Castle Hill is a ridge of limestone boulders rising directly above SH 73 in the eastern foothills of the Southern Alps. The area is basically a fun maze of fabulously odd eroded grey limestone outcroppings. There are no marked tracks—the fun is weaving into and over the boulders, creating your own adventure. Walking amongst these bizarre shapes you can’t help but think “Lord of the Rings”…but nope, it’s Narnia! This landscape is so surreal you’d think it a Weta Studios CGI creation, but instead you’ll have to check the end of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” to see the climactic Castle Hill battle scenes filmed near here in 2004.
These eye-popping boulders have been a tourist stop since the 1800s, but until DOC opened a carpark and added signage in 2004, these rocks were largely just a rock-climber’s playground. There’s an entire book detailing the Castle Hill climbing routes, including the story of when the world’s best rock climber, Chris Sharma, paid a visit to Castle Hill to test himself against the hardest local routes.
Often travelers just make a quick photo-stop at Castle Hill, but if you’re up for a little more than that, then you can make a sort of 5km-ish loop hike. Castle Hill itself is the highpoint atop the ridge in back of the western blob of rock (about 150m above the carpark). If you head between the two frontand- center outcroppings and then skirt the protected area, you then can work your way up to Castle Hill’s Trig and the prominent 25m hill-top boulder. Great 360° views await at the top. From there head east along the ridge and back down the gully for a good overall Castle Hill tour.