A Place Of Journeys

Arthur’s Pass National Park

Image © Pixelculture

A Place Of Journeys

Arthur’s Pass National Park is located in the heart of the South Island with an active alpine fault immediately below. It is nestled in an environment formed by those tectonic forces that pushed the earth up millions of years ago. From these forces a chain of mountains – the Southern Alps – extending across the length of the South Island was formed. Arthur’s Pass National Park was the first national park to be established in the South Island of New Zealand. Created in 1929, it covers a 1143km2 area of indigenous forest, braided rivers, snow covered peaks, and scree slops. Arthur’s Pass Village is half way between the west and east coasts of the South Island of New Zealand. Standing on the pass you can look both north and south to witness an unbroken stretch of rainforest that extends for more than 1000km, from one end of the South Island of New Zealand to the other. Travelling along the highway visitors can observe a remarkable ecological transformation from the dry eastern side with its beech trees and braided rivers, to the western side with its dense and lush rainforest.



The only alpine parrot in the world, the highly intelligent kea is found in Arthur’s Pass National Park. Protecting this threatened bird is an important part of the park’s management. Farmers used to kill kea because they attacked their sheep. However today kea nests and eggs are under danger from being attacked by introduced predators including stoats.

Southern Rata

The stunning southern rata tree can be found on the western region of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The tree’s bright red flowers stand out against the green of the forest in which it grows.

Images © Tomas Sobek (left), Graham and Dairne Follo (right)

A Place of Journeys

Arthur’s Pass is the midway point for people travelling between the South Island’s East and West Coasts. The pathways of the local Maori tribe, Ngai Tahu, passed through the area as they prospected and carried valuable pounamu back to their settlements. For European settlers it was the construction of the railroad that opened up access to the towns of the West Coast that were bustling with gold and coal mining activity. Today it is the route of an important highway that provides easy access to Arthur’s Pass National Park from the nearest city, Christchurch, less that two hours away.

Image © James Harper

Pounamu Carving

Skilled hands work on a pounamu carving of a tiki (New Zealand greenstone) at the School of the New Zealand Arts and Crafts Institute.

Image © Te Puia NZMACI, Tourism New Zealand

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