Over Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast again, then on a bit . . . . .


I’m not sure what I imagine Arthur’s Pass to be like, I didn’t get Haast Pass correct and I probably won’t with Arthur’s. So who was Arthur? In 1864  Arthur Dobson and his brother Edward went over the Bealey-Otira Pass and it was named after Arthur. Maybe he was the older brother?

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The park is very distinctly split by the main divide of the South Island. The eastern side is typically drier and consists of beech forest and wide riverbeds, while the western side contains dense rainforest. Much of the geography was formed by ancient glacial action, forming flat-bottomed U-shaped valleys. In the middle is a high range, consisting of large, snow-covered peaks and scree slopes.

West and east!

Arthur’s Pass National Park is not far from the Bealey and the Waimakariri River bridge has a magnificent view of mountains at the head of the valley. The weather is often clear here when it raining at Arthur’s Pass Village.


The road then runs through beautiful bush beside the Bealey River until you come into the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass, 5 km south of the mountain pass with the same name. Its elevation is 740 metres above sea level surrounded by beech forest.


From Arthur’s Pass, across the  Southern Alps to Otira, there is native bush and Mount Rolleston. I will do the Chasm and the Dobson Nature Walk (hopefully there will be wild flowers) and maybe others as there are many choices. There is always the weather(;  I’m now back on the “wet” side.


The Otira Viaduct

The next section is one that is unique to New Zealand and of which we are proud. It is a piece of engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes.In places the road not only hugs the cliff but hangs over it!! It descends, steeply  😦


Rock slide and Water Bridges in the Otira Gorge.

Once through the gorge there is the interesting little village of Otira, originally a stop on the Cobb and Co stagecoach from Canterbury to the West Coast. The Midland Line was extended from Stillwater to Jacksons in 1894 and then Otira in 1899, when the pass was navigated by coach from Otira until the railway tunnel opened in 1923. During construction of the tunnel, Otira housed about 600 workers and their families.


The Otira Railway Station was opened on 13 November 1900 (ex-Goat Creek on 15 October 1900), and closed in February 1992. In the 1950s the town had a population of about 350, but this had dropped to 11 in 1988 and was 44 in 2010.

The township is principally old Railways housing, much of which was constructed in Hamilton and shipped south to be assembled on site. As well as the railway station, there is a pub, a fire station, and 18 houses, 14 of them tenanted in 2010.


Until . . . . . . . . . in 1998, Bill and Christine Hennah bought the hotel and town on a whim for $73,000. In 2010, they listed their property, which included the hotel, hall, fire station and 14 rentable houses on 20 hectares of leasehold land. At the time, Christine Hennah estimated the total worth at about $1 million. It has since been purchased and is going through a revival!


Jacksons Hotel, nearing the coast.

Now back on safe ground, no overhangs etc the road follows the Taramakau River to Kumara Junction where I turn right to join the West Coast again, south of Greymouth. It’s a brief return, a mere 20 kilometres, before turning inland again at Greymouth to head to Reefton, an hour on.

Accommodation: Reefton Motor camp

Ross Street

Reefton 7830

PH 03 732 8477



Click to access arthurs-pass-brochure.pdf