Water taxi disembarking Abel Tasman:  photo supplied by Nelson Tasman TourismThe magnificent Abel Tasman National Park in Nelson region is one of New Zealand's most treasured gems. Native forest reaches almost to the waterline, where it meets golden beaches and rocky headlands. Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest (22,350 hectares) but because it's so accessible and beautiful, it's also one of the most popular. Walking and hiking are superb here, and scenic tracks lead around the coast while others venture higher into the hills.

Water taxis, cruise boats, and sea-kayaks allow you to do half-day to five-day (or longer) excursions into this stunning park. Sea kayaking is a great way to explore Abel Tasman National Park – you'll be able to get close to wildlife such as dolphins, seals and penguins – or book for a scenic nature cruise or horse trek. All beaches in the park are safe. The three main gateways to Abel Tasman National Park are the peaceful coastal communities of Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the south and Totaranui in the north. Marahau has two great local restaurants and an Arts and Crafts centre.