The Nelson Tasman region often tops New Zealand’s sunshine hours. It also boasts golden beaches and productive tourism, wine, horticulture and fishing industries.
Often known as ‘the Top of the South’, the Nelson Tasman region takes up the north-western corner of the South Island. The main centre, Nelson city (population 46,000) is a 5 hour drive from Christchurch. By air, Nelson is just 30 minutes from Wellington, 40 minutes from Christchurch, and about 1½ hours from Auckland. The city of Nelson is smart and well developed. Its thriving local arts and craft scene includes some of New Zealand’s best visual artists, potters, glass blowers and wood carvers, and the city offers a full range of amenities including excellent cafes and restaurants. There are several local food companies specialising in high quality products now being distributed both nationally and internationally. Richmond, in the Tasman district, is a growing hub for the farms, orchards and vineyards of the Waimea Plains, and offers excellent shopping facilities. The vibrant town of Motueka lies close to the mouth of the Motueka River, on the western shore of Tasman Bay. It is, after Richmond, the second largest centre in the Tasman Region. Forming part of the Motueka ward, the township of Riwaka is famous for its horticulture industry, especially apples, pears, kiwifruit and hops.
There are many unique aspects to this region. Nowhere else in the world, for example, will you find three very distinctive national parks in a relatively small area, offering glistening waters, golden sands, spectacular native forests, lakes and mountain ranges, all easily accessible year-round.
The coastline is notable for two huge, shallow bays - Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. The interior is hilly and mountainous with attractive lakes and areas of limestone and marble which feature deep caves and sinkholes. Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) springs in Golden Bay, said to produce the clearest fresh water in the world, is part of the southern hemisphere’s deepest known cave system.
With an ideal growing climate, Nelson Tasman produces all of New Zealand’s commercial hops and has consequently become the country’s craft brewing capital with 11 craft breweries, while the region’s 25 boutique wineries excel at producing aromatic wines and chardonnay. Other horticultural stand-outs include apples and berries, while the ocean’s produce has made Port Nelson the largest fishing port in Australasia.
The beautiful reserves and national parks offer excellent walking and tramping opportunities. There are many other outdoor recreation options, from kayaking in the Abel Tasman Park to walking the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s nine ‘great walks’. The coasts and lakes are ideal for swimming, boating, sailing and fishing.
Golden Bay is particularly famous for its unspoilt sandy beaches and is enjoyed by many for its distance from mainstream society. The bay is protected in the north of the South Island by Farewell Spit, a 26 km long arm of fine golden sand which is the country's longest sandspit.