The Southern Alps
The highest pass over the Southern Alps, Arthur’s Pass boasts staggering sceneries of unspoiled valleys, ravines, waterfalls and snow capped alpine peaks.
Activities are in abundance with numerous short and long walking trails, skiing at Temple Basin, hiking and fishing in summer, as well as being a mountaineer’s paradise. The village at Arthur’s Pass is the starting point for many short walks and the start of the historic Otira rail tunnel, engineering at it’s best the tunnel was built through 8.5 kilometers of rock.
Arthur’s Pass is accessible by road or by train on the world-famous TranzAlpine Express.
New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook, stands at 3754 metres and makes up part of the spectacular Southern Alps. Located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the area enjoys plentiful snowfall in winter, hot summers, a stunning flowery springtime and the magnificent colours of the changing leaves in autumn.
The area is renowned for clear starry nights, snow capped mountains, pristine turquoise glacial lakes, verdant valleys, stunning icebergs and glaciers, and is bursting with an abundance of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, walking, 4WD safaris, glacier boating, horse riding, scenic flights, fishing, climbing, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding and even tours of inspiring landscapes from Lord of the Rings.
A five hour drive from Christchurch, there is accommodation options to suit most budgets so get comfortable and explore this amazing alpine region.
Aoraki Mount Cook Village
Known as the Headquarters of the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the village is located 12km south of the Aoraki Mount Cook’s summit and close to the face of the Hooker Glacier, on the upper reaches of the Tasman River. It is the central hub for tourists and mountaineers visiting the area. The Southern Alps encircle the village, providing dramatic views and delicious clear air.
Picturesque backdrops provide a refreshing pit stop for sapped travellers in Fairlie, the gateway to the Aoraki Mount Cook/Mackenzie Country area. Tee off a few rounds on the golf course, hit up the mountain bike trails, delve into the history of the area at the Fairlie Heritage Museum, get out on the lake for some relaxing boating and fishing, or shred the slopes at nearby Mt Dobson Ski Area. There are also a load of exciting annual events that run throughout the year worth checking out.
Stunning Lake Tekapo is situated 710 metres above sea level, boasting melted glacial waters that give it a spectacular turquoise colour making it a photographer’s oasis. On the shores of the lake sits the Church of Good Shepherd, built in 1935 making it the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin. Witness the astronomical heavens above as Lake Tekapo is famed for its clear night skies and dazzling starry sky displays. Activity wise there is so much to do; mountain biking, climbing, horse trekking, fishing, hunting, boating, kayaking, scenic flights, star gazing, skiing, heli-skiing, ski touring, cross country skiing, ice skating, water-skiing, windsurfing or simply soaking up the spectacular vistas from steaming hot pools. What ever you decide to do, don’t forget your camera.
Known as the ‘Gateway to the Alps’, Springfield is a tiny rural township, back dropped by breathtaking alpine peaks. The town’s most recent claim to fame is a its new icon – a giant pink donut, donated to the town by popular cartoon characters Homer and Bart Simpson. (*Unfortunately in October 2009 it was torched and they are looking at replacing it.)
With roots entrenched in the railways, Springfield is a proud stop on the TranzAlpine train journey, giving visitors the chance to pop in to the restored train station.
Close proximity to the snow zones and with a number of accommodation and dining choices are available to the traveller, Springfield is an excellent base for the rest of the region.
The TranzAlpine Express Rail Journey
The internationally renowned TranzAlpine scenic rail journey takes four and a half hours, a 223.8kilometeres long journey extending from Christchurch to Greymouth, joining the west and south coasts. Passing through the Canterbury Plains and surrounding farmlands, the journey then ventures past breathtaking gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth.
Porter Heights Ski Area
Just an hours drive from Christchurch and situated high in the beautiful Craigieburn Range between Springfield and Arthur’s Pass you will find Porter Heights Ski Area. Known for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, Porter Heights offers something for everyone, including wide, easy slopes for beginners and learners, cruising runs and trails for intermediates and legendary challenges for expert, backcountry and adventure skiers.
Twizel is the closest town to Mt Cook and although still 68km away it is still a good place to stay especially if accommodation in the Mt Cook area is full up. A ‘New Town’, Twizel was originally constructed as a ‘Hydro Town’, it now thrives on tourism and is especially popular in the summer. There’s plenty to do around the town including scenic flights, heli-tours, fishing, skiing, sky diving and more, or use it as a base camp to access Mt Cook and the rest of the Mackenzie Country.
Situated between Christchurch and the West Coast, this small rural settlement is a popular stop off for tourists on their way to the nearby ski areas, the Waimakariri or Rakaia River and its surrounding forests and walking tracks.
Darfield tempts you to experience stunning views of snow-capped mountains, gorgeous spring-time blossoms and some of New Zealand’s highest temperatures during the summer.