Arthur's Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 739 m (2,425 ft) above the sea level, located within the Arthurs Pass National Park, the major national park in the center of the South Island New Zealand.
The road over the pass is called New Zealand highway 73 (also known as West Coast Road). It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Arthur’s Pass, climbing to more than 900 metres through Arthur's Pass National Park, is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps.
The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It is a piece of extreme engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes. The pass is a popular base for exploring Arthur's Pass National Park.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and a sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. The road is majestic and beautiful but can be test of nerves for the driver. Particularly in winter, when snow and ice may cover the road and chains are recommended at times. Consider taking the train or coach to Arthur's Pass instead.
This is an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. Do not travel this road in severe weather conditions. An average annual rainfall of 4000 to 7000 millimetres per year is recorded and snowfalls during winter are frequent, with minimum temperatures ranging between -1 and -2 degree celsius. Over the years work has been done to improve blind corners and ease bends. However, the nature of the landscape and the weather can still make the Otira Gorge and Arthurs Pass road a challenging driving experience.
The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. The road is very steep, with sections up to 16 per cent in gradient. There are 11 bridges with a total length of 406.6 m. The road over the pass was a traditional Maori trading route through the high alps and was first established for wheeled traffic (horse-drawn coaches) in 1866, following the discovery of gold in Westland. The road was built by labourers with picks, shovels, wheelbarrows and two-horse drays. It connected Hokitika and Christchurch. Many lives were lost during the road construction. Tragically six people were drowned in one week, and other drownings are also recorded due to the frequently flooded rivers.