Visiting Arthur's Pass as a Photographer

Travelling as a photographer is a different experience to most other vacations. Instead of lounging by a pool or jumping between the bars and clubs in town, you're there to explore and enjoy the landscape and the world around you. That means hitting the road to find something unique and special, to create moments you will want to take home and keep forever. 

That's just what we set out to do in our recent adventure to Arthur's Pass, located  on the South Island of New Zealand. If you are thinking of seeing this spectacular location for yourself, then here are our hints to help make the most of your one-day visit.


On the Way

Arthur's Pass does feature a train station, but the best way to visit this spectacular part of New Zealand is by car. Heading out from Christchurch, Arthur's Pass is approximately a two-hour drive surrounded by mighty mountain peaks as you head up the scenic State Highway 73. 

As it is so close to Christchurch, this makes Arthur's Pass the perfect distance for a day trip if you are short on time, or a launching point for a round trip of the top of the South Island. On your way, you will find numerous small lakes and lookouts to stop at and check out. This includes Kura Tawhiti and Castle Hill, which are a set of low lying hills crowned in massive limestone boulders, making them look like the ruins of an ancient castle melted into the landscape.


Meet the Curious Kea

Arthur's Pass is home to one of New Zealand's most accessible populations of wild kea. Be sure to bring your telephoto lens or something capable of strong zoom to help you catch these cheeky birds in their natural habitat. You probably won’t have to spend much time looking for them however, as they are extremely inquisitive and will be just as keen to seek you out as you are to find them. Simply stop off at the Otira Viaduct Lookout, or any of the other roadside stops throughout the pass and it will likely only be moments before one of these curious creatures decides to come down and finds you.

Take care, as their curiosity and also lead to them being highly destructive, and the kea will happily tear apart anything they can get their beaks on, including the rubber around windows on your car or even any camera gear you leave unattended.

Note! Please do not feed wild kea. Their populations are dwindling due to their natural disposition to interact with human objects, and feeding them encourages this behaviour. This causes kea to eat lead nails and other dangerous substances, which often kills them.


A Flying Bridge

One of the most spectacular and unique features of Arthur's Pass is not natural, but man made. Otira Viaduct is part of State Highway 73 that swoops and flows down the valley, making it look like a ribbon floating above the natural landscape. The best place to see this from is the Otira Viaduct Lookout, which overlooks the bridge as it crosses the Otira River and leads you on a view right down the rest of the valley.


Hidden Falls

While the main draw of Arthur's Pass remains the sweeping vistas and swooping wildlife, look closer and you will find the tumbling waterfalls which dot this landscape, from the massive cascades at Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall to the more subdued Avalanche Creek Waterfall. The latter is one of the easiest to access in the area, requiring only a short walk out the back of the visitor center. You may want to sit by this idyllic spot, where the only sound is of the water trickling and tumbling over the rocks and down the sides of the steep mountain.


Did we miss anything or have a question to ask? Get in touch and let us know. We love talking to the travel photography community and sharing any other tips about the locations we visit!