Slow Down & Savour, A 21-Day Itinerary

Take your time, go slow and see the sights at the perfect pace. Enjoy unique experiences and connect with nature every day. Fall in love with Nelson Tasman in ways that make you feel great while leaving a light footprint.

Perfect for visitors who love surprises, spontaneity and going slow, this three-week road trip takes in the highlights and lesser-known sights of Nelson, Motueka, Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay. If you don't have 21 days, just mix and match your favourite days.

A light footprint holiday, this itinerary makes the most of biking and hiking trails, kayaking, water taxis and shuttles so that every day is an adventure – with ample time to pause, explore freely and see more.

By basing yourself in four locations, driving is kept to a minimum. The eBus network between Nelson and Motueka is also an excellent way to get around, and it is made even easier with a Bee Card.

Suggested accommodation is in peaceful holiday parks offering grassy camping and campervan sites, cabins and self-contained apartments, but there are plenty of other options along the way.

Going slow is good for the soul, better for host communities, and lightens your environmental footprint. We hope you love the journey!


Trip overview

Days 1–7: Nelson, Māpua and around 

Days 8 –12 : Motueka, Kaiteriteri, and Abel Tasman National Park

Days 13–20:  Golden Bay


Arriving in Tasman Bay is a feast for the eyes and will whet your appetite for the adventures to come. Settle into Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park – an iconic Kiwi campground next to a wonderful coastal parkland – then head into the city by eBus or bike.

To get your bearings, make your way to the Cathedral at the top of Trafalgar Street then meander to the Free House Pub or one of many other great pubs or restaurants. As you make plans for the coming days, set aside Saturday morning for Nelson’s amazing weekly Market – one of New Zealand’s best.

Eddyline Brewery pizza

It’s easy to see how this Ngā Haerenga Great Ride got its name. Best explored by bike or ebike but with plenty of walking options, Tasman's Great Taste Trail is jam-packed with wineries, breweries and places to eat, alongside galleries and glorious Tasman region scenery. Excellent maps and signage make independent rides a breeze, but bike hire and guided and self-guided tours are offered by great local operators, including The Gentle Cycling Co, conveniently based at Tāhunanui Beach.

An easy half-day tour starts there, following the Tāhunanui trail, which winds through peaceful backwaters to join the Great Taste Trail at Stoke. Attractions along this section include two brewery bars – Eddyline and McCashin’s – as well as Pic’s Peanut Butter World (which offers fun, free tours) and the Nelson Classic Car Museum. Not biking? No worries! Many of these attractions can be visited by eBus and on foot.

Head into town by eBus, bike, or on foot to tootle around top attractions. Dig into history at the Nelson Provincial Museum, Pupuri Taonga O Te Tai Ao or Founders Heritage Park, where quaint old buildings and other displays present local stories amidst beautiful gardens and a cafe. City-centre shops offer satisfying browsing, too, with the line-up featuring indie bookshops, fashion boutiques and secondhand stores.

In the afternoon, get inspired at the Suter Art Gallery, and then chill out at the Queens Gardens next door. To get your blood pumping, hoof it up the Grampians or Centre of New Zealand walk for grand Tasman Bay views. Afterwards, relax over easy eats at Salvito’s Pizza or vegan East St Café.

Activities - Food, Wine & Beer at Mapua Wharf

Take in the sights and scenery of the sparkling Tasman Bay coast on a day trip out to Māpua, which can be reached via the Great Taste Trail, eBus (Mon–Fri only) or self-drive tour. Enjoy the salty air and birdlife of the beautiful Waimea Inlet on your way to Moturoa/Rabbit Island, a road-accessible recreation reserve with pine-sheltered picnic spots and epic swimming beach.

From there, a wee passenger and bike ferry offers transport to Māpua, a pedestrianised dining and shopping village alongside a historic wharf. (You can travel there by road if the ferry times don’t work for you.) Fish and chips followed by a beer at Golden Bear Brewing are worthy ways to while away a couple of hours before your return road journey or bike shuttle pick-up.

Set aside a second full day to linger around Nelson’s fringes, such as the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary conservation park or Maitai River pathway. The dam at the end of the Maitai Valley is the starting point of the Maitai Caves Walk, which features lovely native bush and limestone caves.

For an even lazier day, stick around Tāhunanui Beach to soak up some seaside holiday vibes. Hire a SUP from Moana Paddle Nelson, savour a real fruit ice cream, and pop into the Sprig & Fern Brewpub for yummy local beer and satisfying dude food.

Cable Bay Walkway Print Res taken by Oliver Weber credit www.nelsontasman.nz

Visit one of the region’s hidden gems, less than half an hour’s drive from downtown Nelson. A sleepy cove with a fascinating history and just a few residents, Rotokura/Cable Bay offers the simple pleasures of swimming, snorkelling and rock pooling within a coastal marine reserve. The cliff-top Cable Bay Walkway offers a good leg stretch, either return or one-way.

On the way to the bay, you’ll pass Cable Bay Adventure Park, home to mountain bike trails, a climbing wall, tame eels and an epic flying fox. It offers action times for all ages and persuasions, including spectators who prefer to park in the Base Cafe.

Test your nerves and night vision while wandering through the spooky Spooners Tunnel, the Southern Hemisphere’s longest disused railway tunnel. Re-opened as part of the Great Taste Trail, you can walk to it from nearby Norris Gully car park or bike there from Wakefield or other access points along the trail. (Gentle Cycling offers a shuttle drop at Kohatu for a 50km cross-country cruise back to Nelson via Wakefield and Brightwater villages.)

If you’re self-driving, consider a detour to the pretty Upper Moutere village, where you’ll find a bunch of neat shops and the historic Moutere Inn, one of several contenders for New Zealand’s oldest pub.

Zappekin Artists Allies 5 credit Neat Places

Motueka makes an excellent second holiday stop, and although it’s just forty minutes away by road, savouring the scenery, art and local flavours will turn it into a memorable journey.

Sample local wines at family-owned Seifried Estate, home to the Harvest Kitchen restaurant showcasing seasonal flavours. Nearby, The Junction Shop is a delicatessen championing cheeses and other local goods. To indulge your artistic side, head to Höglund Art Glass and other studios and galleries along the Ruby Coast Arts Trail. In an old apple shed just shy of Motueka, pop into Zappekin art gallery during its summer opening season.

Just a ten-minute walk from town, Motueka’s large and leafy Top 10 Holiday Park is a great base for the coming days. If your stay includes a Sunday, schedule a mooch around the Motueka Sunday Market – a great place to stock up in this fruitful growing area.

Kaiteriteri’s golden sand and waterside attractions make it the region’s ultimate glamour beach and divine place to laze away a day. It’s a 15-minute drive from Motueka, but you can also bike there via a particularly pretty stretch of Great Taste Trail. As well as passing cafes and produce stalls, the trail also takes in a cruisy bush track in Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park –  a fun place for singletrack riders of various abilities.

Kaiteriteri Beach offers superb swimming and boating, directly across from cafes and booking kiosks for Abel Tasman National Park trips. Several short walks include Withell’s bush, Kaiteriteri Lookout and Kaka Pah Point, all boasting glorious views.

Great Taste Trail Janie Seddon credit Virginia Woolf Photography 14

Whether you’re seeking a few essentials or just want to sift around, Motueka will satisfy. Its lively high street sports all sorts of good business, including cafes, craft galleries and secondhand stores, all within a ten-minute walk. The evening dining scene is diverse and includes another outpost of Sprig & Fern Brewery, complete with a sheltered courtyard and yummy burgers.

Explore the town’s quiet side by bike or on foot. Follow your nose out to the waterfront for the sandspit walkway and saltwater baths, or head to the picturesque airfield to watch the skydivers swoop in. Or perhaps it’s your time to take the leap?

Abel Tasman National Park is a day-trippers’ delight, thanks to a variety of tour operators and trip options, many of which depart from Kaiteriteri Beach. For a classic intro, check out Wilsons’ easy-as Cruise–Walk or add in some kayaking, a deservedly popular way to explore the park’s beaches and bays. For wind-assisted travel, see the sights by catamaran with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures.

For a different kind of adventure that takes you well and truly off the beaten track, check out Abel Tasman Canyons. They run unforgettable trips for water babies aged 12 and up, featuring easy abseiling, sliding, paddling and plunging through remarkable, hidden worlds.

riwaka resurgence gerald lim

From Motueka, it’s a 20-minute drive to the seaside settlement of Mārahau, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Allow a couple hours to noodle around the vast tidal beach and have a cuppa or a meal at Hooked on Marahau. You can extend your adventure around here by wandering along the Coastal Track.

On the way there or back, stop at Riwaka’s Ginger Dynamite Cafe, Riwaka Hotel or the Townshend Brewery Tap Room. Real fruit ice cream and produce stalls may also catch your eye, so arrive with an empty stomach and cash to pop in the honesty boxes.

A notable detour around here is Te Puna o Riuwaka, also known as the Riuwaka Resurgence. An ancient spring hidden deep in the bush, it’s an easy add-on to your day’s itinerary.

Get ready for quieter times over in Golden Bay/Mohua, where a week will hardly be enough. In go-slow mode you’ll hopefully have time to stop around the top of Tākaka Hill to see Harwoods Hole in Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve, or stretch your legs on the Tākaka Hill Walkway. Both offer an introduction to the area’s awesome geology.

Arriving in Tākaka, soak up some arty, alternative vibes and stock up on local goodies in Bacca Bakery and Dancing Sands Distillery if gin is your thing. Note the Saturday Village Market if your itinerary allows (Oct–May, 9am–1.30pm). Fifteen minutes drive away, Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park makes an excellent base to explore this end of the bay – you need only take a walk at sunset to see why.

Wainui Falls credit www.nelsontasman.nz

Relax for a day around Pohara Beach, which has plenty to see and do within a short walk or bike ride. Kick things off with swimming, beach walks and terrific fish and chips at Molly B’s cafe. Another great swimming spot, Tata Beach, is five kilometres away and is nicely shelved with a peaceful resort feel. Confident road riders will enjoy biking there despite the wee climb.

Another must-see around here is Wainui Falls, 8km further along the coast road from Tata Beach. Park your car or bike at the gate, and then enjoy the short bush walk to the impressive falls, noting the seductive swimming holes along the way. By the time you’re back at Pohara you’ll be in the perfect headspace to savour golden hour on the beach, followed by a spot of stargazing should the heavens allow.

Enjoy another laidback day locally, starting with a short trip to Tata Beach for a morning paddle with Golden Bay Kayaks, a small tour company run by passionate locals. Their cruisy trips take in a wonderful array of wildlife, coastal sights, and stories on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park. Do give in to the temptation to swim—it seldom gets better than this!

From Pohara, it’s a leisurely 4km return walk or cycle ride to Grove Scenic Reserve, where a walkway winds through a natural limestone maze. A little way beyond it is Rocks World vege stall, a reliable purveyor of local garden goodness. Back at Pohara, be sure to take a wander westward along the beachfront walkway. The delightful links-style golf course has clubs for hire if you’re keen.

Takaka Mural Wall taken by Oliver Weber credit www.nelsontasman.nz

By driving into town today you’ll have the option to add in some nearby detours, although cyclists may wish to note the roadside Pohara–Tākaka cycleway (18km return).

Fuel up in one of Tākaka’s many great cafes, such as De-lish Delicatessen, which boasts delicious home baking and local preserves. Now, for a spot of shopping, there is plenty to tickle your fancy whether it’s tie-dyed yoga pants, pottery, gallery arts or gifts. Retail therapy complete, you’ll be ready for a short excursion to Te Waikoropupū Springs walkway or Anatoki Salmon where you can catch yourself a fish.

The quintessential Golden Bay dinner spot is the Mussel Inn, 15 minutes’ drive from Tākaka, where kindly hosts serve honest food alongside their own brews. This rustic pub is also much loved for its packed summer gig schedule ranging from local poetry nights to foot-stomping dance bands. So, if you love live performance, check ahead.

Having explored out east, head westward for more Golden Bay goodness. Rich in natural and human history, Collingwood is well positioned for adventures further afield and sports Collingwood Holiday Park, one of several small, friendly campgrounds out this way.

The Aorere Centre is Collingwood’s teeny museum and offers a good introduction to the area’s history. Other attractions include the beach, estuary (with resident spoonbills), the historic cemetery, and nearby Milnthorpe Scenic Reserve.

Collingwood is home to Farewell Spit Tours, one of Aotearoa’s best nature tours. Book ahead for their tide- and weather-dependent trips, which take in this remarkable, remote duneland that takes coastal scenery to the extremes.

Looking out at Cape Farewell Web Res taken by Oliver Weber credit www.nelsontasman.nz

Although most of Farewell Spit is off-limits unless you’re on a tour, you’re welcome to explore its base and surrounding landscape on walkways (and the odd bike trail) through Pūponga Farm Park conservation reserve. The Triangle Flat car park offers access to the first few kilometres of the spit, or head up high on the Hill Top Track to Cape Farewell.

Nearby Wharariki Beach is every bit as awesome as they say, but if you’ve got more time consider venturing a little further to adjacent Green Hills Beach for a bit more solitude. On the way back to Collingwood, Pakawau’s Old School Cafe is a friendly spot for a drink or dinner after your after your Farewell foray.

The road inland from Collingwood will lead you up the Aorere, a rural river valley surrounded by bush-clad hills. An area once bustling with gold miners, it’s also the northern gateway to Kahurangi National Park.

Call into the historic Langford Store at Bainham for a slice of early settler life. Step back into a bygone era as you have coffee and cake, and perhaps purchase a locally made gift before continuing up the valley to Salisbury Falls, a pretty cascade with a sweet swimming hole. If you’re hankering for a tramp, head up the start of the Heaphy Track or venture around the Aorere Goldfields Loop back down the valley closer to Collingwood.

For an evening meal, Tinky’s Tavern in Collingwood offers a friendly welcome and a good value pub grub.

moutere inn 2

Collingwood to Nelson is a good two-hour drive, but try not to rush it, as there’s always more to explore. Another stop in Tākaka will give you a chance to pick up more Bracca bread or gifts from the galleries before heading back over the hill.

As you pass through Motueka, consider stopping at T.O.A.D Hall –  one of the region’s truly great cafes. The junction here leads off to the Moutere Highway, a delightful scenic route back to Nelson that takes you through pretty Upper Moutere – a must-visit if you haven’t made it there already. Its many attractions range from art, food and fabulous family-owned wineries. The Moutere Inn’s sun-drenched terrace is an excellent spot to toast your slow-motion journey and other adventures to come.

Sunset bean bags and Pepin Island credit Peak View Retreat

By now, you will have likely fallen in love with Nelson Tasman, as so many visitors have done before. And while three weeks will hardly have been enough, this place and its people will always be here, welcoming you on your return. Haere rā! 


 

This itinerary has been compiled, tried and tested by long-time Aotearoa New Zealand travel writers Lee Slater and Sarah Bennett who spend most of the year travelling in their caravan with bikes on the back. 

Take your time, go slow and see the sights at the perfect pace.

Enjoy unique experiences and connect with nature every day. Fall in love with Nelson Tasman in ways that make you feel great while leaving a light footprint. 

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