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 10 Days in the South Island Day 3

Marahau in the Abel Tasman National Park near Nelson

10 Days in the South Island Day 3 - Nelson and the Abel Tasman!

Today we catch up with friends and family in the beautiful Tasman region.

Located at the top of the South Island, the Tasman is home to the thriving city of Nelson, and the famous  Abel Tasman National Park.

One of the beautiful beaches in the Abel Tasman
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1) You can view our route map at the bottom of the page. You can zoom in and out for more detail.

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3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.

4) There is much less traffic in New Zealand than in many other countries, and the roads are well sealed, so driving is easy, as long as you drive to the conditions. In winter, "grit trucks" patrol the highways and when there is snow or ice about, they drop fine grit onto the roads to improve grip.

After a hearty breakfast we head off from Richmond (a part of Nelson). Our plan today is to visit an uncle at Marahau, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.

Our drive will take us on State Highway 60 via the seaside village of Mapua, to the town of Motueka, where we will then detour to Kaiteri and Marahau

Want to avoid drinking and driving? You can stay on site at the Old Schoolhouse at Kina Beach Vinyard!

From a frosty start, the weather clears and is bright and sunny, and sits at around 10 degrees celsius for most of the day. The region is regarded as New Zealand's sunniest with around 2,400 hours of sunshine each year!

As we head out of Richmond we pass a few of the local wineries. The region is well known for it's fine Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and vines were first planted in the region in the mid 1800's. Neudorf & Seifried are perhaps two of the better known "brands" but there are many others such as Kina Beach, Mahana, Rimu Grove, and Waimea Estates. The region accounts for around 2.5% of New Zealand's total wine production.

Kina Beach vinyard also provides accommodation on site, a unique option for those that want to kick back, relax, and enjoy some of the region's finest wines. You can learn more on their website - click here.

Mapua estuary, between Nelson and Motueka

Our first stop for the day is the lovely little village of Mapua (around 20 minutes drive from Richmond). Sitting on an estuary leading into Tasman Bay, Mapua has a small shopping centre, with a few craft shops and cafes.

We wander around the wharf area which has changed quite a bit since our last visit. Although it's not on our list this time, we make a note to come back here one day for a meal at one of the waterside restaurants.

The local council have carried out significant beautification works here recently, and the waterfront park would be a great place for a picnic on a sunny day. The area is home to lots of artists and it's easy to spend a few hours wandering around exploring the local craft shops and galleries.

From Mapua we continue along State Highway 60 until we reach the village of Tasman. On the right hand side we detour to the Tasman Golf Club on Kina Cliffs. We are anxious to show our friends.

Tasman Golf Club near Nelson

The course sits high above Tasman Bay and the views are stunning. Although the course is only 9 holes, it's very challenging and makes it's way up and down the contours of the peninsula. Our friends are impressed.

We hop back in the car and continue on to the town of Motueka. Known to the locals as "Mot", this pretty town sits on the shores of Tasman Bay, and with a population of around 8000, is the main service town for this part of the region.

Motueka has a wide range of shops and restaurants, including the popular "Warehouse". This New Zealand wide chain are easily recognized by their bright red buildings and have a variety of products, with everything from clothing, to electronics, jewellery, furniture and music.

Motueka is also home to a Talleys sea food plant, which processes and packages a wide range of local delicacies, which are sold around the world. Their range includes fish and shellfish. Their mussels are a favorite of ours!

Beautiful Kaiteri beach

After a quick stop in Mot we head off through the village of Riwaka, then turn off to Kaiteri.

Kaiteri is a beautiful bay side hamlet, and is a favorite holiday spot for people from all over New Zealand, attracted by the calm, clear waters, and sunny climate. This place gets quite busy in peak times, and it's easy to see why. The view across the beach to the bay is beautiful.

It's also a bit of a retreat for the wealthy, and the hills around the village are filled with large homes, all with awesome views of the ocean.

From Kaiteri, it's about a 15 minute drive around the headland to Marahau. The road is sealed, but narrow in parts, with some blind corners, so caution is advised. As we head down the hill towards Marahau, the sand flats reveal low tide, and we comment to our friends about the many times spent here over the years, catching flounder (a sweet white flesh fish), scalloping, and white baiting.

Our son Tim with a catch of scallops at Marahau

The picture below, taken several years ago, shows our son Tim, with a catch of fresh scallops. Lightly seared on the BBQ, with the roe still on, they are a real mouth watering treat.

The final part of the road hugs the shoreline and as we round the final corner into Marahau, Tasman Bay unfolds in front of us.

Kim's aunt Audrey married into a family of tobacco farmers in Marahau way back in the early 1960's, and Kim has been visiting here since the mid 60s. Kim's uncle, known as Toppy, still lives here and today will be our first visit for about five or six years.

These days, the tobacco farms have closed, and Toppy has retired in this little patch of heaven.

Low tide at Marahau

Marahau is the main access point to the Abel Tasman National Park, and houses several kayak and tour companies. The local store is the focal point and arranges bookings for water taxis, kayak trips, and walks within the park.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Trek is one of New Zealand's most popular. At 51 kilometers in length, it can be done in stages or in full. For overnight stays, accommodation must be booked beforehand.

You can read more about the trek and the Abel Tasman on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website here.

It's a wonderful walk and one that you should do if time permits.

Another interesting feature is Split Apple Rock, which sits between Kaiteri and Marahau. It's best seen from a boat, but can be accessed by a trail leading down from a carpark on a side road between Kaiteri and Marahau. It's very aptly named.

The aptly named Split Apple Rock

We pull in to Toppy's place and receive a warm greeting. One of his special home cooked meals awaits and time flies as we catch up over lunch.

Toppy recounts some of the changes in the village over the last 50 or 60 years, and this once sleepy little village now bursts at the seams during the summer peak period, as people visit the Abel Tasman. Tractors towing trailers filled with kayaks dot the shoreline, water taxis zoom past, transferring tourists to various parts of the park, and in some ways, we appreciate being here at a quiet time of the year. Things sure have changed since those days when Toppy's family worked their tobacco farm.

After a few hours it's unfortunately time to head back home. It's always sad to leave this lovely spot but we assure Toppy that we will be back to spend more time with him in the future.

A tractor launching a boat at Marahau

We take a different route back to Motueka, this time over the Marahau hill. It's a scenic 10 minute drive back to State Highway 60.

There are lots of orchards in the area, and near Riwaka we stop at one of the many roadside stalls for some delicious fresh apples and pears, before continuing back to Audrey's place at Richmond.

It's been a great day and we look forward to putting our feet up.

Tomorrow we head off to the wild West Coast.

Go to Day 4

Self Drive Tours - Build Your Own

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