The sheltered Nelson Tasman region enjoys a mild climate and maximum sunshine hours in the country, perfect for exploring the region's long golden beaches, untouched forests and rugged mountains. Nelson boasts three national parks, all within 90 minutes of Nelson City. The region is also a magnet for creative people with a thriving arts and crafts community. Walk the sun-drenched sands of Golden Bay or take a sea kayak tour into the superb Abel Tasman National Park. Or follow your nose to Nelson’s finest wines in one of the many boutique vineyards and cafes.
KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS
Situated on the top of the South Island, Nelson is New Zealand’s second oldest city and is the northern gateway to the Nelson Tasman region, spreading south through Richmond and the surrounding Waimea Plains. The Nelson region’s three national parks are located within 90 minutes drive of Nelson City.
Nelson is well known for its thriving local arts and crafts scene. Recording the country’s highest number of sunshine hours, its residents enjoy a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle/. Combined with its fresh local produce and award-winning wines, it makes a delightful stop for gourmet travellers as well. The art deco Nelson Cathedral stands over the city centre, famous for its Saturday Markets. Port Nelson is the largest port in Australasia and is accessed via ‘the cut’, a man-made gap in a naturally occurring 13km long boulder bank. A number of boutique vineyards sit on the outskirts of Nelson and local freshwater swimming spots can be found in nearby Lee and Aniseed valleys. Rabbit Island beach is perfect for a BBQ.
Nelson Lakes National Park is the northernmost part of the Southern Alps and south of Nelson City. St Arnaud is the gateway to the park where a range of short and long walks is available. There are remote mountain passes to challenge the experienced solitude seeker, but you don’t have to be a hard core hiker to enjoy this lake and river-filled alpine world. Nelson Lakes National Park also comprises impressive native beech forests, valleys, glacial lakes and craggy peaks.
Abel Tasman National Park stretches along a beautiful coastline of sandy beaches locked between rocky headlands and sculptured granite cliffs. The park was named after Abel Tasman, who in 1642 became the first European explorer to set eyes on New Zealand. Located at the southern edge of the Abel Tasman National Park, Kaiteriteri and Marahau are departure points for visitors of the park. Kaiteriteri and its golden sands are an iconic paradise, attracting visitors from around the country since the 1920s. The Abel Tasman Coastal Walkway (one of New Zealand’s Great Walks) begins at Marahau, and passes through rural farms and lush native bush. To walk the full Abel Tasman track takes three to four days, but there are plenty of shorter coastal walks suitable for all levels. Sailing, kayaking and cruising are popular water activities in this area.
Golden Bay and Farewell Spit
Kahurangi National Park is the second largest national park in New Zealand and starts from the north western tip of the South Island at Farewell Spit and covers 570km of incredible tramping tracks spanning from Golden Bay in the north, south to Murchison and Tapawera, and to the West Coast of the South Island. Farewell Spit nature reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetlands of international importance. Every spring, thousands of wading birds arrive from the Northern Hemisphere. Venture over legendary Takaka Hill to find the township of Takaka, the main centre for Golden Bay. Nearby attractions include Waikoropupu Springs, the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, and an art trail that will reveal the region’s creativity.
Situated about 50km from Nelson, sunny Motueka is a town of some 8000 people, and is the closest major town to Abel Tasman National Park. Orchards, vineyards and hop gardens are the focal point of the community, and the colourful Sunday Markets are a town highlight, as is the Great Taste Trail, a new cycleway and walkway offering day rides and overnight stays. The nearby Rikawa River comes from an underground spring, and you can see water bubbling out of an underground cave.
Getting here and around:
Direct flights connect Nelson Airport to Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington and a few other major towns in the country.
The region is also accessed by regular passenger ferries from Wellington to Picton, with Interislander and Bluebridge being the major ferry services. Picton is connected to Nelson via regular coach service.
Nelson region is well serviced by coach services operating into and around the region.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – warming up with clear days and showers clearing, 7-17°C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – warm and sunny, 21-30°C; Autumn (Mar-May) – cooling down, 8-18°C; Winter (Jun-Aug) – mild with some rain, 4-15°C.
The well-trodden Abel Tasman Coastal Walk will take you through gentle beech forests, across sandy beaches and along inviting Tasman waters. Read more
A raft of pubs, bars, hop farms and historic breweries form Nelson’s Craft Beer Trail. Read more