Following the Kaikoura earthquake on 14 November 2016, State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Christchurch has been closed to traffic. The alternate route (on state highways 7, 65, 6 and 63) between Christchurch and Picton will take on average seven and a half hours with four times the usual traffic volumes on the route.
The alternate route is challenging to drive – it is narrow and winding in many places, with single-lane bridges. Be prepared for delays and bad weather: ensure you have food, water and warm clothing or bedding in your vehicle.
With the increased traffic and hugely increased number of heavy vehicles using the alternate route this winter, the Transport Agency is planning on managing the Lewis Pass as it used to do State Highway 1 via Kaikoura – either Open or Closed. This means that the previous restriction of ‘chains essential’ and ‘no towing vehicles’ will not be an option this winter on the Lewis Pass. This change will help the Transport Agency run the route as efficiently as possible and keep it open as much as possible. It is a change necessary to help manage the safety of all the vehicles on the route. (Please note that the restrictions ‘no towing vehicles’ and ‘chains required’ will remain an option for Arthur’s and Porters Passes, SH73, also the Rahu Saddle, near Reefton so you will need to carry chains and know how to fit them if you are travelling on many other South Island roads.)
Please read the other related winter driving pages for information on how to plan ahead to stay safe: