To travel from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass, you can take the TranzAlpine Railway or drive the only road over the Southern Alps, State Highway 73. We did both. This post travels to Arthur’s Pass, then north to Punakaki (Pancake Rocks).
From Christchurch the 139 mile train ride is about 4 hours. Our journey west was on a soggy, rainy day. Three days later there was glorious sun on the return trip!
State Highway 73
With a car you can stop at every twist and turn – and we did. “For any confident driver the road (SH 73) is a glorious drive…with a few steep, gnarly sections.” (Fodors)
Castle Hill – Giant Formations – Just off SH 73
Māori call this place Kura Tawhiti – ‘treasure from a distant land’.
A must stop! Dizzying drops, and a field of other-wordly rock formations appear. The formations are gigantic and paths lead up, around, and over.
Arthur’s Pass is an alpine village with two restaurants a tiny post office and book exchange on its single street. A terrific stop for two nights and a couple of walks.
Below is a photo of the Otira Viaduct on SH 73, built “on a steep unstable foundation in an area prone to flash floods and earthquakes.” It took 15 years to build.
We walked up to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a 426 ft. high waterfall that drops into a bowl. Next day a hike through misty clouds near the pass seemed like a good idea, until I toppled into a little stream. So pretty, though.
Onward from Arthur’s Pass we passed through Moana – a beautiful stop on the TranzAlpine Railway (an alternative to driving.)
Great Coast Road
Both the railway and SH 73 terminate at Greymouth where you turn north or south on State Highway 6, “one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world,” both north and south. It lives up to its name.
Bedazzled by the braided rivers
Forty minutes north of Greymouth is Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks), a maze of limestone formations (130 million years old) stacked like pancakes from the sea. A “geological wonder.”
SH6 North: 90 minutes north (1 hour from Punakaiki) – Click Here for Cape Foulwind to Nelson Lakes
SH6 South: 30 minutes south – Click here for Hokitika, Glaciers and Haast
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