The mighty Molesworth Station is home to two of New Zealand’s best true back-country roads. Ashley Lucas explains their appeal.
I have always liked taking the long way home, as New Zealand’s back country roads offer some really interesting driving with unique scenery thrown in, no matter what part of the country you are in.
Two of my favourites are the Acheron and Wairau-Rainbow Roads which run through the 180,787 hectare Molesworth Station, New Zealand’s largest, and taking in the country’s highest publicly accessed road through Island Saddle at 1,347 metres.
Probably one of the reasons these roads have always been up there on my list of favourites is because they are about as remote as you can get in this country. There is no cell phone coverage, it is very dependent on weather conditions, even in summer, and they are only fully open for a few months a year.
In the case of the Acheron (Molesworth) Road it is only open from Labour Weekend through to the second Sunday in April which for 2015 is Easter Sunday (12 April), from 7.00am to 7.00pm. Even during this period the road may be closed suddenly because of fire risk, extreme weather, road conditions or farm activities.
The Molesworth Cob Cottage and Acheron Accommodation House are the only camping sites along the Acheron Road, located at either end of the route. These campsites are only open when the Acheron Road is open.
Molesworth Station offers vast landscape containing craggy scree-scarred mountains, wide river valleys and tussock slopes as well as tiny inconspicuous endangered plants and its weather ranges from scorching summers to freezing snowy winters, so be prepared for all seasons.
The Acheron Road is the inland route between North Canterbury and Marlborough and was originally a stock route passing through several alpine passes on the way.
From Marlborough you head out through the Awatere Valley to get to the northern boundary of Molesworth Station. There is a locked gate at the old historic Molesworth Cobb cottage restricting access as previously mentioned.