Kura Tāwhiti Access Track

  • Walking

Wander through majestic limestone rock formations of special significance to Ngāi Tahu. It's one of the Department of Conservation's best short walks.

  • Distinctive limestone rock formations.
  • Castle Hill buttercup.


Follow an easy access track to the site. From here a network of unmarked but worn tracks go up and around large (up to 30 m high) limestone formations. These formations can be seen from the highway but their size is best appreciated up close.

While this walk is in an alpine region, temperatures in summer can be surprisingly hot, so Kura Tawhiti is best experienced in spring or autumn. Try to time your visit to these magnificent limestone formations during the week to get a more tranquil experience, and avoid holiday weekends where possible, as this is when the walk is most popular.

Nature and conservation

The area was once under a large, shallow inland sea that began to fill in about 30 million years ago. Pressure over time caused extensive uplift, folding and faulting of the Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges. The limestone rock has been eroded by water into the distinctive sculptured landforms.

Kura Tāwhiti is the first reserve in New Zealand established specifically to protect a plant – the Castle Hill buttercup. With just 67 plants in existence, the Castle Hill buttercup can only be found within the 6-ha reserve. 

History and culture

This area is tōpuni (sacred) to the local Ngāi Tahu iwi, with their long history of this area for shelter and food gathering trips.  


What to expect
  • Change in elevation: +/- 28 m
  • Rapidly changing weather conditions – this walk is in an alpine region.
Be prepared

Ensure you take:

  • drinking water
  • insect repellant
  • sun protection.

How to get here

From Christchurch, take SH73 towards the West Coast. Kura Tāwhiti is beside the road about 95 km from Christchurch.

Track Elevation

Map of Track

More information

DOC Short Walks Brochure - https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/short-walks-brochure.pdf
Mountain Safety Council Plan My Trip
Page last updated: Sep 8, 2020, 3:40 PM