On 14 November 2016, northeastern South Island of New Zealand was struck by a major moment magnitude (Mw) 7.8 earthquake. Field observations, in conjunction with interferometric synthetic aperture radar, Global Positioning System, and seismology data, reveal this to be one of the most complex earthquakes ever recorded. The rupture propagated northward for more than 170 kilometers along both mapped and unmapped faults before continuing offshore at the island’s northeastern extent. Geodetic and field observations reveal surface ruptures along at least 12 major faults, including possible slip along the southern Hikurangi subduction interface; extensive uplift along much of the coastline; and widespread anelastic deformation, including the ~8-meter uplift of a fault-bounded block. This complex earthquake defies many conventional assumptions about the degree to which earthquake ruptures are controlled by fault segmentation and should motivate reevaluation of these issues in seismic hazard models.