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Plan your journey: upper South Island travel guide

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Following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Kaikōura in November 2016, SH1 was damaged and closed. The road re-opened on 15 December 2017 for restricted travel, giving people two options for driving between Picton and Christchurch. Before travelling, check which route is available and the best option for you.

Information available below in English, French, German, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Thai.

Publication details

  • Author:
  • Published: 04 December 2018
  • Version: Summer update 2018-19
  • ISBN/ISSN: 978-1-98-856126-4

Order Plan your journey: upper South Island travel guide

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 Map of travel routes from Picton to Christchurch

There are two main routes available for travel between Picton and Christchurch:

State Highway 1

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikōura in November 2016. After 18 months of recovery work, State Highway 1 (SH1) re-opened 24/7 in April 2018. Construction is ongoing throughout 2018 and 2019 so expect unsealed surfaces, lane closures, reduced speeds and stop/go controls in some areas. Expect roadworks along the entire route but they are more likely to be concentrated just north and south of Kaikōura - the most earthquake damaged areas.

If SH1 is unexpectedly closed from either the north or the south, you can still access Kaikōura
from the ‘alternate route’ (see below) by joining the Inland Road (Route 70) just north of Culverden (see map). This route takes a little longer than the coastal route.

Estimated journey time on SH1 between Picton and Christchurch: Minimum 5½ hours

Alternate route  (state highways 63, 6, 65, 7 via Lewis Pass)

Although very picturesque, this alpine route has some narrow and winding sections with reduced speed limits. Over winter the Lewis Pass may be temporarily closed or have some restrictions. Check for updates before you travel.

Estimated journey time between Picton and Christchurch via the alternate route:
Minimum 6½ hours

Where can I find up-to-date travel information?

Go to www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c(external link) or phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).

Please check conditions at least two hours before you travel and while you’re on your trip. 

Things can change at short notice. Adverse weather or other unexpected events can affect the operation of both routes. 

Do not rely on your GPS or Google Maps for road closure information or accurate journey times.

How to drive safely

Travel information, journey times and road conditions can change at short notice.Check at least two hours before you travel in case you have to change your route,and when you reach key route decision points.

Learn more about our road rules

 Check out Driving in New Zealand at www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/driving-in-nz(external link)

Before you travel, check the latest road information

Website  www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c
Phone 0800 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49)
Facebook www.facebook/com/nztasouthisland(external link)
Twitter twitter.com/NZTACWC or twitter.com/nztatots(external link)
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