Nelson Tasman is known for its stunning and swooping natural landscapes that are quite literally guaranteed to take your breath away. A place of natural abundance, it’s the perfect destination to kick back and relax with a glass of local Pinot, admiring the rolling hills and picturesque plains that surround you. Then there’s the Abel Tasman, the regions golden national park, where crystal clear waters, secluded bays and lush native forest are just waiting to be explored. But what most people don’t know is that Nelson Tasman is also an adrenaline junkies’ dream location. From canyoning in pristine water environments to freefalling over the North and South Islands, the region has everything you need to kickstart your Top of the South adventure. So, whether you’re craving some thrills and spills this Autumn, or simply just want to take it easy, Nelson Tasman is a versatile paradise that welcomes everyone with open arms.
Without further ado, let’s get planning your trip, shall we?
Kayak the extraordinary coastline
The Nelson Tasman region is one of few places in New Zealand where only a few degrees separate a blazing hot summer from a pleasantly warm autumn, meaning that the departure of the festive season doesn’t stop locals and visitors from enjoying the raft of water-based activities on offer. In fact, the fall season brings calmer seas and more settled weather, which is perfect for kayaking, paddleboarding and even swimming. Glide along the crystal-clear coastline from the comfort of your kayak, exploring the Abel Tasman’s secluded bays and golden sandy beaches, discovering hidden coves and arches and watching on as the resident seals and dolphins play in the coastal waters. There are endless discoveries to be made, but if you don’t know where to start then why not try a guided tour from Kaiteriteri or Marahau, or for something a little different, paddle into the park from the Northern end, exploring the Tata Islands along the way, or hop on board a waka for a group journey out to Split Apple Rock.
Get hoppy in the craft brewing capital of New Zealand
Jumping out of planes and abseiling down waterfalls is thirsty work, so it’s lucky that the region is known as the Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand and has been named the Top Cider City in the world by National Geographic. It also has a great selection of flavoursome wines from the boutique and family-owned wineries in The Moutere Hills and Waimea Plains. You can even meet and greet the winemakers at their cellar doors and indulge in some delicious local cuisine at one of the vineyard cafes. And if wine isn’t your tipple of choice, then it’s easy to spend the day exploring and sampling delicious craft beers at McCashins Brewery or relaxing at one of the much-loved Sprig and Fern taverns. You can also plan your trip around one of the annual festivals which celebrate and showcase Nelson Tasman’s talented artisan producers. MarchFest and Beer Week are just around the corner, making Autumn the perfect time to sample some delicious craft brews, including those never-before-tasted-ones that are crafted especially for the event!
Visit the local artisans
From the city through to the bay, Nelson Tasman is home to one of the highest numbers of working artists and galleries in the country. So it’s no surprise that a visit to Nelson Tasman just wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the artistic essence of the region. The weekly markets offer the perfect opportunity to indulge in delicious artisan products, from world famous peanut butter to delicious boysenberry jelly, whilst the nearby National WOW Museum will leave you in awe of an extraordinary collection of over 60 wearable art garments. The world’s only wearable art museum showcases designs from the annual World of WearableArt event, alongside more than 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars, offering a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
An adventure seekers paradise
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Constantly chasing your next fix of adventure? Well explorers at the ready, because Nelson Tasman is the ultimate adventure seekers paradise. Picture this - canyoning, abseiling, ziplining and skydiving are all only a hop, skip and a jump away, and what better place to step out of your comfort zone than in the pristine Abel Tasman National Park? Bring out your inner Tarzan as you slide down waterfalls, zip through unspoilt rainforest and soar through the clear blue skies. And, if that’s not getting your heart pumping then take a drive to Murchison for some epic thrills and spills in the countries white-water capital, rafting and jetboating through the majestic Buller Canyon. Still not enough? Head to Cable Bay Adventure Park and ride the world’s longest flying fox, join a quad bike tour, or trek into the treetops on horseback. All of this, whilst being surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery, can it get any better?
Explore the Abel Tasman National Park
Although the Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park, it doesn’t take long for visitors to realise why it is the most popular. This extraordinary national park is home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, a coastal track that blends stunning seaside scenery with gorgeous golden sands and a lush native forest. But if walking isn’t your idea of fun, there are plenty of options to fly over sculptured granite cliffs or cruise secluded bays, all whilst admiring the local wildlife. Can’t decide? Many local businesses offer scenic cruise, kayak and walk combos, so you can get a taste of everything that the Abel Tasman has to offer. Be sure to include a walk north to Bark Bay from Torrent Bay or Anchorage, so that you can experience the majestic beauty of Falls River from the 47-metre long suspension bridge.
Cycle Tasman’s Great Taste Trail
Nothing quite compares to a scenic bike ride, especially with autumn leaves crunching underfoot and the vibrant green vines of a successful vintage passing you by. The Great Taste Trail is Nelson Tasman’s destination cycle route, offering a ‘taste’ of everything the extraordinary region has to offer. The 172km trail leads cyclists to an array of different attractions from vineyards to craft breweries, and art galleries to boutique shops, all wrapped up in the glorious Nelson Tasman sun. Sure, 172km sounds daunting. But there are plenty of ways to break the trail down for a leisurely morning ride, with each route equally as stunning as the other.
Our suggested route would be to venture out from the seaside village of Monaco, where after a relaxing nights sleep at the Grand Mercure, Nelson Cycle Hire will have your bikes waiting for you just downstairs. You’ll weave in and around the Waimea Estuary, taking in the picturesque views then detouring slightly down the road to Hoglund Art Glass, one of very few places around the work skilled in creating freeform glass art designs using the complex Graal technique. Arriving at Rabbit Island, you’ll hop on the cycle ferry over to the Mapua Wharf to enjoy seaside dining, cool off in the water or explore some of the cool-store galleries.
Say Farewell to Nelson Tasman at Farewell Spit
This incredible sandspit is surrounded by open sea on one side and sheltered waters on the other. Stretching 34km long, Farewell Spit is one of the longest natural sandspits in the world, and offers endless hours of discovery for enthusiastic visitors. The ultimate spot for wildlife observation, the bird sanctuary that was established in the 1930’s is now home to over 90 wetland and migratory bird species, including its own gannet colony. Cruise around the spit in style in a 4WD with Farewell Spit Tours, take a trip to Cape Farewell - the northernmost point of the South Island, cast your eyes on the historic lighthouse, and if you’re lucky you might even spot some seal pups. Whilst your exploring the area, you can also visit Te Waikoropupu Springs, the largest coldwater springs in the Southern Hemisphere, home to some of the clearest water ever measured, or horse trek along the wild and wonderful Wharariki Beach.
An extraordinary weekend escape is quite literally on your front doorstep. Leisurely cycle rides, artisan markets, stunning golden beaches, wineries, craft breweries, curious wildlife, festivals, events and heart-pumping outdoor adventures, all wrapped up in stunning natural landscapes and glorious autumn sun. Only a short and scenic plane ride from Auckland, a raft of exciting experiences await in the Top of the South, so if you’re thinking of a cheeky weekend vacation, there’s no better place than Nelson Tasman this Autumn.