Acheron Road is an unforgettable drive in New Zealand

Acheron Road, nestled in the picturesque Marlborough high country of New Zealand's South Island, offers a thrilling drive known for its evolving landscapes of shifting screes, vast grasslands, and steep hillsides. This route promises an unforgettable journey.

Acheron Road

How long is Acheron Road?

Stretching approximately 200km (124 miles) from Blenheim to Hanmer Springs, Acheron Road winds its way through Molesworth Station—New Zealand’s largest farm, spanning nearly half a million acres (185,000 hectares). Initially established as a sheepdrover’s track, the road was later enhanced to support the primary electricity line connecting the southern parts of the island. Also known as Molesworth Road or Molesworth Station Road, this passage annually attracts around 9,000 adventurers, keen on experiencing its unique charm.

Can I drive my vehicle through Acheron Road?

Before venturing onto this trail, consult your rental company to determine if driving on Acheron Road is permitted. While the winding and occasionally dusty route steadily ascends alongside the river, transitioning from vineyards to grassy terrains and scree-laden hills, it remains accessible to 2WD or AWD cars with reasonable clearance. Known as the alternative highway between Marlborough and Canterbury, caravans, buses or vehicles over 7 m long are not permitted. Vehicles towing trailers require an activity permit before journeying through.

Is Acheron Road open?

Travelers should be cautious, as this narrow and unpaved backcountry route can shut down without prior notice due to adverse weather conditions or fire threats. Given its altitude—much of it exceeding 900m—Acheron Road is susceptible to intense snowfall. The road's highest point reaches 1,145m (3,757ft) at Wards Pass. While the road typically operates from 7 am to 7 pm daily, from 1 October to either Easter Monday or the second Sunday in April (whichever is later), it can close unexpectedly. Since 2022 the road started opening on 1 October. Older brochures may say it opens on Labour weekend, which is now incorrect. 
Pic: Alister McKeown