Nelson's nature is calling

Nelson, Tasman. A place that sees more sun than any other place in the country. Where you’ll find rugged coastal bush, golden beaches, wildlife roaming freely and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in New Zealand. Whether you’re a casual walker or a honed athlete, you can find adventure to suit your fitness level – so there’s nothing stopping you enjoying this stunning region.

Only got the weekend to spare? No worries. This list of things to do in Nelson Tasman will make you want to jump on the Interislander and tick them off your ‘been there, done that’ list. So read on and get into it.

Abel Tasman

Ride Tasman’s Great Taste Trail

If you’re into panoramic views, native birdlife and local cuisine, you’ll want to jump on Tasman’s Great Taste Trail – one of New Zealand’s great biking tracks.

Pick up a bike for roughly $40 a day from Trail Journeys Nelson then set off on the 175km trail loop between Nelson, Wakefield and Kaiteriteri. This easy ‘grade 2’ trail can be enjoyed over four days, but if you’ve only got the weekend to hit the tracks, you’ll want to pick one of the shorter rides. The 26km cycle from Mapua to Motueka takes you through vineyards and cafes, or the slightly steeper Norris Gully to Riwaka rewards you with some of New Zealand’s best beers once you hit Riwaka. Both rides will take 2-3 hours, so make sure you’re prepared.  

For more info on this track, including places to stay along the way, restaurants, details on bike hire, guided tours and more, click here.

Cycling around Abel Tasman

Cycling around Abel Tasman

Visit the Abel Tasman National Park

Famous for its golden beaches (check out the crowdfunded Awaroa beach), dramatic cliffs, coastal tracks and unique wildlife, the Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s smallest but most exciting national parks – so it’s a must for any adventurer or nature enthusiast. There’s a few ways to explore this Nelson Tasman treasure: by foot, bike, kayak or boat – so take your pick. 

Awaroa Beach

Awaroa Beach

Exploring on foot

Scenic walks aren’t hard to come by in the Abel Tasman National park, but with so many great ones to choose from, where do you start?  

The most popular amongst visitors is the Abel Tasman Costal Track – and for good reason. Home to some of the country’s most stunning scenery, this walk covers the best parts of Nelson Tasman. Choose to walk the full length (60km) over five days, or lock in a few hours to explore one of the shorter tracks, like the four-hour Marahau to Anchorage or the two-hour Awaroa to Whariwharangi Bay.

Wilsons Abel Tasman offers a number of different walking tours for all ages and fitness levels. So whether you want to explore for a half day, full day, overnight – or design your own walk – there’s something that’ll suit you. Plus if you do fancy spending the night, there are plenty of campsites and huts along this track – just head to the DOC site to make a booking. 

Hiking the Abel Tasman track

Hiking the Abel Tasman track

Discovering by water

It’s true when they say some of Nelson Tasman’s best views and hidden treasures can only be experienced by boat – or kayak. Fortunately, the Abel Tasman National Park is home to some great water sport companies. For a guided tour that’ll steer you to hidden beaches, native bird sanctuaries and blue lagoons, check out one of DOC’s recommendations like R&R kayaks. Or if you’d like to enjoy these views from the comfort of a boat, hop aboard one of the Abel Tasman Charters.

Abel Tasman Beach - Reid Helicopters

Abel Tasman Beach - Photo by Reid Helicopters

Adventuring on wheels

Abel Tasman’s Gibbs Track is a great choice for those wanting to kick into third gear. Its steep slopes and narrow tracks make it an intermediate level mountain bike ride – so not for the faint hearted. If time’s on your side and you’re here between May and October, choose the 23km loop (2-3 hours) that runs between Wainui and Gibbs Hill – you’ll be treated to some rewarding views at the top. Or for a shorter ride, the 9km route between Totaranui and Gibbs Hill takes you to the same breathtaking view points, in just over an hour. So hire yourself a bike and get into it.


Cycling around Abel Tasman

Catch your breath at Cable Bay

If there’s one spot to park up for your weekend in Nelson Tasman, it’s Cable Bay – located just twenty minutes from Nelson’s centre.

It’s home to Cable Bay Adventure Park – a company that’ll feed your appetite for adventure, with quad bike rides, the world’s longest flying fox, horse trekking and more. For water babies, the Horoirangi Marine Reserve at the southern end of Cable Bay is the place to go with the chance to snorkel, dive or kayak the boulder bank reefs.

If you’re looking for Nelson accommodation to retreat back to after the fun times have finished, the Cable Bay Holiday Park is an idyllic campground, perfect for full hearts and sore bodies!    

Tour Farewell Sand Spit 

For a slice of the South Island’s longest sand spit and stunning nature reserve, jump on the popular Farewell Spit tour. It’s a chance to soak up some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes and fascinating history – such as the Lighthouse based on the spit. The six-hour journey starts at Nelson’s hub and takes you to the northernmost point of the South Island – which few feet have reached!

Farewell Spit - Couple walking on sand dunes. Image credit: Eco Tours

Farewell Spit - Photo by Eco Tours

The world’s clearest water

Nelson Tasman is home to some of the world’s clearest water. And with views that don’t disappoint, you’ll want to fit at least one of the lakes or springs into your weekend. For a two-day journey on foot and a night in the woods, head to The Blue Lake ‘Rotomairewhenua’ (there’s visibility of up to 80 metres) which starts at the boundary of Nelson Lakes National Park. Or for a cruisy stroll that’ll have you gawking at stunning native bush and some of New Zealand’s rarest birdlife (kererū, tūī and pūkeko) take the thirty-minute loop track to the sacred Te Waikoropupu Springs. Either way, be sure to wear a solid pair of walking shoes.

The Blue Lake ‘Rotomairewhenua'

The Blue Lake ‘Rotomairewhenua’

Walk to the centre of New Zealand

We often hear the phrase, ‘from Cape Reinga to Bluff’…but did you know that Nelson is home to the very centre point of New Zealand? There’s even a walk dedicated to it – aptly named, the Centre of New Zealand Walk. Panoramic views, native bush and ‘the black swimming hole’ (don’t forget  your togs) are all things to enjoy along the journey of this one hour hike. 


Whether you’re after a weekend packed with adventure or a date with some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery, Nelson Tasman ticks the boxes. It’s home to incredible landscapes, action-packed adventure and some unique native wildlife. And with its location being just over an hour from the Picton terminal, it’s a short journey for those coming in on the Interislander ferry. So pick a weekend, get your Nelson accommodation sorted and we’ll see you there.