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15 Awesome Things to Do in Arthur’s Pass New Zealand

15 Awesome Things to Do in Arthur’s Pass New Zealand

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

A complete list of things to do in Arthur’s Pass, South Island New Zealand– Visit the 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 Canterbury to the famous West Coast.

Due to this, driving through Arthur’s Pass on a New Zealand road trip is both scenic and convenient! After making the trip through Arthur’s Pass several times, I’ve written this travel guide to help you plan suggestions for things to do and places to visit along the way.

Girl hiking in arthurs pass, new zealand
There are some beautiful walks in Arthurs Pass! This one is the Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall hike (more below).

Fun Things to Do in Arthur's Pass

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.

Things to do in arthur's pass new zealand

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.

Tranzalpine journey in new zealand

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.

Don't Miss: Things to do in Queenstown

Devils punchbowl waterfall walking track arthurs pass

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 the 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).

Devils punchbowl waterfall arthurs pass
View from the devil's punchbowl waterfall viewing platform

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.

Bridal veil falls arthur's pass

6. Waimakariri River Lookout

Just 15 minutes before arriving at Arthur's Pass from the South, you'll find the Waimakariri River Lookout. This stop offers an incredible view over one of New Zealand's most significant rivers, the Waimakariri, and the ancient glacial landscape below.

Originating from the Southern Alps, the Waimakariri is a classic example of a braided river, formed by the waters of ancient glaciers. These glacial rivers are characterized by their wide, gravel-filled beds and multiple intertwining channels that shift with the seasons and water flow.

In terms of reward for effort, this is about as good as it gets! You can pull your car off on the side of the road and you'll immediately get the views!

Waimakariri river lookout

7. 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.

Scotts route avalanche peak
Avalanche peak track
Avalanche peak new zealand hike

8. 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.

Avalanche creek waterfall arthurs pass

9. Arthurs Pass Bridge Lookout

Located just a short drive south of Arthur's Pass, you'll find the Arthur's Pass Bridge Lookout. This is another must-visit destination on your journey offering a stunning vantage point over the Arthur's Pass Bridge spans the picturesque Bealey River surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

The bridge itself is a feat of engineering, perfectly framed by the rugged peaks of the Southern Alps. The lookout is conveniently situated right off the highway, making it a perfect spot for a quick stop to stretch your legs and capture some memorable photos.

I recommend pulling off the road to access this scenic spot. From here, you can enjoy the sight of the bridge as it arches gracefully over the river, with the backdrop of dense alpine forests and towering mountain slopes.

Entrance to arthurs pass national park

10. 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.

Castle hill limestone formations at kura tawhiti consvervation area, new zealand
Castle hill new zealand limestone rock formations kura tawhiti conservation area

11. 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.

Cave stream ladder arthurs pass caving
Cave stream cave
Arthurs pass caving

12. 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

Arthur's pass aerial

13. 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.

Things to do in arthur's pass

14. 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.

Kea at arthurs pass new zealand
Kea bird in new zealand

15. Spend the Night at Arthur's Pass

There are plenty of great places to stay near Arthurs Pass if you want to explore the main attractions and points of interest over a couple of days (good idea). Below are my recommended places to stay.

Arthur's pass alpine motel

1. Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel Motel

The best-reviewed and bang-for-buck motel in the area. These rooms offer kitchen facilities & great views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Cabin lodge in arthur's pass

2. The Nook Lodge

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, & mountain views.

Mountain house accommodation in arthur's pass

3. Mountain House Backpacker Lodge

A Great lodge within 1.4 km of Devils Punchbowl Falls & just 600 metres from Arthur's Pass Train Station, this backpacker lodge offers excellent common areas (lounge & kitchen) for socialising with other travelers.

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
Cabin in arthurs pass

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.

Everything You Need to Know About Arthur's Pass

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.

What to do in 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.

Girl in queenstown, new zealand

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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!

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Ida Spear

Friday 19th of November 2021

Kia ora good people; I've spent countless hours, days, and weeks at Arthur's Pass. Starting from my pre-school years through to my early forties. It is a favorite place of mine, and due to the changing weather and seasons, never fails to impress. I will add that New Zealand is a small country so please, pay to stay in a campsite, rather than "freedom" camping. NZ$8 is not a lot for a night in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. We welcome visitors but not free loaders and although I know that doesn't apply to everyone, we've had some dreadful types polluting and abusing what they've come to enjoy. And enjoy it, you will. If cash is tight, consider hitch hiking, bus/shuttle or finding others to team up with for transport. You'll love so much about Aotearoa that it is impossible to list them all. As cliché as it sounds, leave only footprints, and only take photos. Aroha mai Aotearoa (love from Aotearoa-New Zealand)