Current driving and road conditions Christchurch to Queenstown

Learn how you can find out what the current driving conditions in, around, to, and from Christchurch are after the earthquake that took place last Saturday.

So you have decided to fly to New Zealand, and Christchurch in particular despite the major earthquake that took place last Saturday and despite the many aftershocks that followed?

Because I’ve noticed several visitors to New Zealand Travel Insider looking for information on driving conditions to or from Christchurch after the earthquake, I decided to write this article to point you to websites you can visit online to find out what the road conditions around Christchurch, Canterbury, and on the South Island are.

First I’d like to point out that several roads have been damaged by the earthquake, so you must take care when driving and certainly not expect to be able to drive at the maximum speed limit of 100 km/h all the time.

So if you’re planning a long drive such as for example from Christchurch to Queenstown, keep in mind that damaged roads may slow you down and that it might take you longer than the driving times I’ve listed in my article to arrive at either end.

There are two websites you can visit online to find road condition information:

  1. NZ Transport Agency
  2. AA Roadwatch

If you’re planning on driving from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, the shortest route would have gone via State Highway 1. But the AA Roadwatch website reports that the bridge between Norwood and Selwyn on State Highway 1 has been closed due to earthquake damage. Because State Highway 1 is the main artery down the South Island, I’d expect a detour to have been put in place.

If there is no signposted detour in place, you could hook off State Highway 1 just before you reach the bridge at Norwood and take a major road that will have you heading towards the current earthquake capital of Darfield.

Do not despair, though. There are many rural/country roads you could follow. Actually, there is a network of backroads you could follow to avoid ever reaching Darfield, and still get to Tekapo.

You could also go the other way and for example hook off in Rolleston or Burnham, drive towards Lake Ellesmere, and then get back onto SH 1 just before reaching Rakaia.

Another option is to drive towards earthquake center (Darfield) on the main road or one of the many rural roads and then later on hook onto State Highway 77 and Scenic Route 72. Note that there is a detour in place on SH 77.

All route options will get you to Geraldine and eventually Tekapo or further down to Queenstown. By the way, some rural roads may be dirt or fine gravel roads, but most of them in the Canterbury plains are paved. A word of caution: If you do not have a map and cannot drive on instinct, you could get lost in the myriad of Canterbury backroads.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good road map that shows you all of these roads. I don’t tend to look at maps anymore when driving in New Zealand, but still always carry either a North Island or South Island kiwimaps complete driver’s atlas with me; I highly recommend them.

I hope you’ve found this article useful, and take care when driving.


Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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