1 Best Sight in Arthur's Pass National Park, Christchurch and Canterbury

Arthur's Pass National Park

This spectacular alpine region is a favorite hiking destination. Initially hacked through as a direct route to the West Coast gold fields in 1865, the road over Arthur's Pass was a tortuous, dangerous track. When the railway arrived, in 1923, the pass's skiing and hiking opportunities came to the fore, and the TranzAlpine train service now offers a supreme way to see this rugged area without getting your shoes dirty. On the way to the pass, along State Highway 73 from Christchurch, you'll pass the Castle Hill Conservation Area, which is filled with interesting rock formations. Nearby Craigieburn Conservation Park has wonderful beech and fern forests and some great mountain-biking trails—take the road leading to Broken River Ski Field. Above the tree line you'll find ski slopes and, between November and March, masses of wildflowers, including giant buttercups. Around the summit you'll also have a good chance of seeing kea, the South Island's particularly intelligent and curious mountain parrots. Arthur's Pass Village, at 2,395 feet, is a true alpine village, so pack a jacket even in summer. A couple of restaurants and a store provide basic food supplies, and there are several places to stay, including an excellent wilderness lodge near Bealey. There's also a Department of Conservation visitor center to help with enjoying the vast selection of mountains and rivers in the area. Both the Devil's Punchbowl and Bridal Veil Falls are worth the short walk. The tracks are in good condition, and, although they're a bit steep and rocky in places, no serious hiking experience is required.