4 Days

Highlights

  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
  • Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Pelorus River

Proximity

  • By plane: Start your adventure in Nelson
  • By car: Total trip distance: 402km

Soak up the wonders of nature with this wild-south itinerary. Scroll to discover more.

Travel from sun-drenched Nelson to the rugged West Coast on this South Island road trip - home to mirror-smooth lakes and unearthly Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Make the most of local harvests, enjoy food and wine straight from the source and take a stroll through Middle‑earth.

Day 1: Start your journey in Nelson

Nelson
Roadside Fruit Stalls, Nelson

By Matt Crawford

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Your journey begins in New Zealand’s sunniest region - a gourmet feast of orchards, vineyards and sun-kissed hop fields, and delectable local brews. Nelson is a haven for food and wine lovers, and also has a thriving arts scene. With more than 350 working artists and craftspeople working locally in traditional, contemporary and Maori arts, you'll have no problem finding unique souvenirs to take home with you.

Add on: Middle‑earth and the Pelorus River

Marlborough
Pelorus River, Marlborough

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If you have a day to spare, why not explore the scenic reserves and forest glades between Blenheim and Nelson. Find tracks that lead to a waterfalls and rock pools, or walk up along a ridge to a 417 metre peak. 

This area is also home to some Middle‑earth magic. 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'.

Day 2: Wildlife encounters in Abel Tasman National Park

Nelson
Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

By Fraser Clements

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Nelson

Nelson

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For the ultimate wilderness and wildlife fix, visit 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 friendly marine mammals are a permanent part of the scenery.

Day 3: Get active in Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson
Nelson Lakes National Park, Nelson

By Matt Crawforf

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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

Day 4: Head to Punakaiki and Hokotika

West Coast
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, West Coast, West Coast

By Julian Apse

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No journey to the West Coast is complete without a visit to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. These ancient limestone stacks were formed over 30 million years ago and are the most visited natural attraction in the region. Visit at high-tide to witness the blowholes in action. 

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.

View the Journey Below

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