"Golden Beaches, Birds, Mountains and Orchards" Nelson/Tasman by Kakapo2

Nelson/Tasman Travel Guide: 281 reviews and 632 photos

The Abel Tasman National Park is the Heart of All

The orange-golden sands of Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park are the picture most visitors have on their mind when planning a trip to the Nelson/Tasman region. This contrast of the orangey coloured sand and the grey strangely sculptured granite rocks. But ithis is only a small piece of the region which in fact is very diverse.

But sure, those golden sands are a good reason to travel there as the climate at the northern end of the South Island is very mild - which is the reason why this area is rich of orchards and vineyards. (However, the main wine area is further east, in Marlborough).

The not so golden beaches east and west of the Abel Tasman National Park and the Golden Bay are not less beautiful, just different. Be it the beaches closer to Nelson, a lovely town with a large English population and a lot of German artists, or the lonesome beaches of and near the Farewell Spit, the world's longest sandbank. This, as you can imagine, is a bird paradise, populated with large flocks of native and migrating birds, infamous for the strandings of whales who do not find the way out of this U-shaped trap in the sea.

But the Nelson/Tasman region is not only sand, beaches and orchards. The western part is the gateway to the Kahurangi National Park and the start of the famous Heaphy Track, and south-west of Nelson is the Nelson Lakes National Park with peaks rising up to 2000 metres, and dark lakes shaped by glaciers. Parts of the park near Lake Rotoiti are not only a great place for hikers who can walk there for days, but also a bird paradise. This pocket of the park is kept predator-free, so rare birds including kaka, a wonderful parrot, are abundant.

The Birds

Although you will see ten thousands of sea and shore birds including gannets at the Farewell Spit the birds do not breed there. They are just visitors. This is different at the Nelson Lakes National Park where all kinds of endemic and native birds are breeding in the predator-free environment on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

A great place to watch birds are the wetlands north of Marahau, at the start of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track - but only at low tide. Then the waders and sea birds come to feed in the mudflats of the shore. Between Marahau and Kaiteriteri you can see a lot of shags (cormorants) nesting in the trees above the water.

Surprise, surprise: More than Beaches

As already mentioned, you do not only have beaches in this region. In the Nelson Lakes National Park you even find ski fields, the Rainbow Ski Area. The peaks are higher than 2000 metres.

If you are into skiing in a remote and not so famous area, you find more information on:


The list of other activities includes hiking, mountainbiking, kayaking, cruising, seal watch and swim, and you can also see whales and dolphins.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The birds, beaches and colours
  • Cons:The many artificial pine forests in the mountains
  • In a nutshell:Love the remoteness of the west and the colours of the Abel Tasman N.P.
  • Last visit to Nelson/Tasman: Nov 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (51)

Comments (4)

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    Feb 17, 2009 at 4:36 PM

    Very clear kayaking picture (hope the camera did not get wet!) Very nice pages...Norman :)

  • marsistanbul's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2008 at 9:27 AM

    r u still on the wrong foot:) 48tips and u're again out of top 5 Holy Mother Split Apple Rock photo.amazing..I want it for screen saver..cld u pls send it to me? veni vidi n I found an other hidden pages.Why u don't write to National Geographic? por qué ?

  • unaS's Profile Photo
    Aug 4, 2008 at 6:47 PM

    I'll certainly eat in a place like Lambretta's, Nelson, but I'll cook spaghetti on toast before I'll pay exorbitant prices for bad food or small portions! Same problem in Kaikoura - I bought in the supermarket and cooked at my hostel!

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jul 4, 2007 at 11:40 PM

    WOW, this would also be an area for me ! These golden beaches and lush green landscapes and the ferns... There are so many nice treks you describe, I would really like to add them to my hiking world album !

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