Discover Nelson Tasman in Autumn
Nelson Tasman is home to some of the most surreal natural landscapes New Zealand has to offer. Located at the top of the South Island, this corner of Aotearoa has a unique combination of luscious bushland and stunning ocean coastlines.
From dense forest hikes over rolling hills to beaches and coves scattered along the coastline, it’s an escape from fast-paced city life, as well as the chance to create new memories. Whatever you’re after, Nelson has something for everyone.
Abel Tasman National Park.
Stretched across 225 square kilometres (89.9 square miles) of landscape, Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park. But don't let that fool you – this incredible wonder offers an array of activities for travellers.
The sheer amount of things to do is what gives this destination the perfect balance between relaxation and adventure. And while summer is typically the most popular, Nelson locals believe that spring and autumn are the best times to explore the Abel Tasman. The shoulder seasons are full of crisp, clear mornings, glassy waters and remote untouched beaches, giving you the chance to soak in the serenity of your surroundings.
Choose to navigate the park from water, land, or if you're game – up in the air. Tour experiences include cruises, water taxi services, kayaking, sailing and helicopter rides. Spend the morning hiking through luscious green tracks, or dip your toes in the golden beaches and bays that complement the coastline. No matter what you're into, the Abel Tasman has something for everyone. Read on for our favourite things to do.
Walk the Abel Tasman National Park Coast Track
Nature-obsessed? When it comes to fantastic scenery and ocean views, you can't beat the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This family-friendly coastal route is often referred to as Nelson's nature highlight reel, showcasing some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery.
The track is 60 km long and takes 3-5 days to complete. We'd recommend starting from the seaside village of Marahau, Wainui Bay. Feeling uneasy at the thought of a 60km walk? No problem, you can choose to take a water taxi, kayak or helicopter between destinations. Water transport options can be customised, allowing you to explore the Abel Tasman park at your leisure.
If you plan on walking the entire track, we'd recommend booking accommodation well beforehand. There are a total of 18 camp-sites and four huts along the coastal track, so lock in a date, then secure a spot.
Abel Tasman kayak tours.
When you think of the Abel Tasman National Park, kayaks probably come to mind. That's because Nelson's high sunshine hours mean kayaking is the perfect way to explore the Abel Tasman.
A calming paddle will take you across relaxing coves, white-sand beaches, lagoons and secret island inlets – showcasing the incredible wildlife and native forest fringe from a different perspective. Expect to see baby seals, sea birds and even pods of dolphins if you're lucky. Choose from one of many Abel Tasman Kayak tours, which start at just $30.
It's not just hiking and kayaks though, Nelson's been given 'Gold Ride' status, as voted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Being one of only six in the world, it's well and truly a mecca for riding enthusiasts right across the globe. Check out the trails here.
Grab a bite to eat at one of Nelson's delicious restaurants.
Love wining and dining? So does Nelson. Foodies will feel right at home exploring the bustling food scene. With an array of restaurants, bars and cafes, there's no shortage of places to grab a bite. Nelson's picturesque landscape, paired with the overwhelming amount of high-quality establishments, creates the perfect dining experience.
It's also the craft brewing capital of New Zealand – and a top contender for the best cider city, globally. A lively, year-round calendar means you'll never be short of places to find a brew.
Brightwater Wine and Food Festival, Cider Festival, Beer Week and MarchFest all take place annually – bringing together local producers and masters in handcrafted beverages.
Fancy a wine? You could spend a day basking in the sunshine at one of Nelson's incredible wineries. Home to some of the most stunning backdrops New Zealand has to offer. You'll want plenty of time to soak it all in. Explore from the Waimea Plains to the famous Moutere Hills. Or taste your way through their delicious Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc options.
The region also hosts several internationally recognised restaurants, cafes and bars – a majority of which carry seasonal, locally sourced produce. All in all, Nelson has everything from fine dining on the water's edge to more relaxed, classic Kiwi comfort food in the city. So rest assured, even the fussiest of eaters will have options.
Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery is a great place to experience authentic Nelson dining. Located on Hardy Street, the seafood restaurant and bar offers unique harbourside views, calming birdlife and a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
The Kung Pao Popcorn Chicken and Tempura Oysters are among crowd favourites. Pair this with one of their craft tap beers, and you can't go wrong. The unique menu, helpful staff and uplifting energy all play a part in making Urban Oyster the number one ranked restaurant in Nelson. Need we say more?
Discover nature with Farewell Spit.
Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is a remote bird sanctuary and wetland of international recognition and importance - making it more heavily protected than other national parks.
This hotspot, boasting warm sunshine year-round and incredible nature, is roughly 35km long. Access for the public is limited to the first 4km – and although this doesn't sound like much, it's home to a world-renowned bird sanctuary, which dates back to the 1930s. With over 90 bird species, it's well worth adding to your to-do-list.
Matching the beautiful golden hues that bring the sand stretch to life, stands Farewell Spit lighthouse. Initially built in 1869, a group of Macrocarpa pines keep it protected from intense shifting sands – and double as a daytime landmark for ships.
With the wide-open ocean on one side and sheltered calm waters on the other, Farewell Spit showcases the unique balance of nature that you'll find scattered throughout the region of Nelson. You'll have the most fun exploring the Farewell Spit in a 4WD safari. An experienced tour guide will take you over rough terrain, with salt and sand spraying everywhere. The local guides love nothing more than sharing knowledge about the surrounding landscapes – and will be happy to answer any burning questions.
Pick Interislander for your next Nelson trip.
Planning your Nelson escape? Combine convenience with comfort by travelling on the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry. Load up the car, drive on and enjoy everything that's on offer. The viewing decks are a great way to spruce up your Instagram feed, with photos of New Zealand's beautiful backdrop. Or if you'd like to stay indoors, tuck into a delicious meal from the comfort of your seat, or catch a flick in the cinema. The choice is yours.
If you'd like to add extra comfort to your journey, you could kick back in the Plus Lounge. With relaxing armchairs, a hot buffet and fresh tea and coffee on tap, it's a great way to unwind. Simply add it to your booking.
So what are you waiting for? An Interislander Ferry journey is the perfect way to get your car from North to South. And with so much to enjoy onboard, you'll be rejuvenated and ready for the other side.