Driving the scenic Great Alpine Highway of New Zealand

The Great Alpine Highway is an unforgettable adventure running from Christchurch to the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. This beautifully scenic road trip promises a breathtaking experience, taking you through charming historic towns and a captivating array of landscapes.

Great Alpine Highway

How Long is the Great Alpine Highway in New Zealand?

Stretching 224 km (139 miles), State Highway 73 ('SH 73'), known as 'The Great Alpine Highway,' connects Christchurch to Hokitika/Greymouth, weaving through the majestic Southern Alps and the picturesque Canterbury region.

Is the Great Alpine Highway in New Zealand Open in Winters?

The road tops out by Arthur's Pass at 739m (2,425ft) above the sea level. Driving through the pass during the winter can be challenging. It is recommended that vehicles carry snow chains between May and October. Always check road conditions on the NZ Transport website before you depart.

How long does it take to drive the scenic SH 73?

The Great Alpine Highway from Christchurch to the West Coast offers an easy drive, treating you to stunning alpine vistas, the vast Canterbury Plains, and the natural wonders of Arthur’s Pass National Park. This one-day road trip is an essential addition to any South Island travel itinerary. Fully paved, the Great Alpine Highway boasts engineering marvels like the Ōtira Viaduct and Waimakariri Bridge. As you navigate this staggering piece of road, the journey unfolds through the awe-inspiring alps to the rugged beauty of New Zealand’s west coast. Stop often and savor the stunning vistas—it's a trip through unforgettable scenery.

History of the Great Alpine Highway: A Journey Through Time

Known for hundreds of years by the Māori people due to a flourishing pounamu trade, the route connecting the East and West coasts has a rich history. The completion of a rail link in 1923 marked the end of the Cobb & Co coach era, making it possible to travel from Canterbury to the West Coast in a single day.

Is the Great Alpine Highway in New Zealand Worth It?

If you drive yourself, be prepared for one of the most staggering roads you'll ever encounter. This coast-to-coast route offers unmatched scenery, including world-famous Arthur’s Pass, steep gorges, and natural wonders that make every stop worthwhile. So, keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes off the pies, and get ready for a journey through the heart of New Zealand's beauty.