The drive from Hokitika to Arthur’s Pass proved wonderful as we were able to watch the scenery change from coastal rain forest to rocky mountains as we traveled West to East. There were a number of amazing bridges and avalanche tunnels that we had to drive through on the way to Arthur’s Pass as well, adding to our enjoyment of the drive. We decided to stop at the brilliant Otira Viaduct, which was not completed until 1999, for rest and photos.
While we were enjoying the view, a number of Keas started approaching our car. After learning at Fox Glacier that Keas enjoyed eating the rubber window frames off cars I made sure to stand guard and keep them away from our rental for fear of damage charges. When an RV arrived, I could not help but laugh as they gave up on our car and began attacking the roof of the RV. Once the owners recognized what was happening they quickly climbed in to drive off, but even with the vehicle moving I could see the crazy Kea birds chewing at the rubber lines and hoses extruding from the RV’s roof!
We had reserved a backpacker room at the Bealey Hotel, which is a short drive past the town of Arthur’s Pass, and when we arrived we discovered that the check in was at the bar. I always love that! The proprietor certainly looked like he enjoyed his drink and did not have as much information on hiking as we had hoped, but we were thrilled when we saw our room in the Moa Lodge (complete with mountain views) for only $70 per night. The lodge was set-up so that a number of rooms with bunk beds shared a communal family room, kitchen, and two washrooms.
After dinner we met a family from Christchurch and a nice couple from Perth. The fellow, Bradley, offered me a beer and we were soon chatting at length about mountain biking, Australia, New Zealand, and beers. Given that I had just decided to start brewing my own beer in Yemen, and had just bought the equipment in Christchurch, I could not believe it when Bradley told me he had recently started his own brewery, the Bickley Valley Brewery, on the outskirts of Perth. Bradley definitely knew his beers and I appreciated the tips he had for me as to get started. I cannot wait to get back to Perth to track down some Bickley Valley beers to try!
The main reason we wanted to stay two nights in Arthur’s Pass was so we could do some hiking so in the morning we drove back to the town of Arthur’s Pass from the Bealey Hotel to check the tourist information center for good hikes. The tourist information center had a wonderful bulleti board full of hikes and their descriptions and we decided to try the Bealey Spur Hut hike, which is described as a 4-6 hour return hike with great views. Since it was still early and the Bealey Spur could be done in the afternoon, we first hiked to the Devil’s Punchbowl, leaving our car in the tourist information parking lot. Devil’s Punchbowl is a short, 1 hour return walk that leads to a spectacular 131 meter waterfall.
The Bealey Spur Hut Hike was East of our hotel and when we arrived to the parking lot there were already a large number of cars meaning that there were also a lot of hikers on the trail. The hike was beautiful and exposed us to a number of varying views. The hike starts up a constant grade through the forest and then continues along a ridge, exposing us to the wind and elements. Although we hiked all the way to the hut, I would say the best views are available from the ridge around ¾ of the way to the hut, meaning this hike would also be worth doing part of if you only have 3-4 hours.
Upon returning to the Bealey Hotel, we met a number of Masters Geology students who were on a field trip around New Zealand performing field studies. I have always been interested in geology so I thoroughly enjoyed having a few beers and discussing their coursework with them.
The next morning we had to drive to Christchurch, but since the sky once again looked like it may drop rain at any moment, we took our time and enjoyed a cooked breakfast. We packed our car, but we left our remaining beers and wine in the fridge for the college students. I remember how hard it was to afford good beer when I was studying so hopefully they appreciated it and will pay it forward one day!
I would highly recommend the Arthur’s Pass area if you enjoy mountains or hiking. It is a beautiful and scenic way to get from the West to East (or East to West) and I generally preferred it to the longer drive around the Northern part of New Zealand’s South Island. If you are able to stay in Arthur’s Pass overnight, I would definitely recommend the Bealey Hotel’s backpacker accommodation as it is provided great value for the money and a comfortable place for eating and socializing in the evening.