Great Alpine Highway: beautiful view all the way!
Leaving Christchurch, we started our road trip across New Zealand’s South Island to the West Coast. We drove along State Highway 73 – also known as the Great Alpine Highway – passing thru beautiful landscapes like Arthur’s Pass National Park.
In fact, I recommend the route to Arthur’s Pass even for those who don’t intend to cross all the way to the West Coast. The Great Alpine Highway from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass is one of the most scenic roads of New Zealand. It took us 2 hours by car, but it can also be done by train by TranzAlpine.
I will describe below some of the main points of interest in the Great Alpine Highway.
1st stop: Kura Tawhiti / Castle Hill Conservation Area
Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area, Castle Hill, in Great Alpine Highway, South Island of New Zealand
At 95km from Christchurch, Kura Tawhiti is a conservation area in the center of the Great Alpine Highway. Its huge limestone rocks impress any traveler who passes by.
The entrance to the park is free and the visitor can climb to the top of the rocks from where you have a sensational view. This incredible scenery was used in the filming of The Chronicles of Narnia.
2nd stop: Cave Stream Scenic Reserve
Cave Stream Scenic Reserve, in Great Alpine Highway, South Island of New Zealand
Going on for another 6.5km is the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve, or Broken River Cave. It is a 594m cave with deviations and curves that makes the interior of the cave completely dark.
A small river passes through the cave. Although seemingly harmless, you have to be very careful if you intend exploring the cave. Depending on climatic conditions, the temperature and depth of the river may vary. The river also passes through some waterfalls inside the cave.
The cave of almost 600m in length can be crossed from end to end with proper preparation and equipment.
The place is very beautiful and worth visiting, even reaching the entrance to the cave. However, to cross its entire length, it is necessary to consider the conditions and be properly equipped.
3rd stop: Lake Pearson
Beautiful view of Lake Pearson in autumn – one of the beauties of the Great Alpine Highway
After driving for another 13km on the Great Alpine Highway, we arrived at the beautiful Lake Pearson. Lake Pearson, due to its darker color, usually reflects the surrounding landscape. As our visit there was in Autumn time, the scenery was beautiful with the leaves of the yellowed trees on the edge of the lake.
The site has a camping spot.
4th stop: Arthur’s Pass National Park
Waimakariri River, in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
After passing Lake Pearson, in just over 30km the Great Alpine Highway enters the area of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The park covers a mountainous area of more than 1000 km2, and is home to different and rare species of animals and plants. As an example, the colorful mountain parrot, known as Kea, an endemic bird from New Zealand.
Mountain Parrot, or “Kea”, on Arthur’s Pass, near the Great Alpine Highway
Arthur’s Pass National Park offers a good range of both short and long trails. An example is the Devils Punchbowl Walking Track, a trail of approx. 1 hour, which reaches a 130m high waterfall. To download the park’s brochure and check other trail options, click here.
For those who are not interested in the park trails, at least it’s worth stopping at the Otira Viaduct Lookout.
Otira Viaduct, opened in 1999, next to Arthur’s Pass