Nelson Tasman boasts an abundance of whānau-friendly activities and adventures, some hard to top! We have journeyed here via Interislander Ferry a total of 3 times and have yet to make a dent in what the region has to offer. Our friends at Nelson Tasman sent us on several epic adventures this trip, along with a few special stops of our own, our itinerary was stacked. Lots of thrills and lots of relaxation to cater for the entire fam-bam.
The Interislander Ferry for us has always been our preferred transport across the Cook Strait, there’s no better way. There are plenty of onboard happenings for every member of the whānau. Restaurants, a sports bar, several lounges and onboard cinema and an entire deck dedicated to children, fit with a playground.
Enroute – Interislander
Experience – Pelorus Bridge
We love a roadie! Mapping out our route is part of the fun. We aren’t too rigid with our itinerary and make it easily adjustable. This helps if we spontaneously decide to stay a bit longer or leave earlier than planned. We have learned this works better when travelling with kids. Our Nelson Tasman trip would start travelling straight through to Nelson, then across to Golden Bay, Abel Tasman and Nelson Lakes National Park.
There were lots of special stops in between, starting with the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, one of the last stands of river flat forest in Marlborough. If you have time don’t miss the many opportunities that the reserve offers. There are well-signed bush-walks of various grades. Walk alongside the river, bathe or enjoy the sunshine (or rain!). A great camping area and lots of parking. I haven’t eaten at the local cafe here, though it comes with great reviews.
Stay – Tāhuna Beach Park and Motel
Our first stop to recharge, Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park and Motel located 4.5 kilometres from Nelson city centre and bordering the beautiful sands of Tāhunanui Beach. The holiday park offers accommodation that suits all budgets – fit with unpowered campsites to cosy cabins to modern, fully self-contained motel units. Its prime position gives you direct access to the beach, playing fields and local beachside attractions and eateries.
Eat & Drink – The Workshop
I feel a sense of ‘magic‘, those ‘meant to be‘ vibes when asked to visit a spot that’s already high on our foodie bucket-list. (yes we have one of those). When we put The Workshop Nelson to the taste test, it did not disappoint. Yummy pizza and burgers and good beer with a focus on real ales. The bar is stocked with an extensive range of craft beers, ciders and wines, you certainly won’t go thirsty. I would say this spot is best suited for families with big kids, the legroom and common areas available are not suitable for young children. The industrial meets retro decor gives me serious Newtown, Sydney vibes. We really enjoyed ourselves here.
Experience – Mapua Wharf
While Nelson has a solid reputation for being ‘sunny’ there was quite a bit of down-pour and grey-out on our trip. I personally find something so wonderful about rainy travels, I feel so present. Maybe it’s the ethereal beauty of mist-shrouded landscapes and soaked cities? Who decided that rain is ‘bad’ and sunshine ‘good’ anyway?
Mapua Wharf is located by the stunning Waimea Estuary, just a short drive from Nelson, Richmond and Motueka. Mapua Wharf is a cute little village-like destination where you can do a spot of local shopping, grab a bite to eat and explore the historic Mapua Wharf.
Eat & Drink – Jellyfish Restaurant and Bar
We were treated to a beautiful brunch at Jellyfish Restaurant and Bar fit with amazing views from the restaurant over the sea. The environment is extremely welcoming for families and they have nutritious meal options on their kid’s menu. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner or a quick pick-up of coffee and a sweet treat.
Stay – The Pear Orchard Lodge
Staying here was such a gift for our family. The most serene and peaceful lodge on a working orchard with the loveliest of quarters. Several days spent here will have you well rested and rejuvenated, exactly what you need after a day filled with activities. The hosts were so kind and caring of our needs, and the fresh homemade bread and breakfast made with farm produce, such as pear honey, pear juice, preserve and fresh eggs were heavenly.
The grounds are inviting and safe for young families (supervised). We spent our time exploring fruit orchards, feeding the farm animals, relaxing in the outdoor tub and laying out in one of the many hammocks dotted around the property.
The Pear Orchard Lodge is the perfect base to explore the Nelson/Tasman region. It’s close to town, local beaches, vineyards, popular walks, mountain biking, Abel Tasman, Kahurangi & Nelson Lakes National Parks. We continue to recommend this property to friends and family, we are so grateful for our stay here.
Experience – Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle
“All aboard!” Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles. An extraordinary transport and adventure tour operator in the Abel Tasman National Park, Aotearoa. They specialise in transporting adventurers into the Abel Tasman National Park by boat with their customised fleet of ferries.
It’s an exciting maritime environment, especially for the kids. The team provide charismatic overhead commentary while educating passengers about the area’s history and environment. We got to see Split Apple Rock, a fur seal colony, lots of kiwi wildlife and dolphins! We’ve got a saying in our whānau, the journey to the destination is half the adventure, and in this case, it was certainly so!
Trek – Abel Tasman National Park – Awaroa Inlet
Abel Tasman National Park may be New Zealand’s smallest National Park, but it’s known as one of the most stunning. It’s a popular destination for hiking, kayaking, and sailing and because of its easy tracks, it’s become a superb destination for families who like to trek, like us! The golden sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water is a delight to see, and the native bush is rich with thriving wildlife. Keep an eye out for fur seals/kekeno (which we were lucky enough to see).
We booked a half-day tour with our sea shuttle service, from Kaiteriteri through Tonga Island Marine Reserve to reach Awaroa, an enchanting inlet that has inspired generations of settlement and protection. It was an early morning boat trip and 4 pm pick up, which allowed a good few hours for a trek, leisurely stops during the route, lunch at Awaroa Lodge and a quick swim. Isaac designed our own track, using helpful DOC guides. Instead of doing a full track, we weaved in and out of a track then made our way to Awaroa Lodge. Unlike many other Great Walks, the Abel Tasman National Park can be experienced at your own pace. Whether you have half a day, a full day or a few days to explore, there are plenty of options to shape your own unique itinerary. Below are some handy links/info to guides that helped us plan our trip.
- There is one compulsory tidal crossing – check the tide tables for when it’s safe to cross.
- Abel Tasman Coast Track brochure – includes map and profile
- Abel Tasman Coast Track walking guide
- Abel Tasman Coast Track trip information sheet and detailed map
We had an absolute blast, and I am especially proud of our boys who loved every minute of this expedition. We will be back to explore here soon.
Eat & Drink – Awaroa Lodge
Surrounded by pristine waterways and native forest, Awaroa Lodge has been constructed to make the most of its secluded location and features boutique accommodation, cafe, restaurant, day spa and the coolest outdoor pizzeria. The main lodge is warm, inviting and full of quirky comforts. Even though we were only there to dine, we were encouraged to relax in the comfy lounging area and enjoy the library. We met walkers of all different tracks, taking different routes and like us, excited to fuel up on yummy kai.
Experience – Ngārua Caves
Listed as one of the “101 Must-Do’s for Kiwis” and well known as a Lord of the Rings set location, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the inner workings of the extraordinary cave system at Ngārua Caves. Our boys 5 & 9 at the time, were absolutely buzzing weaving through the plethora of stalagmites and stalactites that protruded from our dark surroundings. We also got to climb through a cave-hatch that would lead us out to the same marble karst terrain that Gandalf himself galloped along on horseback. Super cool! Don’t forget to say hello to the friendly lawn-Moa! Mum joke.
Eat and Drink – Roots Bar Takaka
Roots Bar was another eats spot we’ve been excited to dine at. It’s an alternative space with epic music culture and can confirm equally epic eats! The menu is a selection of smaller dishes and share plates, with a focus on wild, free farmed meats and local/regional produce. They really looked after the kids taking the liberty of pointing out what meals and drinks they recommend for our children before we ordered, gotta love that! Overall the vibe is pretty-sweet!
Stay – The House Truck at Goldenbay Hideaway
One of the most unique experiences we have shared as a family to date! The House Truck at Golden Bay Hideaway is a beautifully restored and handsomely presented old house truck with unbeatable sea and mountain views in an exclusive bush location. The thoughtfully equipped wagon includes a character wood fire that keeps the beautifully crafted kauri and oak timber interior warm in cooler seasons. It’s an art piece, totally iconic! And if you are lucky enough to holiday here it will be an experience you’ll talk about for years to come. What we love about the Golden Hideaway accommodation is its vision for a sustainable future. Golden Bay Hideaway was created to demonstrate a practical, comfortable and cost-effective eco-home solution and during your stay, you’ll be witness to some of their eco-friendly practices, so inspiring!
There are five different types of accommodation on offer at Golden Bay Hideaway, all set amongst a natural bush environment in a private location looking out over the pristine inlet of Wainui Bay. All accommodation options have cosy outdoor baths where you can lounge under dark skies and stargaze or soak up the extraordinary natural scenery in the day. We did both! We also fought over whose bath time it was the majority of our stay. I will treasure the memories made here!
Experience – Golden Bay Kayaks
Golden Bay Kayaks is a family-owned sustainable business passionate about providing an authentic kiwi experience. I really appreciated their use of Te Reo Māori throughout our kayak and additionally their appreciation of historic Māori events in the area. They have a huge focus on connection and shared whānau experiences on the water, and encourage all ages to come kayaking. They were sensational with our children! Golden Bay is the gateway to the Northern end of the Abel Tasman National Park. On your journey, you will paddle the entire length of the Abel Tasman National Park coastline. No other company gives you this opportunity! During the kayak, we visited the largest grey spotted shag colony and saw seals, blue penguins and reef herons. It was AMAZING!
I can’t quite describe how deeply etched into my heart this experience is. From overcoming several of my own personal fears, witnessing my children make milestones of their own, to exploring a world-class destination with the people I love the most…all from a kayak….A pinch-me moment for sure!
Experience – Totaranui
The sun started to appear toward the end of our Nelson Tasman trip, perhaps the cherry on top of our already incredible holiday. And when the sun comes out, to the beach we go! Loosely translated as “many totara trees”, Tōtaranui is framed by regenerating manuka and kanuka, southern beech, podocarp and totara. The beach is pristine, with beautiful golden sand, clear water, lush bush and walking tracks in all directions. We swam and snorkelled for a bit before moving the kids to the safe waters of the estuary when the tide came in.
Trek – Taupo Point
Another trek we smashed out as a whanau, and scenically one of the most beautiful. We started from the Wainui car park at the end of McShane Rd. The car park gateway portrays two taniwha of the Wainui and Parapara inlets near Collingwood who devoured travellers.
It’s a 1-2 hour walk (tide dependent) along the coastline from Wainui Bay to Taupo point. Taupo Point was the pa site (fortified village) of the Tumatakokiri tribe whose warriors were thought to have killed four of Abel Tasman’s men in 1642. The pits, hollows and terraces of the Maori pa still remain. In 1978 the surrounding hills were ravaged by fire, but Taupo Point was spared. Best at low tide, although there is a high tide track. Allow 1 hour each way. Requires a bit of rock/hopping and agility which the boys found exhilarating. The trek showcases stunning landscapes, take your camera!
TIP: Take plenty of fluids and energy-dense snacks. Dress appropriately for the weather, take sunscreen, hats, towels and bathers if you plan to swim and lastly pack a mini first aid kit. I would recommend sturdy waterproof sandals or footwear. Reception is poor, so before your journey make sure someone is aware of your trek and time to expect you back.
Stay – Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
We didn’t take too many pictures here, but our stay at the Pohara Beach campgrounds definitely deserves a mention. We spent the majority of our time enjoying the beach, only footsteps away from our campsite. At the holiday park, you’ll share a relaxed environment with all the facilities you need to recharge for your roadie. It’s a convenient location with a local shop (that has literally thought of everything a traveller may need or have forgotten) and four fine eating establishments within easy walking distance.
Experience – Kiwi Spirit Distillery
Kiwi Spirit Distillery is a family-owned distillery in Golden Bay that creates unique New Zealand spirits made from quality all-natural ingredients. Their London Style Gin, Championz Gin is a favourite of ours so we popped in to learn more about it. There we were treated to the most entertaining tasting we’ve ever had which included a shot of their TeKiwi 100% Blue Agave Tequilana Spirit, which retails at $1000.00 a bottle, AND it’s divine! Did I say tastings are free?!
Our host Jeremy was bubbly, knowledgeable and insanely hilarious! I would go as far as to say that this was the BEST tasting experience we have ever had and anyone we know who has visited says the same. They were absolutely fine with our kids tagging along who mostly enjoyed playing outside, eating chippies and making soda moustaches with their raspberry drinks.
Stay – Kaiteriteri Camp Grounds
Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve & Campground is situated right on Kaiteriteri Beach. It’s rated as a 4-Star holiday park by Qualmark and has over 400 powered campsites and caters for camper-vans, caravans, tents and 4X4 rooftop setups like ‘Alba’ (our Jeep). It’s a sweet and safe spot to situate yourself if you’re visiting Abel Tasman National Park and has lots of local attractions, food trucks and activities. We didn’t take too many photos here, at this stage of our trip we were all needing to practice the art of ‘nothingness‘ easy to do in such a gorgeous location. Don’t miss a sunset at the beach, golden hour here is magical!
Eat & Drink – Toad Hall
Toad Hall Motueka is a very special brunch spot for my boys and me. We’ve dined here 3 times as a whānau and everything from the brew, kai and environment are always so satisfying! It’s best to reserve a table, it gets busy. Our last visit was in the Spring season when their impressive Daisy gardens were in full bloom! Toad Hall Motueka totally get the memo on how to make a mouth-watering classic kiwi brunch! Put it on your itinerary!
Experience – Canola Fields
Once in a while, on your travels, you’ll unexpectedly stumble onto something special, a gem that steals some of the holiday limelight. On our way to Lake Rotoiti (Tasman region), we noticed magnificent fields of gold (canola fields) that stretched further than my eyes could focus. Never one to turn down a frolic in a flower field, I asked a man working on a nearby fence if it were okay to take a few snaps? We were in luck! He granted us permission and said he’d let the owner know (a good friend of his). And off we went… CLICK! CLICK!
The photos don’t do the fields justice! So pretty!
Experience – Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park
Our last stop before heading home! It’s one of those stops that just might take your breath away. I can say with conviction, all the photos online, as amazing as they look, DO NOT do this place justice. Lake Rotoiti is one of 16 lakes in the Nelson Lakes National Park and is known as the drawcard for visitors to the alpine village of St Arnaud. The jetty that enters the stunning glacial waters of Lake Rotoiti is considered the most Instagrammed location in the wider Nelson Tasman region. Did you even visit Nelson Tasman if you didn’t get a pic on the Jetty?
The jetty isn’t the only reason to visit the lake. We saw others having lots of fun boating, water-skiing, fishing, swimming, kayaking and trekking. The scenery here is stunning to capture all year round. And yes! We jumped the wharf (proof is saved in my Nelson Tasman highlights.)
Homebound – Interislander
We hope you enjoyed our Nelson Tasman post and take inspiration where needed. I had lots of fun revisiting these adventures. Huge gratitude to our partners at Nelson Tasman and Interislander who made this epic adventure possible. Last but not least a huge thanks to our new friends and operators of the above experiences and accommodations that were gifted. We can’t wait to visit again soon!
Mā te wā! – Hope to see you back soon for another adventure.