Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area – Castle Hill Rocks

Castle Hill rocks Arthur's pass

So, I’ve lived on the West Coast now for 10 years and generally a drive to Christchurch is via Arthur’s Pass, Castle Hill village and the Castle Hill Rocks off in the distance.  You can see the rocks from the road – up on the hillside.  The car park is just off the road, more often than not always filled with people BUT we’ve never stopped.  Nine times out of ten we’re on a mission to or from Christchurch.  In a hurry to get there, in a hurry to get back or we have the dogs with us.

castle hill rock formations

Well finally we made the effort and stopped.  Actually we didn’t stop, we went there specifically.  Now I say first time in 10 years for me but think of Stephen – I won’t tell you how many years he has driven past as that would be giving away his age…… other than to say quite a few more than 10!  I tell him he has made so many discoveries since he’s been with me – got to a be a good thing right 🙂

rock formations castle hill

The next error of our judgement is timing.  The walk says 10-15 minutes to the base of the rocks and then there are trails in and around the rocks, so we figured oh maybe another 20 minutes to half an hour.  Wrong – seems to have been a weekend of it!

standstone and limestone rock formations castle hill rocks

We were probably here for over two hours at least.  mesmerizing is the first word that comes to mind, awe-inspiring, jaw dropping – you know all those good adjectives.

rock climber castle hill rocks

To start with we pretty much just stopped, sat and took in our surroundings.  It was so peaceful – despite the number of people.  Not really into exploring places that have too many people but these rock formations are so huge you can easily disappear and have some time out to yourself.  Also it seemed most people followed the trail to the right so naturally we went to the left. (look carefully in the photo above and you’ll see two rock climbers off to your left)

climbing the rocks castle hill arthur's pass

rock climber castle hill rocks arthur's pass

The rocks are a popular destination for rock climbers and boulderers and being only an hour or so drive from Christchurch there was a continual stream of people coming to test their skill.  This was a great spectacle to watch, there is something about the whole man against nature thing.

castle hill rocks walk

Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area has special significance to Ngai Tahu. To help better explain the significance here is a link to the Department of Conservation regarding the same.


limestone formations castle hill rocks

enjoying the views from top of the rocks

Meanwhile back at the rocks.  Someone I know quite well was in photography heaven.  It really is a photographer’s paradise, there’s a Kodak moment around every corner – or should I say boulder.  We lucked out too with some awesome cloud formations just to top it off.

relaxing amongst the rocks Castle Hillhttps://coastingnz.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3795&action=edit&message=10

It is a very peaceful place here at the rocks.  Some took advantage of that peace and came prepared with a picnic lunch, others were happy to just sit on the rocks and enjoy their surroundings and the views.

views castle hill rocks

For us I’m glad we finally made the effort to stop here.  It was definitely worthwhile – a very pleasant surprise on just how interesting and absorbing the area is.  Highly recommend it should you be passing sometime…… “Climb every mountain, swim every sea” – I’m getting there, I’m getting there…..

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoying getting out and about exploring the region and beyond so they can offer advice to others on things to see and do in this beautiful land they get to call home.




About coastingnz

Jan and Stephen live on the Punakaiki coastline, north of Greymouth on the West Coast, NZ and run Breakers Boutique Accommodation. They both enjoy the outdoors and are passionate about things to see and do on the West Coast and would like to share their experiences with you.
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8 Responses to Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area – Castle Hill Rocks

  1. Pam says:

    Jan, thank you for reminding us that we really need to give this place a more thorough explore. Had a brief look years ago – spectacular climbing skills of some very fit guys. Need to look at it again. As always, beautiful photos.


    • coastingnz says:

      Thanks Pam. We were well pleasantly surprised. While you can “zoom” around it if there are time constraints, it is certainly worth allowing more time to just relax and enjoy. Was great watching the skill of those climbers too – almost made me want to have a go – almost…..


  2. Jane says:

    Stunning photos! I’d love to visit this spot one day. I have a fondness for interesting rock formations. Perhaps it’s because I watched “Picnic at Hanging Rock” as a child and it left a strong impression on me. I love Girraween National Park in Queensland because of its “Pyramids” and other massive and interesting granite formations.


    • coastingnz says:

      Thanks Jane. Yes you should add it to your list of places to visit. But then if your list is anything like mine when it comes to places in other parts of the world, it will be a never-ending growing list! That is one of the things I love about blogging – sharing these places through words and photos and same with following other bloggers – almost like being there. One day I hope to visit Girraween National park – sounds idyllic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bulldog says:

    Firstly I have to say that when I saw the first photo I thought of the similarity to our one area at Kaapsehoop (http://www.kaapsehoop.com/)…. this was till I read of the rock climbers… now I had to view the rock formations once again… photos of this sort need people in them to give one a perspective of their size… when one sees the climbers etc you realise these are BIG formations unlike our Kaapsehoop that is smaller in size… a good jump gets you to the top..(my type of rock climbing)…
    You have to consider yourself so lucky Stephen found you, as you might never have experienced all the places he’s had to drag you to…. (including certain bakeries…..)…. (getting brave since our last rugby match)….
    The links you gave are fascinating and if there is one thing I do love about your country is the names used… they just make such lovely sounds when they roll off my tongue… “Kura Tawhiti” for a South African I pronounce it well don’t you think.??
    Stephen… lovely photos… man I do think you an expert at landscape photography…. Jan… lovely post as usual… I do enjoy everyone you produce…. now let Stephen go and show you more such places and stop making him pause at every bakery….


    • coastingnz says:

      Stephen is most spoilt having met me! A new discovery around every corner. He even admitted it too 🙂 Was pleased to see our rocks are “slightly” larger than yours – cricky we’ve got to have something over you……. 😉


  4. LuAnn says:

    These photos are absolutely breathtaking! This will be on the list when we visit. 🙂


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