State Highway 6, Barrytown, West Coast © Raimund Linke

State Highway 6: roadtripping at its best


View the map

TAP FOR MORE INFO:

The Wild West? Fill ’er up at Blenheim, where it says its goodbyes to State Highway 1, and hit the track, Jack.

The longest single highway in the country carves a track from the northeast of the South Island down the West Coast, across the Alps and then all the way to the bottom, pretty much. That’s a big road in a small land.

Is State Highway 6 better than Route 66? Take to the road and come to your own conclusions. And come to a handful of amazing little towns along the way, that used to be big towns until the gold mining dream went south. Well, went nowhere, really. But they’re reminders of the spirit that went into making a buck in this seemingly forsaken place.

‘Glaciers to my left, ocean to my right . . .’ is a pretty phenomenal way to drive.

What’s amazing about this long, lean laneway is that there really are no dull parts. It’s so varied. The wild winding of the Buller River, squeezed out onto the coast away from those imposing mountains, then the spray of the Tasman Sea as you keep close to it for over 100 km. The swing inland, across that seemingly endless bridge at Haast, then a change of scene as you hit the heights of the road into tussock country, then alpine country, windows up and make your way towards Wanaka and the scenic beauty of Central Otago. Then on through Southland, the land flattening out, the atmosphere new again, until you trundle into Invercargill.

But down the West Coast it’s at its magnificent best, always the alps watching over you, and that stretch of ocean keeping you at bay with its surf spray, endless sweeps of driftwood-dotted beaches and a building and profound respect for the Tasman Sea and those who have plied it for reasons of commerce, craziness or both. Yep, let’s not beat around the (endless swathes of) bush, it’ll likely rain a fair bit, even in summer. But that’s the context, the atmos, the eerie uniqueness: that’s the West Coast.

Explore more...


Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Things to do

Farewell Spit: the longest natural sandbar in the world

Experience the striking landforms of Wharakiki Beach before travelling out along the longest natural sandbar in the world and sanctuary to over 90 bird species, including bar-tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival: sample the local sauvignon blanc on its home turf

Fail to sample the local sauvignon blanc on its home turf and miss out on sipping the exuberant and intense varietal in the sacred space that first introduced New Zealand wine to the world. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Larnach Castle: a vision of past and present

If you missed Larnach Castle on your trip out to wing it with the albatrosses, you must have been on Facebook. It stands proud and bold on the highest point of the entire Otago Peninsula. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Must-Do's Hawke's Bay: art deco, wine and the largest gannet colony in the world

Traverse beautiful coastline, riverbeds, rolling pastures and native bush before taking in panoramic views and experiencing the exhilarating sight and sound of 20,000 gannets. Read the story . . . 

Where to stay in the South Island

From $25
Cheviot Motels & Holiday Park

THE QUIET ONE OFF SH1! Newly refurbished motel units & holiday park in quiet rural setting 700m off the main highway but still within walking . . . More . . . 

From $25

Book now

Book now

From $21
Frankton Motor Camp

The only campsite right on Lake Wakatipu. Situated right on Lake Wakatipu with amazing views of The Remarkables mountains. Friendly atmosphere with bug-free waterfront sites . . . More . . . 

From $21

Book now

Book now

4.1 /5
From $80
4.1 /5
Best Price Around
Royal Hotel

Historic boutique hotel (built 1863), with great charm and intimate character. 9 refurbished bedrooms (3 with ensuite), 4-bed bunkroom, twin, double and family rooms. Wireless internet. . . . More . . . 

From $80

Book now

Book now

4.4 /5
From $110
4.4 /5
Best Price Around
Cromwell Motel

An ideal base for your holiday - take a step back in time and stroll through Old Cromwell Town, wander through the mall, stop in . . . More . . . 

From $110

Book now

Book now