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Explore NZ Travel Blog

Post-Earthquake Travel in New Zealand


Updated 12 December 2016

It’s been a tough few weeks for the people of Canterbury all the way north to Wellington following the powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake which struck near Hanmer Springs in the early hours of Monday 14 November. The earthquake caused widespread damage to homes, offices and to the transport infrastructure including roads and rail. The coastal town of Kaikoura, 152kms north of Christchurch has been cut off by road as large slips have blocked State Highway 1 north of Cheviot and south of Blenheim.

Kaikoura has been cut off by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit on Monday 14 November

Kaikoura has been cut off by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit on Monday 14 November

Our thoughts go out to those who have been affected by the earthquakes and our customers’ safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of everything we are doing at the moment. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to give our customer service team a call on Freephone 0800 467 368.

Road Closures and Travel Delays

Kaikoura remains cut off in the main with very limited access for residents to get in and out and no access for tourists. The alternative route north to Picton is via SH7 and details of travel times can be found in the alternative routes below. We do recommend checking with the New Zealand Transport Agency who have a live updates page on their website. Here you will find out all the information you need about road closures and travel delays.

  • SH1 Blenheim to Kaikoura road closed
  • SH1 Cheviot to Kaikora road closed
  • Inland Road (Route 70) Waiau to Kaikoura road closed

We also want to reassure people that life is still carrying on and there are still plenty of options if you are planning a trip to the South Island. Here are some alternative routes and road trip ideas to make sure you still make the most of your time in New Zealand.

Christchurch to Picton

There are alternative routes to take if you are heading north towards Picton and the Marlborough region. The roads in and around Christchurch itself are all running as usual and if you are still heading north, a great alternative route is to take SH7 heading west at Waipara and out towards Hanmer Springs. This route is called the Lewis Pass and is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives which can take you all the way over to the West Coast.

Relax in the thermal waters of the Hanmer Springs pools

Relax in the thermal waters of the Hanmer Springs pools

The beautiful town of Hanmer Springs is a great place to stop on this new alternative route. Here you can relax in the thermal waters, surrounded by the stunning Southern Alps. If you carry on across the Lewis Pass to Springs Junction, you can then take a right up SH65 which is another stunning drive north towards either Nelson or Blenheim.

If you have time on your hands, take a stop in Murchison which is the gateway to the Kahurangi National Park. There are plenty of walking tracks in the park from one hour return trips to full day walks so depending on how much time you have, take a look and plan a walk. Murchison is also the home to some of New Zealand’s best whitewater activities including rafting, kayaking and jet boating so if you are looking for some thrills, then Murchison is your place!

Travel times:

  • Christchurch to Hanmer Springs – 2 hours
  • Christchurch to Murchison – 4 hours
  • Christchurch via SH7 to Picton – 6 hours
  • Christchurch via SH1 to Picton – 4.5 hours (Road closed)

Exploring the West Coast

A hike on the Franz Josef or Fox glacier on the West Coast is an NZ must do

A hike on the Franz Josef or Fox glacier on the West Coast is an NZ must do

If your travel plans were mainly based around the east coast on the South Island between Christchurch and Nelson, then it may be a good idea to change your plans but the good news is there are plenty of options for exploring the South Island. From your base in Christchurch, the West Coast is easily accessible via Arthur’s Pass which will drop you into the West Coast at Greymouth from where you can head south and explore the glacier towns of Franz Josef and Fox as well as exploring the rugged West Coast. You can return the same way or complete a round trip which will take you via Queenstown and Wanaka.

Travel times:

  • Christchurch to Greymouth – 4 hours
  • Greymouth to Queenstown – 7 hours
  • Queenstown to Christchurch – 6 hours

Suggested itinerary: Christchurch to Queenstown via West Coast – round trip

The magnificent Mount Cook

Beautiful view and glacier in Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Mount Cook is a great place to explore and not too far to drive from Christchurch

Another alternative if you are looking for a long weekend plan is to head south from Christchurch and into the Mount Cook region.  This is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular areas and a paradise for those who love the outdoors. Camped underneath New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook you can get out and explore on foot or even take a heli-hike or scenic flight and take in the amazing scenery from the skies. There’s so much to do in the region that you will not be short of options from golf to fishing, cycling to horse trekking and everything in between. The drive down will also take you past the stunning Lake Tekapo which is definitely worth a pit stop. Be sure to call in at the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd or take a trip up to the Mt John Observatory where you will encounter some of the best star gazing in the world.

Travel times:

  • Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park – 4 hours
  • Christchurch to Lake Tekapo – 3.5 hours

Suggested itinerary: Christchurch to Mount Cook 3 day round trip

For more ideas on travel itineraries, make sure you visit our GO Explore Trip Planner where there are heaps of ideas for road trips from Christchurch and Queenstown. Whilst some of them will take you on the road up past Kaikoura, there are plenty of alternatives so make sure you make the most of your time in New Zealand and GO Explore!

The Interislander Ferry

For those who follow the route north to Picton and intend to catch the Interislander ferry across to Wellington, there have been disruptions to the service throughout the week so please check the website or call to make sure that the service you require or are booked on to is still running. Please also be aware that there has been a lot of disruption in the CBD in Wellington so if you have hotel reservations or plans, be sure to check with the hotel first to make sure they are open for business as usual.


Phone: 0800 878 898

Getting around Wellington

Whilst there has been a lot of disruption in downtown Wellington from both the earthquake and subsequent wet weather, all the roads north out of Wellington are now open although you should expect some delays and plan ahead for this. There have been a number of slips and flooding to the roads but once again, emergency services and volunteers have worked around the clock to make sure Kiwis and tourists can get around with as little disruption as possible. We think they are pretty awesome!

Suggested itineraries:

Keeping up to date

These details are correct at the time of publishing, however we do advise customers who are travelling in and around both Christchurch and Wellington to check with the New Zealand Transport Agency to see if there are any road closures in place that will affect your journey. They are posting up regular updates on their news pages and you can also check in with the interactive map which will show you current road closures as well as offering up alternative routes.

GO Play activities in this area

  • 10% Off

    Hot Pools

    Nestled in lush rainforest, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of natural tranquillity. Their pools are the perfect way to unwind and experience a blissful state of pure relaxation.

    Cron Street, Franz Josef. Tel : 03 752 0099

  • 10% Off

    Glacier Guided Walks

    Franz Josef Glacier Guides gives you the opportunity to experience the most spectacular glacier environment available to the general public anywhere in the world, offering a range of glacier hiking tours to suit all levels of fitness and ability.

    Main Road, Franz Josef. Tel : 03 752 0763