Arthur's Pass is one of the best palces in New Zealand to see Keas in the wild. Just out of town heading west is a lookout over the Otira Goge and the new viaduct. Within one minute of stopping here the birds were showing interest in our car and definite interest in my camera.
They are a medium sized parrot with olive green feathers with a thin black border. The feathers on their backs and the undersides of their wings are a bright orange. They have large powerful beack and are notorious for trying to eat anything in sight including black rubber stripping on cars.
Fondest memory: I will remember the playful Keas and the damage one of them did to my car while I was admiring his mate!
Arthur's pass has a healthy population of keas (the largest parrot) which are not shy or timid in the slightest. Without a doubt, they will find you, your car and come to see what you may have to eat.
But the more elusive bird, the Great Spotted Kiwi or 'roroa', is the one which should get the attention and protection. The park, and even the town itself, has a living population of the largest kiwis still in the wild. Obviously, tourists should treat them respectfully and not interfere, but for the birdwatchers who want the chance to see them in the wild, it may be possible in the evenings to those who are both lucky and patient.
The local community has joined with the DOC to help the roroa comeback to full strength and population. They are helping to control the habitat, educate people, fight the infestation of non-indigenous predators, etc. The link below gives more details.
One of the most beautiful portions of our trip to Arthur's Pass National Park were the Orange Rocks that were all over the place. Although I am not sure what made the rocks turn this color, it really does make for a stunning color. You will see these rocks at a lot of different stops along the way, especially at the scenic view points.
If someone is able to tell me why they turn this color, it would be greatly appreciated! For now though, you will just have to enjoy the pictures!
Thanks to my friends at VirtualTourist, I was able to log this tip and picture under General tips rather than Warning or Dangers!
As mentioned by fellow VTer, AlliKat, the cheeky Kea can reek havoc on your vehicle if left to his own devices. Therefore, our travelling party kept a keen eye on our rental the whole time we went on a photo safari, and were able to keep the Keas at bay.
Here is a picture of one sneeking up to get after a tire. Luckily, our quick acting guard shoo-ed him away!
Favorite thing: Arthur's Pass is located 146kms Northwest of Christchurch, NZ. It is most easily accessible by following Highway 73 (also known as West Coast Rd or Old W Coast Rd) from Christchurch, through Waddington, Sheffield, Springfield, past Castle Hill and Cass. The drive takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, and is a pleasant drive without too much technical difficulty. If you are continuing on to Hokitika, it is an additional 99km from Arthur's Pass to the town center in Hokitika.
Arthur's Pass is the 3rd 'oldest' National Park in New Zealand and the first in the South Island. in 2004 the Park celebrated its 75th Birthday and is still going strong, getting better and better. the high Mountains, steep Gorges and braided Rivers. the Waimakariri the longest, coldest and unpredictable of them all......the Maori Name of the River meaning: Wai = Water, makariri....very cold !!!!!!
the National Park has many varied vegetation and supports many native birds....with the biggest clown of all...the Kea! besides him/her there is a wonderful time in late spring when the Rata tree blossoms. people from all over come to see the red wave of the Rata flowers.... at this place where the foto is taken...Otira Gorge. the Railwaytunnel runs 8.5km beneath the pass and the new Viaduct......have a look at the second pic
Fondest memory: although not an easy road drive, one has to be constantly on its toes, despite that...it is one of my favorite daytrips out of Christchurch. a picnic along the way and then a walk off the road, I come home relaxed and pretty clear in my head.
and one of the most beautiful times to visit the National Park is just before Christmas, when the Rata Tree is in full Blossom...like the Pohutukawa, and at first sight, could be mistaken for.
enlarge the pic
A brightly painted roadsign in the middle of Arthurs Pass village announces 24 hour internet access at $5 per hour. The Sanctuary is a dinky little hut, also offering bunkhouse accomodation for up to 8 people, but you don't need to stay here to take advantage of the internet cafe facilities - something I wasn't expecting to find in a tiny alpine village.
The Sanctuary can be found on the right hand side (coming from Christchurch) past the Wobbly Kea Cafe but before the Punchbowl Falls.
Favorite thing: When in New Zealand (particularly the South Island I think) you might come across these unusual looking birds...they are actually quite 'dangerous' because they will destroy most things that they can get their beaks into. They don't seem to be scared of people at all and it's not a good idea to feed them (although all the people we saw feeding them were New Zealanders oddly enough).
Favorite thing: Even in the middle of summer there is still snow up on the mountains near Arthur's Pass...it makes for some very beautiful scenery... :) I can imagine in winter it is even more beautiful and everything would be covered in snow.
Favorite thing: Castle Hill is a village on the way to Arthur's Pass...it's only a very small place but there is a public toilet (and tennis court!?) there. The scenery nearby is also very beautiful.
Favorite thing: Arthur's Pass is a small village about half way between the east & west coast of the South Island. There isn't a whole lot to do there but it is a very pretty area and it's also a handy lunch stop.
Favorite thing: Not far from Otira you'll come across this viaduct...there are two lookouts for the viaduct and I think that it's worth stopping off at both of them. There is an amazing view from both!!