Day 1 - Nelson City Activities
Our vibrant central city contrasts a range of historical attractions with a modern shopping and dining precinct, and offers easy access to the stunning natural landscapes that encircle it. After a morning at the Saturday Market, a short stroll along the Maitai River will land you at the base of the Centre of New Zealand. Here, only minutes from the city, you’ll discover stunning 360 degree views over Tasman Bay and the Western Ranges. Continuing on across the farmland adjacent to the track will take you toward Founders Heritage Park, where you can explore displays of Nelson’s heritage, visit artisans in character buildings, or relax with a cold brew at the on-site beer garden.
A short drive around the waterfront toward Stoke, home to one of the regions most iconic attractions, will leave you in awe at the world renowned collection of vintage, veteran and classic cars at the Nelson Classic Car Museum.
Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the golden sands of Tahunanui Beach, watching as paddleboarders circle Fifeshire Rock, enthusiastic children craft sandcastles on the beach and families cast their lines into the ocean from Rocks Road. Then, shortly before sunset, head to one of the waterfront restaurants to dine alfresco as the vibrant purple hues give way to a starry night sky.
End the evening by retreating to one of the central city hotels, or to a terraced apartment on the Monaco Peninsula.
Day 2 - Abel Tasman National Park Experience
As the Abel Tasman is so well serviced with transport options, there are so many ways to enjoy New Zealand’s smallest, yet most popular national park in just a day (although we guarantee you’ll want to spend longer here).
The two entry towns of Kaiteriteri and Marahau are the perfect place to start your morning, with brunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, overlooking the golden sands that distinguish this extraordinary place from other national parks around the country.
After a short morning kayak around the bay, hop on board one of the scenic cruises that depart from the beautiful Kaiteriteri beach and journey up the coastline to Awaroa, passing the iconic Split Apple Rock and Tonga Island Marine Reserve along the way.
Once you land at Awaroa, revel in the beauty of the beach that was purchased by New Zealanders, for New Zealanders in an ambitious crowd-funding campaign, before taking a short stroll up to the lodge for a lovely lunch overlooking the lush native bush that surrounds you.
One cannot head into the park without enjoying some of the stunning Abel Tasman Coast Track, designated a ‘Great Walk’ by the Department of Conservation. Whilst not possible to travel its length in a day, the fact that the park is so accessible means that you can easily spend a couple of hours walking from bay to bay, and then just hop on board a cruise to take you back to the start of the park. Stay overnight at one of the beachfront apartments, or pitch a tent at one of the holiday parks, making sure to watch from the waters edge as the sun retreats into the horizon, painting the sky in dusky purple hues.
Day 3 and 4 - Takaka & Golden Bay OR Murchison
Takaka & Golden Bay
A two hour drive over the Takaka Hill will take you to the place we like to call ‘the bay of endless discoveries’. Home to a number of hidden gems, today is the day to start discovering some of them. First stop is Te Waikoropupu Springs, the largest coldwater springs in the southern hemisphere, containing some of the clearest water ever measured. With a visual clarity close to that of distilled water, the springs are considered a sacred place by local iwi, and are very highly protected.
One can’t pass through Golden Bay without stopping off for lunch at The Mussel Inn. Filled to the roof with its own unique sense of character, it’s hard not to fall in love with the rustic wool-shed, open fireplace, delicious comfort food and selection of artisan beverages on offer here.
Next on the list for the afternoon’s adventures is a trek across the Puponga farm tracks to Wharariki Beach (make sure you check the tides before you go – the beach is best visited two hours either side of low tide). Here you’ll find the magnificent arches and landforms that tower over the bay, eroded over the years by the wild western seas.
An overnight stay at Adrift Beachfront Cottages, or Zatori Retreat will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalised, ready for a journey out along the Spit the following day. Farewell Spit is a bird sanctuary and wetland of international importance, home to over 90 species of migratory birds. Stretching a whopping 35km, a trip with Farewell Spit Tours will take you on a journey of discovery across the full length of the spit, from the towering sand dunes to the historic lighthouse, to the gannet colony and Cape Farewell, ending your trip on a high at the northernmost point of the South Island.
Heading south on State Highway 6 for approximately two hours will bring you to Murchison, a town known for its rural charm and natural beauty.
With rivers everywhere, Murchison is known as the ‘white-water capital’ of the country, so what better way to start your adventure here than with a mind-blowing 40 minutes of pure thrill on board the Buller Canyon Jet? As you plunge through the rapids of the spectacular scenic reserve at 85/km per hour, you’ll understand why Murchison is an adventure seekers paradise. Next, experience the canyon from a different perspective by crossing New Zealand’s longest swingbridge (or zipping across it on the Comet Line).
The next day, travel back up SH6 toward Nelson, turning right at the historic rest stop of Kawatiri and taking a detour to the alpine village of St Arnaud. Here you’ll get a glimpse at another of our regions three national parks. The Nelson Lakes National Park is home to over 16 lakes, and although most are only accessible on a multi-day hike, the jetty and short walks that surround Lake Rotoiti are popular with day-trippers. The glacial lake sits at the base of a stunning mountainous backdrop, and is surrounded by lush native bush, making for a truly picture-perfect setting.
Day 5 - Relax & Unwind
For your fifth day in our stunning region, it’s time to relax and unwind enjoying some of the extraordinary seafood, wine and hospitality you’ll find here.
Depending on how active you feel like being, both self-drive and cycle options will take you on a tiki-tour of some of Nelson Tasman’s foodie hotspots. Hiring a bike from the Nelson Airport, you can head off on a journey around the Great Taste Trail, which will land you at Rabbit Island – the key connecting point between the beach and the seaside village of Mapua.
The Mapua Wharf is the perfect place to spend your afternoon, browsing the cool-store art galleries and gift shops and going for a swim off the jetty before ending the day with a tasting platter of beverages at the wine bar, delicious fine dining at the waterfront restaurants, or some fish and chips on the beach. If driving, you may choose to stop off here for a short while, then continue on via the Moutere Highway to the historic village of Upper Moutere.
Here, amongst rolling hills and lush valleys you’ll find an array of passionate artisan producers, and an abundance of locally produced delicacies to tantalise your tastebuds; cider, chutneys, sheeps cheese, mushrooms and olive oil to name a few. End the day with a cold brew at the Moutere Inn – New Zealand’s oldest pub and a pub that stays true to its roots, serving up a range of locally produced wines, beers and ciders.