Top 10 NZ roads: Number 7

16:00, Feb 01 2012
Motunau Island
LITTLE TREASURE: Motunau Island is one of the South Island's best fishing and diving spots.

The twisting, turning route to the little fishing port of Motunau Beach is an enthusiast's delight - and number seven in our countdown.

7. Christchurch - Motunau Beach - Kaikoura

Distance: 196km

The little fishing port of Motunau Beach is little more than 100km from central Christchurch.

While most of the drive is on SH1, which doesn't really get interesting until just north of Amberley, the remainder is a delight, with long, well-sighted curves, plenty of scenic turn-offs, and a useful coffee/food stop at Greta Valley.

You turn right off SH1 to drive into Motunau along a 14km twisting, turning route. It really is an enthusiast's delight.


Coming over the final rise into Motunau, you're faced with your first view of Motunau Island, one of the South Island's best fishing and diving spots.

Down at the beach, there's plenty of room to park for a food and drink stop (remember to pack your thermos and sammies) before carrying on to Kaikoura.

Returning to SH1 on Motunau Beach Road, you head right and north on the highway, with your next stop being Cheviot.

Or you can wait for the little-known reserve of Mata Kopau lagoon, also known as St Anne's Lagoon, about 8km on on the left of the highway.

The lagoon is a kilometre away from the main highway, but in two years of regularly stopping to enjoy its facilities I've spotted just one other car.

Back on SH1, the route heads north to the Hundalees. After some inland twisties, where you can be held up by trucks who seem not to heed the dozens of cars in their rear-view mirrors, the road opens up to the rocky foreshore of the Pacific.

If ever a road required a better name, it's the Kaikoura highway, which snakes twixt railway and ocean in a way that one old American tourist told me was much like California 101 during the late 20s.

That road was called one of the world's best at the time, just as Kaikoura's is for us.

The added beauty is the fact that there are plenty of easily accessed stop-off points, some recently added overtaking and slow vehicle lanes, and food and coffee outlets on the way.

Even if you're driving on to Blenheim and Picton, it's worth taking time in Kaikoura, where whale-watching, rock-pool gazing and photographing seals are favourite rest-stop activities.

There are also crayfish stalls and restaurants, and the whole package will have you wishing you'd planned a stop of a couple of hours en route to venues further north.

But Blenheim, Picton, Nelson and Farewell Spit are driving stories in themselves. What a pity the weather has prevented us from sussing out that route this year.