How To Get There

How To Get There

Wagner Custome Skis

Where is Rainbow Ski Resort?

Rainbow is located towards the top end of the South Island of New Zealand in the Nelson Lakes region. Rainbow is 122km southwest of Nelson, 119km southwest of Blenheim and 144km southwest of Picton (where the inter-island ferry comes in from Wellington). From the little village of St Arnaud (in Tasman) it’s a 34km drive to Rainbow Ski Resort (in Marlborough) which takes about 50 minutes, plus chain fitting time.

Driving to Rainbow New Zealand

From the turn-off on Highway 63 you drive along Rainbow Valley Road, which is an easy 12km drive to the bottom car park. The road is paved initially and it includes a handful of small stream crossings. It would be a reasonably pretty drive if it weren’t for the massive electrical towers.

The 9km road from the bottom car park up to the Rainbow Ski Resort is where it starts to get interesting. The road is unpaved and narrow (uphill traffic has right of way) and it has spectacular steeps off the side of the road (along with some gorgeous scenery). If there is cleared snow on the edge of the road it provides a little reassurance, and it’s just the last few minutes of the drive that feel hairy.

There are two small car parks close to the ski field and ticket office.

Campervans are not permitted up the mountain road.

Here's a video of our drive up the Rainbow road on a snowy day.


Carrying chains is mandatory for the drive between the bottom car park and the ski field. Snow socks or studded tyres are not sufficient.

If chains need to be donned, you’ll need to do this in the bottom car park considering the narrowness of the road.

Sometimes a bloke called Steve hires out chains in the bottom car park, but without knowing whether he’ll be there or not, you’ll need to rent chains off the mountain from one of these locations:

  • St Arnaud - Alpine Lodge
  • Blenheim - Mag and Turbo Blenheim - 27 Grove Road
  • Stirling Sports Motueka | 201 High Street, Motueka

Shuttle from the Bottom Car Park

If you don’t want to worry about the white knuckle driving up the mountain road, the Rainbow Ski Resort operates a shuttle between the bottom car park and the ski field a few times a day. It is advised that you either pre-book or check availability. The shuttle is not particularly cheap, but then the alternative of hiring chains can be costly too.

Other Ski Resorts Nearby

Hanmer Springs Ski Area is close to Rainbow as the crow flies, but not by road during winter.