Nelson Scenic Highlights
Nelson, New Zealand is a small pocket of paradise in the top north-west corner of the South Island of New Zealand. There are many amazing places to go in Nelson!
Nelson Scenic Highlights Overview
With mountains, valleys, river plains and all flavours of coastline, the Nelson region promises to keep you captivated. Point yourself in a different direction each day and discover a new view.
High sunshine hours, a relaxed atmosphere and a vast recreational playground—you won't want to leave Nelson! Start with the art and craft trail where the characters are as colourful as their vibrant works. 'The One Ring' was made by a Nelson jeweler and many local artisans worked on props for The Lord of the Rings movies. Drive over Takaka Hill (Chetwood Forest) for stunning views of Golden Bay and access to the famous Abel Tasman Coastal Track.
With three National Parks in the area, you'll be spoilt for choice for fun in the outdoors, even if it's just a picnic in the wilderness! Take a helicopter tour for a spectacular bird's eye view of the remote site where the Fellowship hid from Saruman's black crows, and Dimrill Dale (Mount Olympus and Mount Owen in Kahurangi National Park). At the end of the day, pop into Harrington's brewery in Richmond, makers of the stout served over the bar in The Prancing Pony!
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At Ease in the Abel Tasman National Park
There are three main gateways into Abel Tasman National Park—in the south is Marahau and Kaiteriteri, reached by road from Motueka, in the north is Totaranui, reached by road from Takaka in Golden Bay.
Abel Tasman is known for its glittering gold sand beaches, turquoise water and spectacular ocean views. A range of wildlife inhabits the area, including penguins, and there's a seal colony in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Regular launch and water taxis provide easy access to the Park from the water.
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track takes three to five days and can be undertaken with or without a guide. There are a number of accommodation facilities ranging from basic Department of Conservation huts and lodges to independently owned lodges with excellent facilities. Sea kayaking allows you to explore the coast from the water. Freedom camping is an option when over-nighting. Kayak rental operators are based at Marahau, Kaiteriteri and within the Park.
Hiking, Kayaking and Caving in the Kahurangi National Park
This park has 451,000 hectares of glaciated mountain ranges and rich forest—home to an exceptional variety of native plants and wildlife. There are more than 570 kilometres of tracks in the park. The best-known hiking trail is the Heaphy Track, a walk that takes four or five days from the Aorere Valley across to the northern West Coast and Karamea.
Remote, wild rivers are a feature of Kahurangi. Most are suitable for experienced kayakers only. Commercial rafting tours are available. The Karamea River is prized internationally for its trout fishing. Some of the deepest caves in the world have been found in Kahurangi—recommended only for experienced cavers.
There are many back country huts in the park. A wide variety of accommodation is available in the nearby towns, from backpackers to luxurious lodges.
The natural magic of Golden Bay
The road trip to Golden Bay is an extraordinary experience in itself—the highlight is a scenic drive over Takaka Hill, known as the marble mountain. There are well signposted lookouts along the way and the subterranean splendours of Harwoods Hole (176 metres deep) and the Ngarua Caves shouldn't be missed.
Near Takaka is Te Waikoropupu Springs, New Zealand's largest freshwater springs and a 'wahi tapu' (scared place) to the local Māori tribe. The easy walkways have interpretive panels.
Farewell Spit is as far as you can go. It's a bird sanctuary and wetland of international importance on a sand spit jutting into the Tasman Sea. You can walk on the base of the spit, and there are excellent 4WD safaris (based in Collingwood) along to the lighthouse and bird habitats.
Nearby Wharariki Beach is wild and beautiful—wind and waves have created massive rock and sand dune formations.
The alpine charms of Nelson Lakes National Park
The Nelson Lakes National Park protects the northern end of the Southern Alps. It offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small.
The gateway to the park is St Arnaud, a picturesque village just one and half hours drive from Nelson or Blenheim. Attractions and activities include walking around Lake Rotoiti, hiking the alpine trail to Lake Angelus and fly-fishing for brown and rainbow trout on lakes Rotoroa and Rotoiti. There are a number of good climbing routes suitable for experienced hikers and mountaineers. Back country huts in the park provide basic accommodation along the trails.
Useful Nelson Links
To help plan your Nelson holiday choose from the main categories below
- Nelson Accommodation
- Nelson Tours
- Nelson Attractions and Activities
- Nelson Transport
- Nelson Cusine and Dining
- Nelson Shopping
- Nelson Visitor Information
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Nelson Region Information
Key information and facts about the Nelson region.
Major activities and attractions in the Nelson region.