field Open

Getting Here

Rainbow Ski Area is situated at the top of the South Island of New Zealand just off highway 63. It is about 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Nelson airport, 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Blenhiem, 1 hour 40 minutes from Picton and 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Murchison.

The ski area is serviced by St Arnaud Village which is on the edge of the Nelson Lakes National Park. The ski area is a 40 minute drive from St Arnaud along State Highway 63 (SH63).

From State Highway 63, turn onto Rainbow Valley Road (also known as Wairau-Hamner Springs Road). Turn right if coming from Nelson or St. Arnaud, turn left if coming from Blenheim. Drive along the 12km sealed road. The road passes through five fords before reaching the bottom-of-the-mountain car park at Six Mile Creek. The mountain road winds alongside Six Mile Creek through native beech forest and up towards the ski area above the tree line. Chains must be either fitted or carried by ALL vehicles once past the bottom car park. A shuttle service from the bottom car park is available for those traveling without chains. For more information on the shuttle click here.

Rainbow Access road/chains

If you intend driving up the Rainbow Access Road it is MANDATORY  that you have a set of chains, from the bottom car-park onwards. Even on days where chains do not need to be fitted,  you MUST still carry a set of chains that will fit your vehicle. Conditions in this Alpine environment can and do change rapidly requiring that you fit chains to leave the mountain. For this reason chains must always be either carried or fitted to your vehicle. You will be turned away at the base of the mountain or at the top car park if it is discovered that you are not carrying chains. The shuttle service is a good regular service for customers who do not have chains for their vehicle.

No chains, No access, No exceptions


chain hire services

Chain Hire is available from the following locations: 

  • St Arnaud –  Alpine Lodge- 03 5211869 
  • Blenheim – Mag and Turbo Blenheim – 27 Grove Road – (03) 579 1645 


purchasing chains

  • Chains can be purchased from the following retailers: 

  • Bowater Motors Nelson – Rutherford Street (03) 548 7179
  • Repco Nelson, 49 Gloucester Street, Nelson  (03) 546 9992
  • Repco Richmond, 8 Gladstone Road, Richmond  (03) 543 9301 
  • Repco Motueka, 400 High Street, Motueka  (03) 528 1101 
  • Repco Blenheim, 32 Main Street, Blenheim  (03) 577 8141
  • Blenheim – Mag and Turbo Blenheim – 27 Grove Road  (03) 579 1645

shuttle service

Don’t want to drive up with chains?  Transport services are available to take you to Rainbow Ski Area from our bottom car park.


From State Highway 63, turn right onto Rainbow Valley Road (left if coming from Blenheim) and drive along the 12km sealed road. The road passes through five fords before reaching the mountain bottom car park (shuttle pick-up zone) at Six Mile Creek. Please allow 30-40 minutes to drive from the turn-off to the bottom car park.


The Rainbow 4WD Shuttle Service operates seven days a week on every day that Rainbow is open during the season. Pre-bookings are available online. We strongly advise you to pre-book to avoid disappointment.


For inquiries phone 03 521-1861 or email

*School price: This price is available for pre-arranged school groups only.



Please arrive 15 minutes prior to departure.

Departure times from the bottom car park:

  • 9:00am
  • 10:00am
  • 12:00pm

Return times from the top car park:

  • 3:00pm (If you were on the 9am shuttle)
  • 4:00pm (If you were on the 10am or 12pm shuttle)


On weekdays, the 9:00 shuttle may not be available to book online due to school group trips. Passengers may book online for the 10:00 trip and space permitting, may be able to depart on the 9:00 shuttle instead.


If you wish to depart earlier, please arrive at the car park at 8:45 and be prepared to wait until your scheduled departure time in case no space on the earlier trip is available. If you contact the ticket office, we should have an idea of whether this earlier departure will be possible on the day you wish to book.


School Group Shuttle

car pooling

If you are looking for a ride from Nelson or Blenheim – or you have a car that you want to fill to share fuel costs then go to  You can look for ride on the day you want to go OR offer seats in your own car. Follow the steps in the website – its easy and its NZ’s most popular Ski car-pooling website. Please check back regularly if there doesn’t seem to be rides for you yet. We suggest a $20 donation for every person taking a car pool from Nelson or Blenheim.

Remember to get someone to share costs – you need to advertise your space.
To get a lift you need to advertise that you need a ride.

No Dogs at Rainbow 


As Rainbow is situated within public conservation land there are no dogs allowed even in your car. Please leave your dogs at home. Thanks


Why dog access is controlled

Our conservation land is vitally important for the survival of endangered species. Many of our native birds are flightless and have few or no defences against predation. A dog is capable of sniffing out and killing a kiwi with ease and uncontrolled dogs can easily kill remaining kiwi populations.

Controlling dog access also protects and respects other people’s right to use and enjoy public conservation land.

If you ignore the conditions, rules or regulations

You may be issued an infringement fine or prosecuted if you take your dogs into no access areas, controlled areas without a permit, or breach the conditions of your permit.

A dog may be seized and impounded or destroyed if it’s found in a national park or controlled dog area without a permit.

More about DOC’s enforcement tools