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Wairau River

POINT (172.916 -41.91)

St Arnaud to Hanmer Road
Built in the 1950s to service the hydroelectric power pylons marching northwards, this road follows a historic droving route up the Wairau Valley and into Canterbury. From the north, it is a public road as far as the Rainbow Skifield turnoff. Outside the open period during summer there are locked gates just south of the Rainbow Ski Area turn-off and just north of Coldwater Creek campsite. A toll is charged at all times. The road can close without warning.

  • During summer, the road is open from 26 December to Easter Monday. Gates are unlocked daily from 7 am to 6 pm.
  • From the Tuesday after Easter until 25 December (off season), gates are locked and access must be arranged through the Rainbow Station website,

At all times, you must complete the access form. These are available at the time of gaining access (in season) and/or keys (off season). To complete the form beforehand, go to the Rainbow Station website.
Rainbow Station charge a toll fee for use of the Rainbow Road, as a contribution to costs associated with repairing and maintaining the road for public access.
Toll Charges:

  • Vehicle $40.00
  • Motorbike $20.00
  • Bicycle/Mountain Bike $5.00
  • Trampers - No charge

The DoC website also has information, and the DOC Visitor Centre at St Arnaud can also provide advice.
Upstream from Coldwater Creek, the Wairau valley is part of Molesworth Farm Park. Most peaks south and east of the river here are little more than huge scree piles in summer. In winter there will be ski touring opportunities, but Island Saddle may be impassable due to snow. Two huts are convenient climbing bases: Sedgemere Sleepout (4 bunks, basic), 1km west of Lake Sedgemere; and Island Gully Hut (5 bunks, standard).

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