The South Island of New Zealand offers some of the world’s best hiking and alpine scenery, and the area around Arthur’s Pass National Park definitely isn’t any exception. While areas of the South Island such as Queenstown and Milford Sound receive a lot of the attention, Arthur’s Pass National Park offers alpine scenery that’s just as stunning but without a lot of the crowds.
Located only two hours from Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass National Park is a lot more accessible than some of the wilderness regions further south. Aside from being nearby to the urban center and international airport, the main road that connects Christchurch with the west coast–Highway 73–is one of the island’s most scenic drives and passes right through the heart of park. For those who only plan on visiting for the day, the TranzAlpine rail journey also makes its way through the center of Arthur’s Pass and stops for a while to take in the surroundings.
Those who want to take a couple of days to scour the wilderness of the Southern Alps, however, can trek to a number of backcountry huts or camp in one of five campgrounds within the park. Mountain biking and mountaineering are also popular park activities, although the high altitude and fickle weather mean park visitors must be prepared for inclement weather during any part of the year. The park encompasses a varied amount of terrain ranging from wet rainforest zones to high-alpine peaks, and inquisitive (and sometimes bothersome) kea parrots can frequently be seen through out the park.
Although Arthur’s Pass was the South Island’s first national park (established in 1929), it is no longer the most popular, which is something of a relief for the resident locals and the visitors who are smart enough to capitalize on its beauty.
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