Nelson, Golden Bay and Abel Tasman - 10 Days
Cycling in Tasman and Golden Bay’s most beautiful coastal and inland areas plus a scenic cruise, and 3 days of easy walking in lush native forest as well as kayaking on pristine bays with golden sandy beaches.
The Nelson Tasman region has so much to offer, from hundreds of arts and cultural venues, to fabulous restaurants, boutique breweries and wineries, lots of festivals and events (World of Wearable Arts was born here) and for those interested in the outdoors, the region boasts three national parks, numerous mountain bike tracks and has more sunshine hours than anywhere else in New Zealand.
The Nelson Tasman region has an enviable Mediterranean and sunny climate that allows visitors to explore and enjoy all year round.
Summer months have long sunny days with sunset around 8.30pm. Plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Three National Parks
Nelson Tasman is blessed with three national parks within its boundaries.
The popular Abel Tasman National Park entices visitors with its clear sheltered coastline, crystal clear turquoise waters and Tonga Island Marine Reserve and the Abel Tasman Coast Track - one of New Zealand’s “9 Great Walks”. Perrine Moncrieff, a Nelson conservationist, campaigned to have crown land made into a national park after she became concerned at the prospect of logging along the beautiful coast. Abel Tasman National Park was formally designated as a National Park in 1942.
Local operators and communities established the Birdsong Trust and Project Janszoon in the Abel Tasman National Park to support the sustainable approach of operating in such a protected and pristine environment.
The diverse landscape of the huge Kahurangi National Park, to the west of the region offers remote adventure in a unspoilt environment, including another of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”, the Heaphy Track.
Other natural landmarks of particular note are Farewell Spit, Te Waikoropupu Springs, Grove Scenic Reserve all in Golden Bay.
Nelson Lakes National Park to the south offers an alpine landscape with majestic mountains and lakeside walks and nearby Murchison is home to the regions white water rafting and jetboating.
Access to national parks is within a 90 minute drive from Nelson City or you can opt for a scenic helicopter flight and view the amazing landscape from the air.
Closer to the city is historic South Street and the Centre of New Zealand where a network of paths wind their way to a summit with views over Tasman Bay, towards Abel Tasman National Park and the mountains beyond.
For at least 500 years, Maori have lived along the Abel Tasman coast , gathering food and growing kumara.
Abel Tasman anchored his two ships near Wainui (Golden Bay), in1642. He lost four crew in a fight with the local maori, Ngati Tumatakokiri.
European settlement began around 1855. The settlers logged forests, built ships, quarried granite and fired the hillsides to create pasture.
For a time there was prosperity but soon the easy timber was gone and the hills were invaded by gorse and bracken. Little now remains of their enterprise and the ravaged landscape is slowly healing.
Flora and Fauna
Flora: Black beech covers the dry ridges and headlands, with hard beech where more moisture is available. Kanuka grows where there has been windfall fires. Manuka occurs where repeated burning has taken place.
Areas covered by the highest tides are salt marsh vegetation: rushes, glasswort and sea primrose.
Fauna: Bellbird, fantail, pigeon and tui are the main forest birds. Around the beaches, estuaries and wetlands, pukeko are common.
Wading birds prowl the estuaries, while, gannets, shags and terns can be seen diving offshore. Little penguins feed at sea and return to burrows on the park’s islands at night.
Fur seals are found along the coast of the park, particularly on the more remote granite headlands of Separation Point, Tonga Island and Pinnacle Island.
Food Wine & Beer
Nelson has a great range of quality restaurants, cafes and bars in the inner city, along the waterfront and at Tahunanui Beach. Nelson’s central business district is home to over 600 retail outlets so make sure you spend some time looking around the tree lined streets and quaint heart of the city.
The Tasman District is home to 28 boutique wineries, dotted across the picturesque hills and plains of the region’s wine growing country with inviting cellar doors and restaurants to sample award winning wines.
New Zealand’s hop crop thrives in ideal growing conditions under the Nelson Tasman sun. The region is also home to more craft breweries (11) per head of the population than anywhere else in the country.
Wine and craft beer enthusiasts will find the cellar doors of passionate winemakers and brewers open and foodies will discover fabulous produce and seafood as they dine among the vines, along the waterfront, in the heart of Nelson City, or you discover secret country cafés or the quaint seaside village of Mapua.
Festivals & Events
The Nelson region, with fine weather, stunning landscapes and bustling city life is the perfect setting for a range of exciting and vibrant events that occur year-round and make Nelson a fantastic place to live, work, play, stay and visit.
Jazz, opera, wine and craft beer events run from Jan-March and in winter and spring months a series of art, light, music and sport events unfold. Throughout the year, www.itson.co.nz is a comprehensive listing of concerts, performances, festivals, exhibitions, and sporting and community events in the Nelson Tasman region.
Come October the Nelson Tasman region offers even more enticing reasons to visit, discover and enjoy. The Nelson Arts Festival runs for 13 days of concerts and live music, more than 1500 artworks are on display/for sale at Art Expo Nelson, the latest must-see attraction at New Zealand Classic Motorcycles holds its doors open for enthusiasts, historians and art lovers alike, and there isn’t a better time to cycle the Tasman’s Great Taste Trail and sample the delicacies and delights of spring.
Arts & Culture
The Nelson Tasman region is steeped in Maori history and a pivotal place for European occupation in New Zealand. The region is the undisputed creative arts centre of New Zealand. This is where the World of WearableArt (WOW) event was born and the internationally acclaimed Hoglund Art Glass studio has been in operation for thirty years.
The Nelson Tasman region is home to a host of unique cultural experiences. European occupation goes back to the 14th century. There are eight indigenous iwi of Te Tau Ihu (across the Top of the South island covering the Nelson Tasman & Marlborough region): Ngati Apa ki te Ra To, Rangitane, Ngati Tama, Te Atiawa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Toa and Ngati Rarua.
The region takes pride in its early Maori history and the European birthplace of the nation was first recorded at Golden Bay in 1642. The Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman attempted to land but weighed anchor and sailed off after an unexpected altercation with local Maori resulted in four of his crew being killed.
The region is named after the Dutch Explorer, Abel Tasman and the English, Lord Horatio Nelson, Admiral of the Fleet of the successful Battle of Trafalgar off the coast of England between 1822-1824, against Napolean Bonaparte. It was many years later in the early 1840s when the first formal European settlement (English and German settlement) took place.
The region has over 300 working artists. Painters, sculptors, ceramic artists, potters, glass blowers, jewellers, writers and creators draw energy from the spectacular natural environment and create art and crafts that have a unique and personal signature attached to them. For an insight into the artistic culture of the region visit the Nelson Provincial Museum, Founders Heritage Park, South Street, Melrose House, Broadgreen House, Isel House and the many smaller museums across the region.
Hobbit Film Locations
The Nelson Tasman region is home to seven film locations covering the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit trilogies. Check out the sites in the LOTR and The Hobbit film location guidebooks.
Takaka Hill at Caanan Downs became Chetwood Forest in The Lord of the Rings, and where scenes for the Anduin Grasslands and Beorn’s House were filmed for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Mt Owen (Dimrill Dale) where the Fellowship hide from the crebain, Saruman’s black crows in the Fellowship of the Ring.
Mt Olympus (South of Rivendell) escape the Mines of Moira in the Fellowship of the Ring.
In West Golden Bay, Kaihoka Station featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Weatherhills in the scene where The Company arrives at a destroyed farmhouse. The location is on private land but can be visited with Cape Farewell Horse Treks.
Salisbury Falls and Aorere River was the film site where Tauriel & Legolas meet before heading into Lake-town in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The One Ring Jeweller, Jens Hansen were the designers of over 40 rings designed for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Pelorus River, half way between Blenheim and Nelson on State Highway 6 Sir Peter Jackson chose this recreational paradise – a river valley tucked into one corner of a forested conservation area – as the setting for the now famous ‘dwarves escaping in barrels’ scene.