Kaikoura road condition

Nov 16th, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Kaikoura road condition

We currently have an SI trip planned that begins in Christchurch, curls through Tekapo/Mt Cook and ends in Wanaka (with a flight out of Queenstown). We've toyed with the idea of taking two days away from the NI portion of the trip to allocate to the South Island. One rather late possibility we're considering is beginning with a flight to Blenheim and spending the first two nights in Kaikoura. We would then head onto Christchurch to follow our planned itinerary. I have read here that there have been road issues due to the recent earthquake...the Kaikoura tourism website says the SH1 to Blenheim is now open 24/7. But I do notice that it doesn't say anything about the road from Kaikoura to Christchurch.

Does anyone have any insights about the 1) the road itself and 2) the wisdom of tacking on two days this way. One downside is that it means additional driving, which may or may not be outweighed by some nice coastal scenery. And if there's anything we remember about our previous NZ trip (10 years ago) was just how wonderful all of the drives were. FYI, we're also only about two weeks away from our trip and not sure we want to upset the proverbial apple cart at this time. But all of our internal NZ flights and refundable, so we do have some flexibility.
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Nov 16th, 2018, 05:56 PM
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We drove from Blenheim to Christchurch in May and were amazed at how much the Kaikoura coastline has changed.

I found it rather depressing, all that destruction and ongoing road work. The before and after contrast boggles the mind. And it's not just road work - it's a total realignment - sections of the old highway were totally obliterated.

Entire chunks of the hillside are missing, the rocks along the coast are now white instead of black as the sea bed was lifted, and some of my favorite bits are now missing - such as Oahu Stream.

If you made this drive on your previous NZ visit, it might be worth it just to see the changes. But would I personally do it just for the drive? Probably not.

Other things to keep in mind - would Blenheim then be your first stop after your international flight? It's a 1:40 minute drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura - not a problem if you're well rested and proficient at driving on the left, but not a good idea if you've just arrived. And navigating Blenheim can be a pain - it's a small town, but can be confusing.

There is no right answer, it just depends on what you hope to see and do and how much time you want to spend in the car.

Last edited by Melnq8; Nov 16th, 2018 at 06:00 PM.
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Nov 16th, 2018, 06:03 PM
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Some photos of the drive here (the first 14 photos):

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Nov 16th, 2018, 08:59 PM
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Thank you Melnq8 and I was hoping you would respond! We appreciate your thoughts on the drive and our thanks for the pictures. And we're so sorry to hear about the changes to the drive following the earthquake. At the same time--since the drive would be new to us--we're not sure how to think about how it's changed. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the Beatles in concert, but seeing Paul McCartney several times over the last 20 years has also been pretty cool, even if he was only 25% of the band. But your response has given us great food for thought--I guess we need to decide if a less-than-perfect two days of Blenheim-Kaikoura-Christchurch would still be striking enough to beat our alternative of spending our last two North Island days in Napier!
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Nov 17th, 2018, 07:05 AM
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<<At the same time--since the drive would be new to us--we're not sure how to think about how it's changed.>>

I totally get that. You can't miss something you've never had (or seen) and in this case you might find it worthwhile. It's still a lovely slice of the SI, just forever changed. It's also looking to be another Kiwi engineering marvel, given what they started with.

Here are some before and after photos, that you might find interesting:


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Nov 17th, 2018, 10:17 AM
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Wow, those are rather powerful images of the changes wrought by the earthquake. I can see how people would grieve for that loss.

What are your thoughts in general about Kaikoura? FYI, our late interest in this was spurred by my wife's dentist who told her it was the highlight of his honeymoon (pre-earthquake) and that a treehouse hotel (Hapuku Lodge) was absolutely fantastic. (It seems to have a price to match.) Of course, she was a captive audience for his description while she was being worked on.

Also, looking on the NZTA website for current status they say to plan on 5.5 hours between Picton and Christchurch. The AA Traveler website shows the route as taking about 4.5 hours, leading me to believe the construction areas will add about an hour to that drive. Does that seem right based on your trip last May?
magritten is offline  
Nov 17th, 2018, 11:29 AM
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This is a tough one. I don't want my jaded perspective to hamper your plans, but since you asked... I've never been a big fan of Kaikoura, Many visitors go there for whale watching tours and to see the seals - in fact I made a point of taking my brother there a few years back for a couple of nights just so he could see the place, but it's never really appealed to me as a place to spend more than a few hours.

Granted, there are some nice tracks (the Kaikoura Peninsula walkway is well worth a few hours) and I do love the seals, but the town itself is rather underwhelming. I much prefer the landscapes and walking opportunities north of Kaikoura (which might explain why I was so disheartened by the devastating earthquake damage).

Much of the accommodation is located on the main highway, which is separated from the sea by train tracks and therefore inaccessible; one must often get in the car and drive to town to access the beach.

So if you do opt to stay there, choose your accommodation wisely.

I'm familiar with Hapuku Lodge (which is north of Kaikoura as I recall). I'd probably fall in love with the area from that base as well, but it certainly comes at a price (and I suspect the honeymooners didn't leave the property - I wouldn't have

When we drove from Rarangi Beach (located between Blenheim and Picton) to Coalgate (45 minutes west of Christchurch) it took us eight hours. This included a coffee stop, a short stop at the Kaikoura I Site, a stop for lunch in Amberley and a few photo stops. I noted in my trip report that it took us 2:45 to drive from Rarangi to Kaikoura.

Last edited by Melnq8; Nov 17th, 2018 at 11:38 AM.
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