Soak up the wonders of nature with this wild-south itinerary. Scroll to discover more.
Travel from sun-drenched Nelson along the rugged West Coast, home to mirror-smooth lakes and unearthly Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Make the most of local harvests, enjoy delicious food and wine straight from the source and take a stroll through Middle‑earth.
Your journey begins in New Zealand’s sunniest region – a gourmet feast of orchards, vineyards and sun-kissed hop fields and the source of delectable local brews. Nelson is a fabulous destination for our food and wine lovers, and has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand.
The region also has a thriving arts scene – with more than 350 working artists and craftspeople working locally in tradition, contemporary and Maori arts. Visit their studios and find something unique to take home with you.
If you have an additional day, visit the Abel Tasman National Park. Here, inviting golden sand beaches fill the spaces between tide line and native forest. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean, and native wildlife is a permanent part of the scenery.Tui and bellbird song fills the forest; shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner; fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.
Halfway between Blenheim and Nelson, where a bridge crosses the Pelorus River, there is an enchanting scenic reserve that is a great starting point for easy walks through forest glades. For something a little more adventurous, choose the track that leads to a waterfall and rock pool, or walk up along a ridge to a 417 metre peak.
You'll also find a little bit of Middle‑earth magic here. Peter Jackson chose Pelorus Bridge as a filming location for scenes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Here, the dwarves were filmed floating in barrels down the river - an experience that Stephen Hunter, who played dwarf Bombur, called 'his favourite day on set'.
From here, travel south to St Arnaud, a picturesque town that sits on the edge of Lake Rotoiti. St Arnaud is the perfect place from which to explore the honeydew forests and mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park. There's a number of stunning day hikes to choose from.
A journey to the West Coast is not complete without a visit to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. These ancient limestone stacks were formed over 30 million years ago and are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast. The Pancake Rocks are easily accessible by a walking track, and its best to visit at high tide to witness the blowholes in action as well.
From here make your way to Hokitika, a town famous for its pounamu (greenstone) jewellery and art works. Shop for pounamu locally or try your hand at carving a piece for yourself.