Arthurs Pass

One of two high mountain passes between Canterbury and the West Coast, Arthur's Pass features some great steep twisties, complete with one way sections and waterfalls right to the roadside.  Caravans and trailers are banned from the most spectacular section of road between Arthur's Pass township on the Canterbury side and Otira on the Westland side due to the extreme nature of some of the corners, just to give you some idea.  The first and most spectacular section of major engineering works was recently completed.  This consists of a long viaduct that has removed some of the worst switchbacks, as well as diverting the road away from an unstable shingle scree slope - well worth a look.

From the Canterbury side the pass itself starts at the foothills of the Southern Alps just out of Springfield.  There is a good climb up the Porters Pass, then on through a mixture of sweeping and tighter roads up to Arthur's Pass township.  Of particular note is the section from the Bealey River through to the township, this is a narrow road through remnant native forest and well worth a go.  The road then climbs steeply to the top of Arthur's Pass before plunging down the other side towards Otira.  There is a sudden change in vegetation and climate as you emerge from the rain shadow caused by the Southern Alps to the much wetter West Coast.  The road from this point onwards is more gentle, with lots of sweeping corners and lush dark green native bush, eventually turning into farmland as you near the coastal margin.

For a return trip, try the Lewis Pass or go down through South Westland to the Haast Pass.

Copyright Steve Carr, 1999-2007

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