Nelson and Abel Tasman is saturated with awe-inspiring natural beauty – cloud-piercing mountains, valleys of shimmering beech forest, perfect trout rivers, sandy beaches – as well as a thriving arts and culture scene. We’ve put together our top 5 must-do activities in Nelson and the Abel Tasman region that we would recommend our guests try out – on your own, or completely organised with us here at Falcon Brae Villa and Stonefly Lodge.
The Nelson region is world-renowned for fly-fishing, and has attracted keen anglers from around the globe for its large wild brown trout and crystal clear waters in dozens of rivers and streams. Staying at Falcon Brae or Stonefly lodges is one way to get immediate access to some ideal rivers, being located on the banks of the trout-rich Motueka River, and between the confluences of the Wangapeka River and the Baton River. From here, you’re spoilt for choice whether you’re wanting gentle, easy access rivers for fishers of all ages, or adventurous back country streams for physically fit anglers. On a one to seven-day all inclusive package, our guides can provide gear, tuition or local knowledge, and advise which rivers and catchments are best according to flow rates at different times of the year – and can even organise trips further afield to rivers in the Murchison and Nelson Lakes areas (an hour’s drive, or a quick nip by helicopter). What’s more, settling back in front of Falcon Brae Villa’s fireplaces or in hot tubs at the end of a day out on the river? Completely amazing.
Horse riding at Farewell Spit
Cantering your horse along a white sand beach, with West Coast surf crashing alongside, and the wind in your face – this is what riding horses along Wharariki Beach is all about, providing one of those unforgettable life moments! Cape Farewell Horse Treks gives you plenty of other options too, according to your comfort level and budget: ride the horses through the beach’s beautiful caves and archways, spot seals and their young playing in low tide rock pools, ride through water if the weather is warm, or climb on horseback up through grassy paddocks and sandstone tracks to Old Man’s Range, with absolutely breath-taking views of the whole Farewell Spit (this section was rated as New Zealand’s most scenic horse trek by Fodor’s Guide). Drive to Farewell Spit yourself, or we can liaise with Nelson Helicopters to get you there, horses waiting for you – it’s a short flight with magnificent views.
Nelson Lakes National Park
For rugged alpine peaks, peaceful glacier lakes, and valleys blanketed with beech forest and birdsong: you must explore Nelson Lakes National Park, an area wildly sculpted millions of years ago by massive glaciers. The two largest lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa, have impressive views of mountains rising sharply from the water, and you can access lovely short walks from the lakefronts. For those more adventurous, the Blue Lake is an incredible sight with 80-metre water visibility – accessible only by helicopter or by walking the epic 4-7 day Travers-Sabine circuit. The small village of St Arnaud is the gateway to the National Park if you’d like somewhere to stay nearby.
Kayak or walk the Abel Tasman
The golden beaches, lush forests and bold granite cliffs of the Abel Tasman, along with its famed walking track, make it a must-do in the region. Walk the track in 3-5 days from Marahau to Wainui, staying in DOC huts, campsites or private lodges along the way. Alternatively take, a water taxi or helicopter into the best spots and spend the day kayaking (or a few days if you like). You’ll love the gorgeous coastline of Onetahuti, or the clear waters and lost-world rainforest feel of Shag Harbour (accessible only by kayak at high tide), the lagoon-beach combo of Bark Bay, or the nearshore islands with cormorants, oystercatchers and seals galore.
Nelson Tasman is a hotbed of creative arts and has been for many years – about 400 artists reside here with a rich range of styles, and it’s home to three historical establishments: the Suter Art Gallery, the Theatre Royal and the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts. Galleries include Craig Potton, Mat Tait, Ian Trafford, Katie Gold and Owen Bartlett, Michael MacMillian and so many more. See glass blowing at Hoglund Art Glass, travel the coast to Kereru Gallery and Forest Fusion Functional Art, and dip into the many galleries that literally line the main street of Takaka. You cannot visit the region without leaving with at least one piece of local art, whatever your budget – or at least be inspired by the creative force you’ll experience here. Jump on an art tour or explore solo.
The Nelson Tasman has so much more to offer but we would tick these activities off as must-dos. Let us know if you’d like to organise any of these activities as day trips (self-driven, driven by a guide, or flown by helicopter) from Falcon Brae Villa – we’re always happy to help in any way we can.