For hundreds of years the Maori people had crisscrossed the Southern Alps via the various passes, including Arthur’s Pass, during the summer months in search of Pounamu, or New Zealand Greenstone, which was highly prized for its hardness and beauty, and found only on the West Coast of the South Island.
In 1864, relying on information from an earlier explorer, Arthur Dobson along with his brother, Edward were the first Europeans to cross what is now known as Arthur’s Pass. Shortly thereafter their father, the provincial engineer, was charged with finding a route through the passes to the West Coast Goldfields, and by 1866 the road had been forced through via Arthur’s Pass, from Christchurch to Hokitika. This being deemed the best option.
Taking its name from the nearby mountain pass, Arthur’s Pass township lies at around 740m elevation and in winter can be cut off from the outside world by winter snows and heavy icing conditions, as well as road slips after heavy rain.
The township which was originally established in 1908 as a construction village for the Otira Rail-tunnel then under construction, with the railway arriving from the Christchurch side in 1914, although construction on the tunnel was painfully slowly, and it wasn’t completed until 1923.
Today, the township serves as a base for tramping tracks, and popular walks in the area and also services the nearby club ski-field at Temple Basin
Two of our tours service the Arthur’s Pass area: Our Full Day Arthurs Pass Scenic Tour, and our Two Days Arthurs Pass Plus Scenic Tour.
Both of these tours, like our others, are ex Christchurch and return. Note that with the Two Days Scenic Tour, we do stay in the village, or nearby, and the level of accommodation can fluctuate tour to tour.