Nelson – Golden Beaches & National Parks
Gracing the top of the South Island on the northwest corner, Nelson’s beach culture fuses with a creative spirit that's generated by over 350 craftspeople and artists. Nelson revels in being the sunniest region in the country, offering a relaxing pace with alfresco cafés, exceptional vineyards, first-class restaurants, locally made gourmet foods and boutique breweries.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Nelson’s beautiful landscape is also a gateway to three national parks – Abel Tasman, Kahurangi & Nelson Lakes. Each very different from one another but all offering a heady mixture of spectacular beauty and outdoor adventure. Check out our accommodation guide for ideas on where to stay.
Nelson is packed full of galleries, artist studios, cafes and boutiques. Dine among the vines, along the waterfront or at a country café. In the city, you’ll find a good selection of restaurants providing the most spectacular views of Tasman Bay. There are wineries scattered around the Moutere Hills and the Waimea Plains. For those looking for something more adventurous there are thrilling activities like skydiving, rock climbing and 4WD biking throughout the region. There are also sailing charters, horse treks and plenty of water activities to enjoy at the excellent beaches.
Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its glistening golden sand beaches, marine wildlife, turquoise coloured water and astonishing rock formations. The coastal track is renowned as one of New Zealand’s great walks and can take anything from three to five days to complete. There are camps along the way ranging from independently owned lodges to basic Department of Conservation huts. You can also explore the coastline from the ocean on sea kayaks. Rental operators are located at Kaiteriteri, Awaroa and Marahau. There are three main gateways into the Abel Tasman National Park – Kaiteriteri and Marahau in the south and Totaranui in the north.
Kahurangi National Park
This park is a natural work of art and lives up to its name which when translated means ‘treasured possession’. Kahurangi is the second largest national park in New Zealand covering 452,002 hectares with over 570 kilometres of walking and tramping tracks to explore. It’s filled with tracts of untouched native forest, rugged mountain ranges, huge stretches of pristine coastline and endless glacier-carved valleys. Wild, remote rivers are a characteristic of Kahurangi, so great for trout fishing, experienced kayakers and rafters. Some of the world’s deepest cave systems can be found here, attracting experienced cavers. Kahurangi National Park is situated in the north-west corner of the Nelson region. Motueka, Takaka, Karamea and Murchison are the gateway towns.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park covers 102,000 hectares, filled with beech forests, isolated glacial lakes, valleys and jagged peaks. There are numerous walks varying in length starting from the campground, including a track that leads around Lake Rotoiti. A range of climbing routes awaits the more experienced mountaineers and hikers. Overnight huts in the park provide basic essential accommodation along the routes and trails. The gateway to the park is St Arnaud village, located one and half hours drive from Nelson or Blenheim.
A scenic drive over the Takaka Hill (known as Marble Mountain) all the way to Farewell Spit, takes you through Golden Bay’s west-coast beaches, farmlands, bush and natural wonders. Te Waikoropupu Springs (Pupu Springs), is New Zealand's largest freshwater spring and famous for the water clarity. It’s also a sacred and significant place for the local Maori tribe. Massive rock and sand dune formations have been created by the wind and waves at the beautiful Wharariki beach. These formations create a dramatic landscape to the islands and headlands that can be accessed at low tide. You may also get to see groups of seals playing in the rock pools.
All visitors staying overnight in the Abel Tasman National Park are required to book huts and campsites before entering the park.
Nelson Airport services over 80 flights a day from around New Zealand. The main operator is Air New Zealand, but a number of helicopter and light aircraft companies also operate from here. Charter services direct from Wellington, along with scenic flights, operate from the Motueka and Takaka airfields.
Nelson connects to the West Coast, Blenheim and Christchurch
with an infrastructure of good roads. There are also coaches operating into and around the region. Connected by bus with Picton, Nelson is also easily accessible by those travelling from the North Island on inter-island ferry