Weekend Escape to Akaroa
Most people think dolphins, France and tourists when hearing Akaroa. And while Akaroa is a prime location for dolphin watching and French fare, ...
The Nelson and Abel Tasman region offer New Zealand as paradise. Take your time and explore natural golden-sand beaches lapped by turquoise water and national parks where alpine lakes nestle between forest-clad hills – it’s little wonder this region is a very popular destination for New Zealanders and overseas visitors alike.
Known for superb beaches – from golden-sand bays to coves where the forest grows right down to the water – this region also offers rugged inland landscapes, much of them protected in the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks. The combination of beautiful scenery and a relaxed atmosphere has clearly proved inspirational for many; you’ll find an abundance of studios and galleries.
Nelson This regional city enjoys a pretty coastal setting and is well served with shops and eateries. A magnet for creative types, Nelson is home to The Suter, a renowned art museum. Outdoors, the white-sand beach of Tahunanui is popular.
Richmond Satellite town offering fruit stalls, galleries and a relaxed shopping precinct on the edge of the region’s main wine-growing area.
Motueka The small town of Motueka, an easy drive northwest of Nelson, is the last major shopping outpost before Abel Tasman National Park.
Kaiteriteri This is a lovely little village alongside a glorious sweep of golden-sand beach. Departure point for water taxis into the national park.
Mārahau A tiny outpost just beyond Kaiteriteri, Mārahau is the last settlement before the national park.
Tōtaranui The northern gateway to the national park is accessible by road from Takaka in Golden Bay.
Nelson Lakes National Park was established in 1956 to protect 102,000 hectares of the northernmost Southern Alps. Aside from the lakes, the area encompasses forest and mountains, and the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project protects 5000 hectares as a predator-free sanctuary. St Arnaud is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park.
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s most visited national park, and it’s no surprise when you consider its combination of golden beaches and forest extending down to the water’s edge in a region enjoying generous sunshine hours. The Abel Tasman Coast Track winds its way around the waterfront – hike all or part of the trail (water taxis can drop walkers partway along). Accommodation for walkers ranges from campsites to lodges. Another popular way to explore is by sea kayak. Overnight guided kayaking tours are hugely popular; paddle across sparkling water by day and camp at a secluded beach by night.
On the other side of Takaka Hill is Golden Bay, a part of the Nelson region that is further off the beaten track but very much worth the journey. Small towns offer a mix of quirky cafés and craft shops, and adventure activities include 4WD trips to Farewell Spit, a nature reserve and the world’s longest sandbar. It’s a part of the country that’s wild and pristine – nowhere more so than at Te Waikoropupū Springs, which are thought to be the clearest freshwater springs in the world (don’t be tempted to swim because the springs could easily become contaminated). The town of Takaka is the largest centre. At the other end of the bay is Collingwood, a tiny village where trips depart to Farewell Spit and hikers set out on the Heaphy Track to the West Coast.
Swim at beautiful Tāhunanui Beach, just out of Nelson. Tour the local art and craft galleries. Hike in forest-clad Nelson Lakes National Park. Taste local seafood at a Nelson restaurant. Join an overnight sea kayaking trip in Abel Tasman National Park. Stop for coffee and browse the boutiques in Motueka. Spot seals from the deck of a water taxi. Skydive above stunning scenery. Buy fish ‘n’ chips at Kaiteriteri and eat them on the beach. Spot a huge variety of wild seabirds on a 4WD tour of Farewell Spit. See the 178-metre Harwoods Hole – deepest sinkhole in the Southern Hemisphere. Wander to the sparkling Te Waikoropupū Springs.