Exploring Nelson & Abel Tasman

Split Apple Rock | Image: Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle

Exploring Nelson & Abel Tasman

There’s so much on offer in Nelson and the Abel Tasman that it can be hard to know where to start! There are plenty of ways to explore the region’s magnificent coasts, and much to discover in the urban centres of charming Nelson or quirky Takaka. The good news is that if you’re overwhelmed by options, a simple afternoon on a gorgeous golden sand beach is always a valid option!

Do & Discover

Rich in history, Nelson and Abel Tasman are artistic and creative hotspots on the New Zealand scene. Get your fix at Founders Heritage ParkHöglund Art Glass Studio & Gallery in Appleby, The Nelson Provincial MuseumThe Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatu and the world-renowned World of WearableArt™ and Classic Cars Museum. Sample the bounty of this region's prolific offerings at one of the region's many wineries – Neudorf Vineyards is a good place to start. You can also combine the best of both worlds on a tour with Wine, Art & Wilderness, or catch and cook your lunch at Anatoki Salmon in Takaka. Thrill seekers and outdoor explorers are well catered for. Enjoy an on-the-water adventure with Abel Tasman KayaksGolden Bay KayaksCable Bay Kayaks, via jet boating with Buller Canyon Jet in Murchison, or by setting sail with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures. Those preferring to stay dry can join a guided walk with Nelson's Southern Wilderness, and Kahurangi Guided Walks in Takaka. Explore the region on two wheels with Biking Nelson or on four legs with Cape Farewell Horse Treks. Experience views from the top in Motueka with Skydive Abel Tasman and Tasman Helicopters.

Exploring Farewell Spit: You’ll feel like you’re travelling to the end of the earth on a four-wheel-drive tour of Farewell Spit – the longest natural sandbar in the world stretches 35 kilometres into the ocean. The spit is a bird sanctuary and during summer months it is home to thousands of migratory birds. More than 90 bird species have been observed here. Explore with Farewell Spit Tours.
Kahurangi National Park: South of Golden Bay is Kahurangi National Park. Established in 1996, it covers 452,900 hectares, making it New Zealand’s second-largest national park. It protects a diverse range of landscapes from coastal forest to alpine meadows, and contains numerous hiking trails including the Heaphy Track. Walking the 78-kilometre trail to the West Coast takes four to six days.

Shopping & Style

The Nelson and Abel Tasman region abounds with artists and craftspeople, and their output ranges from the quirky to the exquisite. Worth a visit are Cool Store Gallery in Mapua, Nelson creators of The Lord of the Rings ring Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith and Richmond Mall.

Food & Drink

Dining establishments in this region range from cosmopolitan sophistication to small-town charm and rural character. There’s good news too for hopheads, with the region producing an extensive range of excellent craft beers. Cafés to try in Nelson include Lambretta’s, Morrison Street Café and The Swedish Bakery & Café. Founders Organic Café & Brewery is the home of Founders Brewery, Australasia’s first certified organic brewery, and uses organic, local and fresh ingredients. In Motueka, favourites include The Red Beret, with excellent cuisine served in a casual and character-filled dining room. Cafés to try in Golden Bay are Dangerous Kitchen and The Penguin Café & Bar. For good dining options in Nelson, try Boat Shed Café, with its over-the-water setting in an ambient old building. Other options include Hopgood’s. Offerings available in Abel Tasman include international cuisine at Jester House or The Park Café. Community pubs are the order of the day in Golden Bay. Try Telegraph Hotel or The Mussel Inn for a rustic spot serving house-brewed beer. Not ready for bed just yet? Stop for a drink at Nelson's Liquid NZ Bar, The Free House or The Sprig & Fern Tavern, or The Honest Lawyer Country Pub, a very popular English-style pub right on the Waimea Estuary.


Nelson and the Abel Tasman are particularly backpacker-friendly areas of New Zealand, but if you’re looking for extensive facilities and a little bit of pampering instead, there are options for you as well. Stretch your dollar at Accents Nelson backpackers, Paradiso Backpackers, Mapua Leisure Park, and Tahuna Beach Holiday Park. For motel options try Bella Vista Motel Nelson and Saxton Lodge Motel, while popular hotels include Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco and Rutherford Hotel Nelson. Enjoy the B&B facilities at Oakdene Homestay B&B, or self-sufficiency at Villa 10 Waterfront Apartments. In Abel Tasman, AquapackersEden’s Edge Lodge and Kaiteriteri Beach Lodge are all good backpacking choices, as is the Kaiteriteri Beach Motor Camp. If motels are more your thing, try Abel Tasman LodgeAbel Tasman Motel Motueka and Equestrian Lodge Motels for a good night's sleep. Home comforts can be found at Bellbird Lodge and Rowan Cottage B&B, and for those looking for more than a touch of luxury, The Resurgence awaits. Budget accommodation is plentiful in Golden Bay; try Kiwiana Backpackers, Somerset House and The Innlet backpackers or Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. For motel lodgings try Anatoki Lodge Motel, while those chasing an inclusive breakfast should visit Sans Souci Inn and The Shady Rest B&Bs.

Local Knowledge

Nelson Airport is 15 minutes from town, with domestic flights to Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. The nearest international airports are in Wellington and Christchurch. Travelling by road? Nelson is 5 hours, 30 minutes from Christchurch and 2 hours from Picton via Queen Charlotte Drive. Regular coach services run to and from the region, while Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle offers a convenient mode of transport into Abel Tasman National Park. For on-the-ground information visit Nelson i-SITE at 77 Trafalgar Street, Motueka i-SITE, 20 Wallace Street, or Golden Bay i-SITE on Willow Street.

What's Hot New Zealand Newsletter

Stay in the loop with all the latest food, fashion, trends, events and more. Delivered hot to your inbox every month.