Abel Tasman and NelsonSouth Island
Abel Tasman National Park is a gorgeous and very attractive region, with its golden sandy beaches and turquoise waters. It is also the smallest national park in NZ, yet the most visited. This doesn’t work in its favour among the travellers who are expecting virgin and unexplored lands. These travellers may, in high season, be a bit disappointed with the trip. The park is crossed by a main path, which usually is quite crowded in summer, while on the seaside the number of kayakers can also give a feeling of mass tourism.
For those who want avoid this kind of experience, we recommend instead to opt for the neighbouring region: Golden Bay, which beauty is just as exceptional, but with less visitors. From Golden Bay, you can also discover the northern part of the Abel Tasman National Park, which is the most beautiful and Is also much less crowded.
However, if you plan on coming during shoulder season (before December, or after March), Abel Tasman is a playground for who loves beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, native forest and marine wildlife. Visiting the park is if fact a great option outside of the high-season. You can hop on a boat to go and explore the park by foot, and this can also be combined with a kayak trip. Another option is to go on a sailing trip aboard a catamaran yacht to explore the park. If you are interested in discovering the Māori culture you can also experience a waka (traditional Maori canoes) tour with a Māori guide.
In terms of accommodation, to avoid the often fully-booked areas such as Kaiteriteri and Marahau – the main gateways to the park – we recommend that you stay in the lovely small town of Motueka. Much more authentic, Motueka offers a charming atmosphere by the water. Local products enthusiasts will be delighted as they will find nearby vineyards, micro-breweries, quality cafes/restaurants for a very kiwi atmosphere.
The region’s main city, Nelson, also offers great assets, offering a great quality of life, and being one of the sunniest places of New Zealand. It is attracting more and more urban residents who have decided to let go of the big cities’ stress. We recommend that you pay a visit to the WOW Museum (World of Wearable Arts) while there. This museum showcases the fabulous creative costumes, designed and produced by New Zealand and international artists. These pieces of art are created as part of the yearly WOW festival that takes place in Wellington. In Nelson as well, we can note the locals’ taste for good quality products: from wine, craft beer, delicatessen, to a scene of cafes and restaurants, Nelson has nothing to be jealous of its big sisters Auckland and Wellington.
The neighbouring town of Mapua will also surround you with a delightful atmosphere. You will enjoy the way of living and the attraction to gastronomy and local crafts, all in the Waimea estuary picturesque setting.
The charms of this region will most definitely thrill you, provided you avoid the trap that the Abel Tasman Park in high season can become, and prefer the calm and authenticity of Motueka, Mapua or Nelson, to enjoy an experience away from the crowds.
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