for short but rewarding hikes which offers great views of Mt Rolleston across the valley.
Related: Mount Fox Hike
11. Otira Viaduct Lookout
When driving along the Arthur's Pass SH73, it's difficult not to stop every few minutes for a great photo opportunity.
One of the best views of the drive is the Otira Viaduct Lookout. There is a wide and spacious car park here, offering a great place to stretch your legs and snap some shots of the beautiful mountain valley and bridge looking north towards the West Coast.
12. Spot a Kea Bird
The Kea is the world's only alpine parrot, and one of the cheekiest residents of Arthur's Pass. These guys live in the Southern Alps of New Zealand and Arthur's Pass is a great place to spot them if you haven't before.
Arthur's Pass Hotels and Accommodation Guide
- Motel: Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel
One of the best-reviewed and bang-for-buck motels in the area is the famous Alpine Motel. These rooms offer kitchen facilities and great views of the valley and surrounding mountains. It's a great place to sit and relax after ticking off all of the epic things to do in Arthur's Pass!
- Hostel: Arthur’s Pass YHA - The YHA at Arthur’s Pass is the only youth hostel or backpacker place in the area. If you’re looking to get out of the car and spend a night indoors, then this is a great bet on a budget.
- Entire Apartment: The Nook - While I didn't stay here, if you're in a larger group or if you'd prefer an entire apartment, then you can't go wrong with The Nook. This place offers a private bathroom, bedroom, living room, and mountain views.
Everything You Need to Know About Arthur's Pass
Here's everything you'd want to know about Arthur's Pass, this incredible New Zealand South Island gem.
Is Arthur's Pass Worth It?
The short answer is... hell yes! This scenic drive is easily one of the best in all of New Zealand and possibly anywhere in the world.
As you'll find in this article, there are also plenty of things to do in Arthur's Pass, especially if you're into hikes and other adventure activities.
Also, here is the official brochure from the DOC for more tips and information.
How Long is Arthur's Pass?
"Arthur's Pass" is the name for a high mountain pass found on State Highway 73, which has a length of 231 kilometers, connecting the West Coast (Kumara Junction) to Christchurch (Upper Riccarton).
How Many Days Are Enough For Arthur's Pass?
Due to the unpredictable weather present in this region, it's difficult to plan an exact day-by-day itinerary.
However, I'd suggest spending at least 3 days for the Arthur's Pass drive in order to get the most out of the experience.
Of course, if you'd like to do more from this list of things to do in Arthur's Pass, then plan accordingly.
Arthur's Pass Without a Car
If you don't have your own car or camper, then it's still possible to get the full Arthur's Pass experience by hopping on the TranzAlpine train through the Southern Alps.
There are three segments of this train route. For Arthur's Pass, you can get the Christchurch to Greymouth train, which offers views of lush beech forest, the powerful Waimakariri River, and other Arthur's Pass National Park highlights.
Camping at Arthur's Pass
For those in a camper, there are a few camping spots around Arthur's Pass. The most convenient in terms of location is the Avalanche Creek Shelter. Costs are $8 per night per adult.
Other paid sites include:
- Klondyke Corner Campsite
- Howdon Shelter Campsite
- Lake Pearson Campsite
- Mistletoe Flats Campsite
Freedom Camping Spots
I usually stick to freedom camping spots. For this reason, I stayed at the Andrew's Shelter Campsite and the Okuku Reserve site. Both are completely free, however they are a little bit out of the village.
If you're going to spend a few days hiking and checking out the waterfalls near the village, then staying at the Avalanche Creek Shelter will be a good idea.
More Free New Zealand Travel Guides and Blogs
I hope that you enjoyed this guide for finding epic things to do in Arthur's Pass. If you're looking for more New Zealand travel guides and articles, then make sure to check out some from the list below!
For more epic hikes, don't miss this write-up of the 31 Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.