Tasman Bay, at the very top of the South Island, can rightly claim to have the best climate in the country.
The area embracing Nelson city, Motueka, Mapua, Kaiteriteri and Marahau has been dubbed, the ‘Provence of the South.’ This may be drawing a long bow but there’s no doubt about the magical appeal of Tasman’s sun-baked golden sand beaches, big blue skies, subtropical balm and gentle rolling countryside.
Dotted all over this fertile land are potters, artists, craftspeople, wine-makers, olive-growers and horticulturalists who give the area a distinctive style as a place of plenty where people live ‘The Good Life.’ Leisurely exploring is a pleasure here, as people welcome visitors and have the time to talk about their products and crafts. The mild Mediterranean-type climate draws many thousands of visitors in summer who enjoy lazy days by the sea in quiet bays lapped by turquoise seas and fringed with lush green forest. Inland there is easily accessible wilderness, unspoilt lakes and rivers and startling landscapes of eroded limestone.
Motueka, 47km from Nelson city, is the heart of this blessed region and the major service centre for the magnificent Abel Tasman and Kahurangi national parks, along with the Mt Arthur Tablelands and the Cobb Valley. This friendly, laid-back town has a full range of services, cafes, shops, motels, B&B’s, backpackers and campgrounds. The town is a great base for exploring, as everything is within a 30 minute drive. Activities include tramping, caving, sea kayaking, fresh or saltwater angling, horse trekking, skydiving, paragliding and scenic flights.
Motueka has interesting art and craft galleries, the Sunday market, a museum, rose gardens and a superb meeting house at Te Awhina Marae. There are vibrant cafes in town and tranquil picnic and swimming spots on the Motueka River, which just happens to be famous as one of New Zealand’s most reliable brown trout fisheries.
Mapua is reached along The Coastal Way, through a wine-growing and horticultural area. The town, which sits at the mouth of the Waimea Inlet (the largest estuary in the South Island), is a microcosm of the Nelson region offering something to please all visitors. The aquarium is well worth a visit; there are ecotours for nature loving people and even a clothes-optional camp at Mapua Leisure Park.
Marahau is the southern gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and a very peaceful and welcoming little settlement. Daily bus services connect it with Nelson, Picton, Westport and Christchurch and there is a range of good accommodation.
Kaiteriteri is a principal departure point for launch services into Abel Tasman National Park. This holiday spot literally sizzles with activity during the summer, offering a choice of three beaches, kayak hire and great views at the top of the Kaka Point walkway. These beaches are amongst the most beautiful in New Zealand and few people can resist the charms of Kaiteriteri on a blue-sky day. As they say in the region ‘Come live the day in Tasman Bay.