Sweat your way around the top of the south

If adventure’s your middle name, the top of the South is the perfect place to live up to it. Grab your bike, strap on your boots, jump in your kayak, tighten your harness and go!


There’s no better sign of an action-packed weekend than heading home with a few war wounds: sore muscles, a graze or two and maybe even a mud-splattered face. Just load up the car, set sail on the Interislander to Picton, and get ready for an epic weekend.

Car with bikes boarding Interislander

 Bike trails and bails

Person riding mountain bike in Nelson
Photo credit - Armin Wurmser and Tina Gerber

Nelson is jam-packed with mountain biking tracks for every level. Each of its six parks has its own distinct flavour; stick around one and get to know the runs intimately, or hustle it to pack a few into a day. Dun Mountain Trail is a particular gem. An epic one-dayer that’s home to one of NZ’s longest downhill rides, it’ll take things up a gear (literally).

 More cruisy riders should hit Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, stretching 175km along coastline, through wineries and skirting the edge of the Waimea Estuary. Do part of it in a day, or take a long weekend and tackle the whole four-day journey. There’s plenty of accommodation to stop at along the way. And did we mention those wineries?

Boots and all tramping

Couple at Abel Tasman
Photo credit - Fraser Clements

Two of NZ’s Great Walks are within an easy driving distance of Picton. With stunning scenery, cheeky birdlife (we’re looking at you, weka) and diverse terrain, both the Abel Tasman and Heaphy Tracks make for unforgettable tramps. Book a bed at one of the DOC huts along the way, or take a tent and wake up to the sound of weka scrounging for food right next to your head. Make sure to allow extra time to tackle all the side-missions along the way, too. Cleopatra’s Pool is one highlight just outside of Torrent Bay along the Abel Tasman. With a small natural rockslide, it’s the perfect place for a well-earned dip – albeit a slightly chilly one.

Kayak adventures

Launching Kayaks at Abel Tasman
Photo credit - Fraser Clements

Queen Charlotte Sound, Split Apple Rock and Kenepuru Sound are all places best experienced from the water. Guided kayak tours will give you an insight into the history of the region, or if you’ve had some experience with a paddle, go solo (with a buddy) and choose your own adventure.

 You’ll get a different vantage of theAbel Tasman by tackling it from the water, too. Kayak one leg (while a water taxi takes your bags) or really work those biceps by paddling the whole thing. You’ll also get one up on trampers by getting within a hair of Adele Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where you’ll hopefully spot seals and penguins, along with one of New Zealand’s rarest birds, the South Island Saddleback. Be warned though: the Mad Mile is a particularly stomach-churning (and aptly named) stretch of water on day one. Sea-Legs advised.

Brave the caves

The top of the South is a haven for cavers, with a hidden world ready and waiting to conquer. Abel Tasman Canyons in Motueka is made up of five different canyons you can zipline, abseil and slide through. Embrace getting wet, embrace the height, and embrace the darkness.

 Another must-do is nearby Harwoods Hole. As NZ’s deepest vertical shaft at 357m deep, it’s on every experienced caver’s bucket list. Or if your legs are turning to jelly just at the thought, the 45-minute walk to it is a less stomach-dropping alternative that will still take you right to its edge.

Beer o’clockCouple on Interislander

After a weekend jammed full of all the action you can muster, load up the car, head back on-board the comfy Interislander and bunker down with a well-earned brew in the on-board bar. You’ll have a bit of time to tend to those sore muscles and grazes, too.

 So what are you waiting for?  Dust off the bike, load up the car and head across the Cook Strait on Interislander for a South Island adventure!

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