A day in Arthurs Pass & Selwyn
The Selwyn district is home to distinctive limestone formations, intriguing alpine flora and fauna and a vast range of walking tracks in Arthurs Pass National Park. Savour a glass of Riesling at one of the boutique wineries, stop en-route for some white-knuckled jet boating on the Waimakariri Gorge or explore the depths of the cave at Cave Stream Scenic Reserve.
No matter how you get to Arthurs Pass, you’re bound to lose your breath at some time or another. While the TranzAlpine might be the easiest way to appreciate the alpine setting, a road trip will add another dimension altogether.
Option 1: The Great Alpine Highway (Christchurch to Arthurs Pass, 2 hours, 20 minutes - 141km)
Depart Christchurch to the South and immediately join the Great Alpine Highway as you meander through the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury plains, before ascending into the Southern Alps.
40 minutes into your drive stop by The Original Sheffield Pie Shop to watch bakers apply their trade and taste the results - the meat pie is a kiwi favourite.
After the initial climb into the Alps find an excuse to leave the main road and park on the banks of Lake Lyndon. Popular with Canterbury boaties and fishermen, the alpine lake is great for a refreshing dip or picnic.
15 minutes further and you’ll enter the Castle Hill Basin, one of the Canterbury’s most outstanding natural features. Consisting of unique limestone rock formations as well as Cave Stream – a natural cave system created by the river boring through the rock. Castle Hill Basin offers all manner of outdoor pursuits including tramping, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking and fishing.
From here it’s a breath taking 50km to Arthurs Pass.
Option 2: The TranzAlpine
One of the world’s great scenic train trips, it’s hard to pass up a luxury rail journey over the Canterbury plains, through the Southern Alps and into the wilderness of the West Coast. The TranzAlpine connects Christchurch with Greymouth and stops at Arthurs Pass on the way, which is ideal for a day trip or a night stopover.
Once you’ve arrived stretch out your legs on the short Devils Punchbowl walk. From the main road it’s only a 30min walk on a well-built track through native bush towards the viewing platform of the 131 metre waterfall.
Enjoy lunch outside at one of the main street’s two cafes; the Wobbly Kea and the Arthurs Pass Store & Café, while enjoying the company of the town’s feathered locals - the Kea. The only species of Alpine Parrot in the world, these critters are as crafty as they come and synonymous with this alpine destination. Don’t feed them though, they’ll happily have your crumbs while scheming how to steal your whole meal!
For the experienced walker, Avalanche Peak offers panoramic views of the Southern Alps including Mt Rolleston and the Crow Glacier. This one isn’t for the faint-hearted though, the rocky journey to the top is 1,100m above the village and will take you 3-4 hours, so perhaps its best left till morning.
To get the most out of the alpine village you’ll need to stay the night. Check out Wilderness Lodge Arthurs Pass, it sits upon a 6000 acre merino sheep farm/nature reserve and boasts the best of local food, wine and warm hospitality.
Two options closer to town are the Arthurs Pass Alpine Motel & The Bealey Hotel. Each offer comfortable and fully equipped rooms for you to recharge after a day in the Alps, or prepare you for the one coming.