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Located on the eastern shores of the Tasman Bay, Nelson, New Zealand is a beautiful city with plenty of things to see and do in the surrounding region for visitors and residents alike. If you’re looking for things to do in Nelson, check out our list for out pick of the region’s top 5 natural attractions.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal national park founded in 1942 and located on the north end of the South Island. Despite being the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks, it boasts a huge variety of absolutely stunning scenery, including native forest, hill country toward to the north beyond the valleys of the Takaka and Riwaka Rivers, and the clear sparkling waters of the Golden and Tasman Bays.
Frequented by a wonderful array of bird and marine life, the Abel Tasman National Park is an awe-inspiring destination, and a visit to should be top of your list of things to see in Nelson.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Renowned for its great hiking, mountain biking, camping and fishing, the 1020 km² Nelson Lakes National Park is another must-visit Nelson attraction. Formed in 1956 and centred on two large lakes, the Rotoiti and Rotoroa, The Nelson Lakes National Park features river valleys, the Saint Arnaud mountain range and the 1,421 m Mount Robert. Visitors can enjoy a 5 hour loop walk to near the summit of Mount Robert and enjoy breathtaking views over Lake Rotoiti and the town of St Arnaud.
For visitors wanting to experience the best of the parks’ unique scenery, the popular 4-7 day Travers-Sabine Circuit takes hikers through native bush and includes a crossing of the Travers Saddle alpine pass.
Kahurangi National Park
Kahurangi, meaning ‘treasured possession’ in Maori is the third of the Nelson-Tasman regions national parks and the second largest in New Zealand. The park is home to the four-day Heaphy Track which is one of New Zealand’s nine great walks, and is renowned for its superb variety of scenery that includes tussock plains, untouched beaches and a nikau palm forest. The Kahurangi National Park is also home to 18 species of native birds including the impressive Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot.
Much of the parks 4,520 km² is absolute untracked wilderness and is perfect for exploration and is a great destination for experienced hikers.
Located within the Kahurangi National Park and previously used as a natural “prop” in the Lord of the Rings movies, a trip to Mount Owen should be on any Nelson visitors list. Standing at 1875 metres above sea level, Mount Owen is the Kahurangi’ Parks’ highest peak and is also home to New Zealand’s longest cave system, the Bulmer Cavern which stretches for 66km.
Mount Owen is climbable year round but should only be attempted by experienced and well equipped hikers. While it may be one of the more inaccessible Nelson attractions, for those who reach the summit, Mt Owen offers unforgettable views of the Kahurangi National Park.
Boulder Bank is a highly unusual natural landform stretching 13 kilometres from the Mackay Bluff and ending up at the Cut of the Nelson Harbour. The rock, composed of granodiorite, originates from Mackay Bluff, but what makes Boulder Bluff particularly unusual is that no one knows exactly what processes occurred that resulted in this unusual structure. Because of this, Boulder Bank is definitely one of Nelsons most unusual landforms.
Visitors to Boulder Bank should also take the time to visit the Boulder Bank lighthouse. Erected in 1862, the lighthouse was New Zealand’s second permanent lighthouse, and is located towards the port end of Boulder Bank. The lighthouse is now registered with the Historic Places Trust and is definitely worth checking out.
The Nelson-Tasman region is full of magnificent natural attractions that should be on any travellers New Zealand itinerary. Visitors looking to travel around the region should hire a rental car in Nelson or Picton and enjoy some of the country’s best scenic driving roads.