"Nelson, Mapua and Motueka"
We recently partnered with Air New Zealand 'grabaseat' to visit the Nelson/Tasman region to explore and uncover some of the must see spots and hidden gems on offer in this part of the country that's rapidly growing in popularity with tourists and New Zealanders alike.
With multiple flights operating daily from the major New Zealand gateway cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, Nelson is well connected and greatly suited for both weekend escapes and longer getaways.
We chose to make our trip a 5 day escape as we wanted our trip to include the longer add-on of including a trip over Takaka Hill to the Golden Bay/Wharariki area.
Takaka Hill (Also known as The Marble Mountain) is well known as one of New Zealand's most winding roads, with about 250 bends, your efforts travelling up this 35km zig-zagging road are rewarded by incredible views from Harwoods Lookout, a stop just passed the summit.
If you only have a weekend it may be unrealistic to do justice to exploring much beyond the Nelson/Mapua/Motueka region, so we'd strongly suggest at least a 5 night visit to the region and include the add-on of visiting the Takaka/Golden Bay and Wharariki region.
From our trip to the region these are just some of the gems we hope inspire you to go and explore for yourself:
This little coastal township, situated in the upper northern part of New Zealand's South Island, just happens to be the 'Sunshine Capital" of the country, boasting more hours of sunshine than anywhere else - albeit that we were challenged with mostly poor weather, we had an absolute blast and still hold this region as one of our favourites.
Nelson has a perception of being a little sleepy with not much happening, but from our brief visit to this part of the region it is certainly making a resurgence and features the perfect blend of a place where country town meets sophisticated urban hotspot.
During our stay in Nelson we stumbled upon the 'Boat Shed' cafe and restaurant - and we say "stumbled" because it isn't a spot you'd come across in the heart of town, it's a short drive along the coastline heading toward Tahunanui.
The Boat Shed absolutely blew us away in every aspect imaginable, from the superb location perched over-water, to the friendly staff right through to quite possibly one of the finest breakfasts we've ever had in New Zealand. Defining any cafe/restaurants appeal is without doubt their ability to nail a coffee.
Given we made a second visit to the Boat Shed, with a limited amount of time, it's needless to say this cafe/restaurant is an absolute #nelsonmustdo
After taking in a breakfast and assuming its a Wednesday (like we planned it), it's well worth popping over to Nelsons Farmers Market, located in Morrison Square - operating 11am to 4pm, Wednesday's only.
The market features fresh produce, flowers, preserves, coffees, arts & crafts right through to a comprehensive array of freshly baked breads from Don Rodrigo & Co's artisan style bakery stall (our pick of the market).
If a country market isn't your thing and you want a demonstration of just how hip and funky little Nelson is fast becoming then just head for a short stroll up Hardy Street and you'll see located at #278 a little bit of Wellington is emerging in Nelson.
"Urban" Oyster Bar and Eatery is one of Nelsons newest additions to the restaurant and dining scene, started by Michelin trained chef Matt Bouterey, these guys serve up some of the most exquisite Bluff Oysters you'll find on your travels.
With a ultra modern fitout and open-plan kitchen, Matt and his team have developed what undoubtedly will become a destination in itself as 'Urban' is a fresh approach to dining in Nelson - and they're even open till 1am.
Just a short drive from Nelson (32km), passing numerous wineries, galleries and perfect little picnic spots you'll find Mapua, a quaint little fishing village peppered with Harbourside cafes and art galleries in restored packing shed from an older era.
Mapua is a prefect stop for a coffee, a light bite and a wander before heading on further north.
We stopped off to grab a coffee at The Apple Shed Cafe & Bar which had magic views across the harbour, followed by a stroll along the jetty and a quick visit to the very popular Smokehouse Cafe to grab some super tasty smoked salmon to take on the road.
Next stop along the drive up north we made our way to Motueka, the closest town to the Abel Tasman National Park.
While Motueka is a perfect gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and a town surrounded by hinterland orchards, vineyards and hops gardens we chose to take a slightly less touristy approach to a short stop in the town - we wanted to explore the kinda stuff locals seek out when they get about in the region.
So we did some investigating and discovered Motueka had 2 pretty quirky and unique finds.
Located on North Street (Off Wharf Road) Motueka is home to one of the only Saltwater Baths you'll find anywhere in the country.
The pool has a long history (in New Zealand terms), dating back to the 1920's and if you're lucky enough to catch it on a still evening it's incredibly peaceful and the reflections that bounce off the pool are pretty spectacular.
We moved on from the Saltwater Baths to our next find, The controversial but iconic wreck of the Janie Seddon. As this wreck sits in the bay of Motueka, it's history dates back to 1901 when it was constructed in Scotland as a Submarine mining vessel.
The Janie Seddon is believed by some to have fired the first shots of World War 2 and as it decays, has been revered by numerous artists and photographers from both New Zealand and around the world, making it quite a nice little find to visit on our trip.
It's future is questionable so if you're in that part of the world we'd definitely say it's worth visiting, particularly at sunset.