When the road through Molesworth Station opens on 28 December it will mark the 25th anniversary of the road through the Marlborough high country station being opened to the public in summer.
The Acheron Road through the180,787-hectare station was first opened to the public in summer 1987-88 for six weeks. The open period for the road has since increased and this summer it will be open for more than 14 weeks, up until 7pm on Easter Monday 9 April, road and fire risk conditions permitting.
The summer road opening began to enable New Zealanders to drive through and experience the dramatic high country landscape of what is New Zealand’s biggest farm. The Department of Conservation (DOC) managed the opening of the road through the Crown-owned station and in July 2005 Molesworth Station became a recreation reserve under DOC administration with Landcorp Farming Limited continuing to run its cattle farm.
DOC South Marlborough Area Manager Dave Hayes said more than 85,000 people in more than 40,000 vehicles had travelled the Acheron Road in the summer opening period since it was first opened in summer 1987-88.
‘The Acheron Road goes through a vast awe-inspiring landscape of towering mountains and river valleys. The station is steeped in history, in its farming evolution and as a Maori and early European travel route. The journey takes in two historic cob buildings, the Acheron Accommodation House and the Molesworth Cob Cottage.
‘People enjoy the road trip as an accessible and secure way to experience a remote and extreme environment.’
Anyone planning to travel the road should first check the road is open as it can close at short notice due to weather-related conditions. Calls can be made to the DOC South Marlborough Area Office, ph (03) 572 9100 or people can ask at visitor centres in the region.
In three summers the road did not open at all due to the fire danger in the region, in summers 1998-99, 2001-02 and 2003-04. However, in 2004 the road did open at Easter for eight days.
The Acheron Road is open between 7am and 7pm daily during its open period. Only roads open to the public can be driven. Since the station became a recreation reserve there has been no fee to travel the road.
Visitors to Molesworth Station are asked to comply with a Molesworth Care Code to protect the farm and the area’s significant plant life. Care is particularly needed in dry summer conditions to prevent fires. Open fires are not allowed and portable cookers should be used for cooking.
The area is ecologically important with over 70 threatened native plant species found there, including plants distinctive to the South Marlborough drylands.