Family-friendly activities in Nelson Tasman

Family-friendly activities in Nelson Tasman

Written by Rosa Friend

Posted on Monday 11 September 2023

School holidays mean very different things to people in the same household. A time of almost manic joy for school-aged children who tear through the gates at the sound of the end bell, ready to pack their days full with as many activities as possible. For many parents or caregivers, it's an opportunity to reconnect with their children and create lasting memories, while also trying to relax and unwind. Not as easy as it sounds when you've got a whole holiday to plan for! 

Luckily, Nelson Tasman is a destination which offers something for the whole family, and from September through to November, temperatures are hitting acceptable heights for days spent in T-shirts and even the odd swim. Famous beaches such as Tāhunanui and Kaiteriteri are still relatively quiet before all the summer holidaymakers descend. Take this opportunity to test your family’s aquatic sports abilities; a stand-up paddle board from Moana Paddle Nelson, a kayak from Abel Tasman Kayaks or Wilsons Abel Tasman, or a waka from Waka Abel Tasman- you might even see a seal pup frolicking next to you!

Waka Abel Tasman 10 credit Ian TraffordWaka Abel Tasman by Ian Trafford

This quieter hum also provides the perfect time for families to enjoy more access to the three national parks of the region. Abel Tasman Coast track is an easy, mostly flat walk with breathtaking views of various bays along the coastline. Do as much as those little legs will manage, even if you only get as far as Coquille Bay, you will still have enjoyed an awesome outing. If you do get as far as one of the further bays, you can always sea shuttle back- just make sure you pre-book! For those who prefer a lake to the coast, pack your family into the car and head to Nelson Lakes National Park. Witness the last remains of winter in the form of snow on the Southern Alps, gleaming in the reflection of Lake Rotoiti from the end of the jetty- no visit to the lakes is complete without a picture at the end! Kahurangi National Park is where you’ll discover a land before time with its untouched bush and native birdsong echoing all around. Take in Golden Bay’s surrounding attractions while you’re over this side of the hill such as Wharariki Beach (where you’ll literally be blown off your feet) and Farewell Spit, one of the longest natural sandspits in the world. The best way to experience the spit is on a 4WD safari with Farewell Spit Tours. Kids will delight in jumping from huge sand dunes and spotting the wildlife that lives here.

Walking Abel Tasman National Park Print Res taken by Oliver Weber credit www2.nelsontasman.nzTe Pukatea Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park by Oliver Weber

The region has become a mecca for mountain bikers, trail riders and quad biking, sure to delight little daredevils. Get the adrenaline racing at Cable Bay Adventure Park which offers a whole host of activities including a treetop sky-wire, archery, quad biking and paintball.  Catch your breath long enough to enjoy homemade food from their onsite café before you head off onto their mountain bike trails for stunning views of the bay. Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve is 250ha of Crown land that includes the local mountain bike park with views of the golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach. For trail biking fans, look no further than Tasman’s Great Taste Trail; a well-maintained circuit that traces the Appleby coast before heading inland to the Waimea Plains. It passes near small settlements, by many of the region’s wineries and food producers, and through Spooners Tunnel, the longest decommissioned tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere.

 Great Taste Trail credit Chocolate Dog Photography 9 2

Cycling through Mapua on Tasman's Great Taste Trail by Chocolate Dog Photography

With all this outdoor action, you’ll be ready for something to eat! With a view of Waimea Estuary and it's iconic wharf, Mapua offers a range of dining experiences to be enjoyed outside in the sun. Grab an ice cream from Hamish's, a Rabbit Island coffee and raw vegan slice from Alberta's or award-winning fish and chips from The Smokehouse. In Motueka, you’ll find Toad Hall and its fairytale meets cheery-inn charm. The kids will love the whimsical outdoor playground and adults will love their locally sourced, seasonal menu. The Jester House Café in Tasman will delight everyone with its Alice in Wonderland-type garden, tame eels and diverse menu (you can even stay in their giant boot Airbnb). For peanut butter fanatics, take a tour of Pics Peanut Butter World and sample your way back to the giant peanut butter jar outside for another family selfie. For an alfresco dining experience, take in Nelson City’s Trafalgar Street, abuzz with cafés and restaurants enjoyed by locals and visitors sampling the new season’s flavours on the menu. For those that want to eat on the go, whilst browsing artisanal products, one of the best places to find this is at the famous Nelson Market. For more than 40 years this Saturday market has been the place to be for locals and visitors who want to sample the dozens of stalls selling locally made art, jewellery, crafts and gourmet foods.

TOAD HALL 77Toad Hall by Bare Kiwi

Some days you’ll want indoor activities, so take in one of the many art galleries such as The Suter Gallery and its backdrop of Queen’s Gardens or visit the Nelson Provincial Museum beneath The Cawthron Steps. A wander around Nelson’s Classic Car Museum would delight those engine lovers or challenge the family to a game of ten-pin bowling, Inflatable World, VR golf or mini-golf at Action Entertainment Centre.

Action Centre taken by Bare Kiwi credit 5Action Centre by Bare Kiwi

After days packed with exploring, eating, exercising, and shopping, you’ll need a place to relax and recharge so you can do it all again the next day. The region boasts a great selection of accommodation for families of all budgets. Motueka TOP 10 Holiday Park has it all for a young family: a pool, children’s playground and even a spa and sauna. Tāhunanui Beach Holiday Park’s location gives you direct access to the beach and their facilities include beach volleyball and basketball courts, playgrounds, pétanque, mini-golf and more. Wake up in the heart of Nelson City at the Rutherford Hotel at the water’s edge in Golden Bay at Ratanui Lodge or next to a river at the luxurious Maruia River Retreat.

Tahuna Holiday Park Backbeach Tahuna Holiday Park no credit requiredTāhunanui Beach Holiday Park

Nelson Tasman’s family-friendly offerings make for a perfect spring holiday.