"Molesworth Station: In the Middle of Nowhere" Molesworth by Kakapo2
Molesworth Travel Guide: 45 reviews and 73 photos
It is somehow funny that Molesworth appears kind of lost in the VT database, just located in New Zealand, but with no connection to a certain region. And that is how it is: Also in reality, it is in the middle of nowhere ;-)
But to give you a little chance to experience this fantastic piece of iconic New Zealand landscape, let me tell you where it is: It is on the South Island, in the region of Marlborough, inland between Blenheim and Hanmer Springs, hidden behind the Kaikoura Ranges.
However, even if you know where it is and how to get there, the chance is still rather slim that you can visit this loner's paradise. Molesworth is New Zealand's largest station (farm), and only accessible to the public during a short period in summer. In perfect conditions, it would be open for three months, from 28 December to 1 April. But if the season is very dry and the fire risk high, it can be closed from one day to the other. There is an info phone where you can find out if the road is open or not. We were lucky this year (2009) in January and could drive on the Acheron Road, starting in Hanmer Springs - which is one of two roads that cut through the vast station, and the only road that is accessible for normal cars. One week later it was closed.
But be prepared, it is a rough ride. 60 kilometres on gravel, up and down hillsides, over wobbly bridges, through fords, and the same 60 kilometres back if you do not want to stay in Blenheim. You will eat a lot of dust on a hot and sunny day - and this is the only scenario I would recommend to do it. This spectacular landscape is only interesting on a beautiful day - or on a crisp winter's day. But in winter the road is closed to the public, and for good reason, as a lot of snow falls here.
The actual homestead of the station is at the northern end of Molesworth. You see it at the distance from the road shortly before you reach the old accommodation house and ranger station up there. You can also walk up a hill from the carpark at the ranger station to get a view of the farm buildings.
The accommodation house (Molesworth Cob Cottage) was just being restored when we were there. It does not match the surreal look of the Acheron Accommodation House at the southern end of Molesworth Station which you see on the photo on the left. The scenery reminded me of the altiplano in Chile and Bolivia, a bit like in the surroundings of San Pedro de Atacama - surely not of New Zealand. It felt like the desert. This makes part of the magic of this drive. The rivers that criss-cross the landscape create little green islands in an otherwise dry and intimidating desert.
There are two routes leading through Molesworth Station. The one, I mentioned above, is the Acheron Road which leads from Hanmer Springs north east towards Blenheim, with 60 kilometres on gravel through the actual Molesworth Station. The second one is the Rainbow Road (or: Hanmer-Rainbow Road) which leads along the western edge of the farm to St. Arnaud in Nelson Lakes National Park. It is 124 km long and is suitable for 4WD vehicles only.
I have only travelled on the Acheron Road, from Hanmer Springs to the Molesworth Accommodation House at the northern end of the station, and the same way back. I will describe this trip on this page - but also give information about the other road, camping sites, flora, fauna and history in General Tips.
My descriptions are based on my personal experience, the extensive information brochure published by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the information panels at several sites on the property.
- Pros:A magic and lonesome desert landscape
- Cons:Only open for three months in summer
- In a nutshell:Worth the lot of dust you eat ;-)
If you do not want to rumble through Molesworth Station on your own, or want to make the round-trip but have no 4WD... more travel advice
At a time when the Acheron Road is not open yet – usually in November – the Molesworth Run takes place. And you run –... more travel advice
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