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Why Nelson Tasman Is New Zealand’s Best Destination For Adventurous Nature Lovers

Why Nelson Tasman Is New Zealand’s Best Destination For Adventurous Nature Lovers

Nelson Tasman may not be on every traveller’s radar, but spend a bit of time there and you’ll quickly wonder why.

An unassuming region near the town of Nelson at the northern tip of New Zealand‘s South Island, it boasts easily accessible national parks of sublime beauty that also happen to be some of the country’s sunniest locations.

Explore a bit further and you’ll discover incredible hiking, canyoning and mountain biking, as well as a unique way to see the North and South Islands at once. Plus, because most of the country’s hops are grown here, you can end each day with a fresh local brew. In fact, just about the only thing missing is the crowds.

Here are some of the best ways to explore this incredible natural playground.

Get a bird’s eye view

Adventure sports are everywhere in the land of the long white cloud. There’s no shortage of spectacular spots to go skydiving, but this is the only one that lets you see both islands at once.

Head up with Skydive Abel Tasman and watch green rows of hops fade into a lush patchwork as you slowly gain altitude. Ridgetop roads on thickly forested slopes start looking like veins feeding small towns along the coast, as broad arches of golden sand frame perfect turquoise bays. Look to the north and you’ll see Mt Taranaki poking its head above the clouds like an island in a sea of white.

It’s a jaw-droppingly gorgeous view, and one worth savouring on the way up because the descent doesn’t last nearly as long: from 13,500 metres, the freefall lasts just under a minute.

Visit The Sacred Coast

Abel Tasman NP is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but one of the most popular thanks to its accessibility and beauty.

Gorgeous aquamarine waters lap at beaches of deep yellow sand overlooked by steep, densely forested slopes. The tropical paradise vibes are only enhanced by the fact the region gets more sunshine than Fiji. Spend some time here and you’ll quickly see why early Maori arrivals christened it Te Tai Tapu (The Sacred Coast).

Tackle the 60 km Abel Tasman Coast Track and you’ll pass beneath limestone cliffs, through thick native bush and across secluded beaches that make it the most popular of NZ’s iconic Great Walks. Or take it easy on a boat tour that visits sheltered bays, gorgeous patches of rainforest and rocky islets that preserve important colonies of seabirds, seals and penguins.

If you somehow get sick of the beaches, you can spend an entire day jumping, sliding and abseiling down waterfalls in a remote canyon surrounded by pristine rainforest, before being rocked to sleep by gentle swells below a floating backpackers hostel.

Get on your bike

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Recognised as one of only six Gold Ride Centres in the world by the International Mountain Biking Association, Nelson Tasman has more than its fair share of great rides. From May to November, the 78 km Heaphy Track is a dual-use track with legendary backcountry biking through lush beech forest, exposed tussock plains and rocky outcrops.

If you’ve only got a day, the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park has 25 trails overlooking a gorgeous beach that’s perfect for a post-ride cooldown. Or you can tackle the significantly easier Great Taste Trail, which follows country lanes and coastal paths as it loops between vineyards, breweries, art galleries and roadside stalls where you can order deliciously fresh fish and chips.

Grab a drink

The plentiful sunshine and rainfall that help these lush rainforests to thrive also make it an ideal place to grow hops.

Take a drive of any length through the region and you’ll pass field after field of neatly trellised vines. Much sought after across the country and internationally, these aromatic crops are at their best when they’re fresh.

Local brewers put them to good use in a bewildering range of IPAs, APAs, RIPAs and NZ IPAs. The Nelson Craft Beer Trail links the best producers but if you’ve only got time for one stop make it The Free House, a sensational pub in an old church that showcases the region’s finest drops.

(Lead image: Instagram / @skydiveabeltasman)

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