Perhaps the biggest challenge of travelling in New Zealand is inventing a whole new set of superlatives to describe the places and sights you see. Every turn in the road introduces you to, ‘the most beautiful place you have ever seen’. A recent trip to the Abel Tasman and Golden Bay regions truly proved that point to me. While we wandered along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of the Department of Conservation’s Great Walks, we were left dumbfounded by the rich golden beaches, the aquamarine waters and the cool forest which surrounded us. While pictures don’t really do the landscape justice, that didn’t stop us from continually pulling our cameras from our bags trying to capture its magic.
A trip to Abel Tasman is easily planned and encompasses far more than solely tramping in the park. While most tourists are drawn by the stupendously beautiful park, it would be a shame to miss out on the rest of the region’s attractions. Wine enthusiasts and foodies will be delighted by the vineyards and restaurants, while the jaw-dropping beaches and crystal clear waters will delight the kids and nature lovers alike.
The Abel Tasman Track is a favourite destination for foreign visitors. It’s easy to see why. The scenery is world class and the track itself is accessible to most fitness levels. You can chose to do the track over a few days or you can utilise the numerous (albeit expensive) water taxis which ply the area and allow for day trippers to enjoy the area as well. Just make sure to plan your transport before you head out, as boats do get full and may not always have room should you decided to head back early.
If you want to spend more than a day in the park you can book yourself into one of the many DOC campsites or huts, or if you prefer, you can stay at Peppers Awaroa Lodge (Awaroa Bay, Abel Tasman Park). The lodge is exquisitely located just off the expansive Awaroa Beach, nestled in amongst native wetlands. If you can, arrange to stay in one of the deluxe rooms which feature private balconies overlooking the bush.
If a few days of tramping have left you tired and aching, I can highly recommend staying at Kimi Ora Eco Resort (99 Martin Farm Road, Kaiteriteri). The resort is a superb place to rejuvenate yourself and features indoor and outdoor pools, spas, a sauna and steam room. There is also a wellness centre which offers massage and other spa services. Our room once again featured a balcony, which looked out across the beautiful view towards Kaiteriteri and the beach.
After spending a day at the absolutely spectacular Farewell Spit with its blindingly white sand dunes, we headed back toward Nelson and thankfully found last minute accommodation at the terrific Pohara Beachfront Motel (10 Tennyson Street, Pohara). This cute as a button motel is kept in tip-top shape by its welcoming staff and is the perfect place to bring the kids for a school holiday getaway. Just book well in advance however, as the motel is exceedingly popular. You cannot beat the location, as it is directly opposite the expansive sands of Pohara Beach.
If you are looking for something a bit more luxurious, look no further than the wonderful Ratanui Lodge (818 Abel Tasman drive, Pohara). This fabulous spot is currently rated amongst the top hotels in New Zealand according to Trip Advisor, and deservedly so. The immaculate grounds are delightful and the lodge is extraordinarily well run by the affable, host-with-the- most, Steve. The lodge also welcomes non-guests to come and dine in the restaurant, which offers delicious three course meals.
As you slowly drive back towards Nelson, definitely factor in enough time to visit at least a couple of wineries. Our new favourite is the terrific Neudorf Winery (138 Neudorf Road, Upper Moutere). Warm and knowledgeable staff guide you through the tastings of their exceedingly good wine, which you can then follow up with a glass (or bottle) in their lovely garden.
Winding up your long weekend, I heartily recommend the sublime Boat Shed Café (351 Wakefield Quay, Nelson) for a long lunch before you fly out. The café has perhaps one of the most stunning views you will find anywhere. Perched out over the water, the café has always been our destination of choice to finish off a trip to this most spectacular of regions. The food is terrific, the staff are great, and did I mention that view!?
Getting off the plane in Auckland, just over an hour after leaving Nelson, I felt truly rejuvenated. Abel Tasman has it all and it’s so easy to get to. Go ahead and book a flight to Nelson today. You won’t be sorry.