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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Burkes Pass: things to do and see

  • 2 minutes

Canterbury, South Island

Heritage settlement has witnessed travellers for over 700 years leaving a rich legacy of human occupation

Burkes Pass there are plenty of things to do. Pre-European Maori regularly travelled through the area to the rich plains of the MacKenize basin on hunting expeditions. By the 1880’s New Zealand’s wild west had arrived with swaggers, gold miners and sheep rustlers passing through. Pastoral farming and the established route through to MacKenzie country cemented the town’s beginnings as a wayside hotel for travellers. Today visitors relish the heritage feel, the sense of timelessness and open spaces where mountains and valleys jostle for attention.

@Three Creeks
American Historic Vehicle. Retro Museum in Burke Pass.

Highlights in Burkes Pass

  • Heritage walk including the oldest Union Church in New Zealand, St Patrick’s.
  • Three Creek gallery, collectables and memorabilia gift shop
  • Kids scavenger hunt created by Burkes Pass Heritage Trust
  • Cemetery with its stories of settler lives

The heritage walk includes a replica red Musterer’s Hut featuring an original fireplace, a livery stable, schoolhouse, stone and cob huts and a blacksmiths. St Patrick’s church is available for hire for weddings.

Burkes Pass’ Fame

  • Sir William Hamilton, jet boat inventor is buried in the local cemetery (of Irishman’s Creek Station)
  • Dr Charles Dick, first medical superintendent of Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch
  • Musterers, shepherds and Maori travellers who left their mark on the landscape
  • Historic passageway for pre-Euorpean Maori to the MacKenize district and its plentiful supply of birdlife and eels in the streams.

Burkes Pass’ Notoriety

  • Notorious alleged sheep rustler, James McKenize who used the route to take sheep to the Otago goldfields. This was the alternative route to the MacKenizes pass. He is not actually buried in the local cemetery.

Where to take the best selfie in Burkes Pass

  • Three Creeks Art & Gift shop
  • Weather beaten vintage cars parked against buildings.
  • St Patrick’s church as a background

Kids in Burkes Pass

  • Scavenger hunt
  • Extraordinary collection of objects in Three Creeks shop
  • Visit Burke Scenic Reserve and find golden speargrass while telling the story of a very, rare weevil
A neat place to stop for tourists travelling on the highway south at this village with vintage and retro signs and gas pumps, Three Creeks Art – Gift Shop, the hub of everything, Burkes Pass
Three Creeks Art – Gift Shop, the hub of everything, Burkes Pass

Who turned up and settled Burkes Pass?

Te Kopi Opihito (Burkes Pass) was a Maori route on the journey to the Mackenzie basin and West Coast. Several names emerged from 1880’s from Clulee, Cabbage Tree Flat and Three Creeks with Burkes Pass (early settler Michael Burke) the name of the area today. The town is on the banks of the Opihi River. The town is a waystation for travellers with visitors enjoying the historic settlement. Burkes Pass is 550 metres above sea level with a crisp alpine climate. Life sprung up around the hotel. For more than half a century adventurers, swaggers, settlers and gold miners passed through the town. At its peak 1890 to 1910 was a population of 143 and a three-teacher school.

American Historic Vehicle. Retro Museum in Burke Pass. New Zealand
American Historic Vehicle, Retro Museum in Burkes Pass

What keeps Burkes Pass going?

  • Visitors

Judgment on Burkes Pass

  • A perfect stop on the way to the MacKenize plains, Tekapo and beyond. A great wayside break on the way to the Mt Dobson ski field. Allow between 1 hour to half a day whilling away time exploring the small town.

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about what to do nearby Burkes Pass check out Things To Do In Canterbury § Places to Visit, Activities & Sightseeing.

Climate in Burkes Pass

Burkes Pass, Canterbury, New Zealand Today, Tonight & Tomorrow’s Weather Forecast

Best time to go to Burkes Pass

Year round

Burkes Pass’ social media

Population in Burkes Pass

  • 100 (2018)

Be careful in Burkes Pass

It is tempting to linger in Three Creeks shop wondering if you really need the object you have fallen in love with.

Location: State Highway 8, mountain pass settlement

What to do nearby Burkes Pass, Canterbury?

Burkes Pass is nearby RangioraAmberleyOxford and Springfield (selfie heaven with its massive concrete pink doughnut).



Want to go camping in Burkes Pass check out 9 Hurunui campsites & budget accommodation ideas.


Check out our favourite instagram posts for Burkes Pass

Travel pack information

  • The Burkes Pass Scenic Reserve, administered by the Department of Conservation, is a former stock droving reserve one kilometre to the west of the pass. The ecological values are threatened by introduced rabbits, lupin, broom and wilding conifers.] Burkes Pass is home to the critically endangered Canterbury knobbled weevil which lives on speargrass. It has only been found in a three hectare site at Burkes” Wikepedia.
  • Almost one hundred years ago, in 1922, a small weevil living amongst the Speargrass of the Canterbury region was seen for the last time. Eighty years later, 2002, it was assumed extinct by invertebrate societies but deemed a nationally critical status by the Department of Conservation due to lack of data in order to state its extinction. Two years later, in 2004, the Canterbury Knobbled weevil, Hadramphus tuberculatus, was rediscovered by Canterbury University student, Laura Young, at Alpine Burkes Pass scenic reserve near Lake Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand. It is considered one of New Zealand’s rarest (1) with a nationally endangered status by UICN (2).
  • Burkes Pass scenic reserve and golden speargrass is where the last H. tuberculatus population has been found. Hadramphus tuberculatus Wikipedia
  • Burkes Pass weevil factsheet brochure, PDF



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