For all travellers ready to coast around the South Island, the good news is, the stunning coastal drive between Blenheim and Christchurch is now open. NZTA offers some great advice to help you plan your trip. Before travelling between Picton and Christchurch, check which of the two main routes is available and would be the best option for you.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikōura in November 2016. It damaged and closed State Highway 1 (SH1) to traffic between Blenheim and Christchurch. At the time of publication (late November 2017), the southern part of SH1 is usually open for daytime travel between Christchurch and Kaikōura. The northern part (between Kaikōura and Clarence) is closed but expected to
re-open for daytime travel from 15 December 2017. This will then re-open the whole SH1 route between Picton and Christchurch.
There is still a lot of work to do and several sites will still be under construction. Expect unsealed surfaces, lane closures, reduced speeds and stop/go controls in some areas which will cause delays. Parts of the road will be closed at night over summer as a safety precaution. Some planned daytime closures to carry out high-impact work along this narrow coastal corridor will also be needed.
When SH1 re-opens, the estimated journey time (between Picton and Christchurch) is a minimum of 5.5 hours. You should allow plenty of time and be prepared for delays, which are likely over summer, or unexpected closures when you may have to change route. You may prefer to take the alternate route (see below).
Since the earthquake closed SH1, motorists have been using the alternate route between Picton and Christchurch. This route remains a good option for travel around the top of the South Island.
The estimated journey time between Picton and Christchurch on this route is a minimum of 6.5 hours. Allow plenty of time and be prepared for delays, which are likely over summer due to ongoing safety and improvement works. Though very picturesque, the alternate route has some narrow and winding sections, with reduced speed limits.