Nelson & Abel Tasman – ideas for free time

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Nelson itself is a lovely little city, with a reasonably-sized centre boasting a range of boutique shops, art galleries and cafés. The Maitai River meandres along one side of the downtown area and is flanked by pretty parkland and a riverside walk. Nearby Botanical Hill is home to the ‘Centre of New Zealand’ monument and the 20-minute uphill walk to the top is well worth it for splendid views over the city and across Tasman Bay. Just south of the city is the famous World of Wearable Arts and Classic Car Museum – an interesting combination of two very different crafts, but if you’re interested in fashion and/or old vehicles then add it to your itinerary. It is also the self-proclaimed craft brewing capital of New Zealand with numerous boutique breweries and a craft beer trail to lead you between them.

Heading west around Tasman Bay the road hugs the coastline all the way to the striking golden beach of Kaiteriteri, the access point to Abel Tasman National Park. We highly recommend you pre-book any excursions you’d like to do here but if you’d prefer to just walk a section of the track or see a couple of the beautiful bays at your own leisure then you can just turn up and take one of the water taxis that stop in several places along the coast and will pick you up later in the day.

If you continue past Kaiteriteri and wind your way up Takaka Hill you will be rewarded with splendid views over Kahurangi National Park, which stretches all the way to the west coast. On the other side of the hill, near the tiny settlement of Takaka, are Te Waikoropupu Springs (often referred to as just Pupu Springs) where the clearest water in the world bubbles up through fine ‘dancing’ sands. It is part of a scenic reserve and is a lovely place to enjoy a walk or a bit of bird watching.

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