Enjoy a wilderness driving experience or explore the area from an isolated campsite.

Place overview


  • Camping
  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Four wheel driving
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Mountain biking
  • Skiing and ski touring

Find things to do and places to stay Upper Wairau River area

About this place

Getting there

St Arnaud is the main gateway to the Upper Wairau Valley, sign posted for the Rainbow Ski Field, 85 km from Nelson or 131 km from Picton via Blenheim.

Access is also possible from Hanmer Springs, 134 km north of Christchurch. For more information on the Rainbow Road visit Rainbow Road (Hanmer Springs to St Arnaud).

Know before you go

Please remember

Backcountry safety: Snow and freezing conditions can occur at any time of the year and flooded rivers may extend your trip. Backcountry travellers should have adequate food, equipment and experience for their planned trip, and good avalanche awareness.

Road safety: Rain can make the many unbridged streams along the Rainbow Road impassable. There are no petrol stations, telephones or mobile telephone coverage for most of the journey. Check your spare tyre. On-coming traffic is difficult to see and stock wander freely — please drive carefully.

Private land: The floors of the Wairau, Rainbow and Paske Valleys are farmed. Leave gates as you find them and respect stock and property.

Domestic animals: Please leave dogs and domestic pets at home. Hunting dogs and horses
may be taken on to private land with permission from Rainbow Station.

Fire: Fire is a major threat to vegetation in this area. We recommend portable cookers are used.


Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 521 1806
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   View Road
St Arnaud
Postal Address:   PO Box 55
St Arnaud 7053
Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
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