One of the most extraordinary things about New Zealand’s two islands is the unique blend of varying landscapes. From glaciers to sand dunes, rainforests to vast fjords, we have it all.
The first time I saw the golden beaches and turquoise water of the Abel Tasman region, I thought I was back in the Thai islands. This region, located at the top of the South Island, is known for its constant sun and mild climate. From Nelson to Golden Bay, you will find numerous breathtaking spots and plenty of activities to do with family and friends. I’ll be sharing a few of my favourite locations and tips for the area.
As this region’s largest city, Nelson offers an eclectic downtown with good eats and numerous attractions. Spend a few hours strolling around town, dining outside on cobblestone streets, grabbing coffee from local cafes, shopping at the markets and be sure to add the following places to your itinerary.
- Walk up to the Centre of New Zealand, an iconic spot in Nelson and the actual centre of the country.
- Swim or hang at Tahunanui Beach.
- Hire a bicycle and cruise along the waterfront to check out Founders Heritage Park and Miyazu Gardens.
- Drive over to Cable Bay and hike to the top viewpoint for a scenic sunset.
- Veggie-lovers will swoon over the food at East St Cafe and beer fanatics should pop in The Freehouse Pub for a pint or two.
The gateway to Abel Tasman National Park and home to apple farms, hop fields and vineyards, this quirky, little hippie town is worth a stopover. Here are a few recommendations for Motueka:
- Check out the Janie Seddon shipwreck on the water’s edge, great for sunset, but beware of the sandflies.
- Take a dip in the Saltwater Baths and fire up the on-site BBQ for a picnic at the beach.
- Grab takeaway beer from Townshend Brewery or visit Toad Hall for a pint and bite to eat.
- Pop over to Kahurangi National Park for a short walk to see the Riuwaka Resurgence, a sacred underground natural spring with crazy clear waters. If you want to swim, head down to the Crystal Pools as it’s disrespectful to enter the spring.
Use your Campermate App to find accommodation, rest stops and campsites for your trip!
Abel Tasman National Park
A few years ago, my partner and I walked the first leg of the Great Walk in Abel Tasman National Park. Typically this is done in three to five days, but unfortunately we did not have the time. If you want to do the entire coastal track, I recommend booking your campsites or huts ahead of time as this Great Walk is often fully booked out. Check out the DOC site for more info, otherwise read on for what else to do in this national park.
- Day Walk to Anchorage Hut – Hike through the lush native bush on this one-way track that winds along the coast. Start at the trailhead in Marahau and plan for a 6 to 8 hour round trip hike. Bring a picnic and your togs to enjoy a relaxing afternoon at this beachside hut. One-way and round-trip ferry trips are available if you don’t want to complete the entire trail.
- Enjoy the views from the sea by booking one of the many boat trip options from Kaiteriteri. Take the Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle to visit Split Apple Rock, see lounging seals and learn about the history of the region. Half day and full day trips are available.
- For the more adventurous, hire a kayak and spend your day weaving in and out of coves and lagoons. Dolphins and penguins are frequent visitors to the area.
- Not a fan of hiking or boating? Soar above the coastline with a scenic flight.
Reception is limited in these regions, making it easy to fully live in the moment of its beauty.
From the Takaka Hill down to Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay is exactly what its name says, golden. The sand, the vastness, the spit and the dunes make it hard to leave this place. On the drive down pull over at the rest stops to take in the views, they are stunning. Here’s what else you can do in the area.
- Spend a sunrise or sunset or both at Wharariki Beach. Famous for its massive sea stacks along the coast, its seal colony and rolling sand dunes where tall grass blows in the wind makes it one of my favourite spots in the country. Check your Campermate app to camp or book a place near this beach.
- Take a long stroll on Farewell Spit, a narrow strip of sand sticking out far into the sea. It’s a nature reserve and bird sanctuary and make sure to run down the sand dunes just next to the cape. Camp at Puponga and fall asleep to the waves.
- Grab a bite to eat or fill up on groceries in Takaka. For a cozy meal in a rustic pub, stop by Mussel Inn and try their in-house craft beers.
- Other worthy spots include Te Waikoropupū Springs, Wainui Falls and Pillar Point Lighthouse.
Take your family, a friend, a loved one or just yourself and go explore this incredible region of New Zealand.
If you’re looking for another place “off-the-grid,” plan a holiday to Lake Waikaremoana in the Te Urewera National Park.