The coastal highway between Picton and Christchurch (State Highway 1) has re-opened for day-time travel (7am-8.30pm during summer hours), restoring a popular and scenic route in the South Island, but drivers need to take care and be aware that travel times may be slower with road works still underway.
State Highway 1 (SH1) north of Kaikōura re-opened in December last year following extensive damage to the road during an earthquake at the top of the South Island in November 2016.
The re-opening of the road is great news for travellers, as its views make it a highlight of the South. It is also part of the Wilderness ‘Great Southern Tiki Tour’ itinerary
While the route has re-opened, the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) says the rebuild work will not be completed fully and there will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go at remaining works sites along the route.
The estimated travel time between Picton and Christchurch is minimum five and a half hours. The alternate route (details below) is minimum six and a half hours.
What to know
There are two options for travel between Picton and Christchurch:
• The alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7 through Lewis Pass) – open 24/7.
• State Highway 1 (SH1) – 7am-8.30pm during summer hours
|Click here to view the entire infoguide PDF.|
Note: You can access Kaikōura via the Inland Road (Route 70) - open 24/7 - if SH1 is closed.
The NZTA says Google Maps sometimes displays State Highway 1 status incorrectly and warns against relying on your GPS for accurate journey information on this road.
You can find out about the road’s status in real time and details of likely driving conditions at www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c
The NZTA recommends drivers keep an eye on road conditions during late summer/early autumn and look out for ‘black patches’ due to fluctuating temperatures in the area. Hot days have been causing sticky surfaces where the bitumen melts and rises above the chip seal road surface. Road crews lay extra chip to combat this, meaning you may see sections of road with speed restrictions as the chip ‘beds’ in. Take care to drive slowly as any loose chips can flick up and damage your vehicle or someone else’s. Cooler wet weather dries the sticky surface and makes it slippery, so avoid sudden braking where possible.
Kick back in Kaikōura
Locals in the unique coastal town of Kaikōura are delighted to see visitors returning after the road re-opening. A special website at shopkaikoura.co.nz has been set up for travellers to browse the shops and activities and even to book a special personal shopper for a true local experience.
Highlights in Kaikōura include marine encounters, coastal walks and local seafood – crayfish is a specialty!