At the top of the South Island, Nelson Tasman is bursting with beautiful scenery, vibrant culture, great weather, diverse activities, and a relaxed vibe. Discover our top picks for a four day itinerary of family fun.
Whether you’re escaping on a mini-break for a long weekend or looking for a getaway during the school holidays, our itinerary will give you inspiration for an amazing family trip. Do as many or as few of the suggestions as you please.
Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans.
Situated at the top of the South Island the Nelson Tasman area hugs the V shaped Tasman Bay. By road, the driving time is approximately 5.5 hours from Christchurch, or 2 hours from Picton if you’ve caught the ferry from Wellington.
You can fly direct to Nelson with Air New Zealand from Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, with connecting flights from other regional centres. To find out more, visit www.airnz.co.nz. Origin Air flies from Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington.
Because of the spread out nature of the Nelson Tasman region, most travellers to the area are self-drive. There is a regular bus service between Nelson and Richmond. and then from Richmond to Marahau and Takaka. There are national and local rental car businesses plus charter flights from Nelson to various spots in Golden Bay.
If your trip to Nelson includes a Saturday morning, include a visit to the famous Nelson Market. This unique creative and culinary treat has been running for 40 years showcasing local businesses, art and craft.
Your first day takes in the sights and attractions of Nelson and Tahunanui Beach.
After breakfast at your accommodation, head up the 2km path to the Centre of New Zealand and enjoy the stunning views over Nelson, Tasman Bay, and inland up the Maitai Valley. Go back down the way you came or for a longer loop, choose the East Ridge Track to Branford Park, and follow Maitai River Walkway downstream.
It’s just a 17 minute drive north to the Cable Bay Adventure Park where you can get an adrenaline shot on the world’s longest flying fox. You can also hire Quad Bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes and have a blast on the trails.
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For peanut butter lovers, Pic’s Peanut World is next on the agenda where you can learn all about peanuts and even make your own peanut butter. The on-site cafe is ideal for a quick refuel before you head down the road and check out the long and safe Tahunanui Beach. This is a great place to hang out until tummies are rumbling again then finish the day with dinner at the Smugglers Pub and Cafe at nearby Monaco. The kids will enjoy choosing from the pirate themed Young Matey’s Menu.
Your second day takes in the delights of laid back Mapua, a ferry ride and an island.
First stop today is Alberta’s at Mapua Wharf for a tasty breakfast. Stock up on some snacks from Alberta’s too, then pick up your pre-booked hire bikes from the wharf and catch the ferry across to Motorua/Rabbit Island where you join up with the Tasman Great Taste Trail as far as you like before turning back to Mapua.
Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Tasman Great Taste Trail adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.
Once back at the wharf, be like a local and do some wharf jumping. Browse the shops and don’t forget to stop in at Hamish’s for an epic ice cream. Before heading back to your accommodation, you can explore Mapua more then dinner and a cold drink at the Golden Bear Brewing Company will round out a special day.
Today we venture out of the city centre again to explore Kaiteriteri.
Start your day at The Grape Escape Café for a leisurely breakfast. There’s a garden and playground for the children to enjoy.
Now head through Motueka to the beautiful Kaiteriteri Beach. Even in autumn, the golden sand and safe paddling and swimming plus the large playground across from the beach makes Kaiteriteri a perfect day trip destination.
Refuel at Gone Burgers and enjoy a trip to remember in a waka with Waka Abel Tasman, They offer various tours including one to Split Apple Rock –Toka Ngawhā which is popular with families with children aged from 2 years – they even get their own little paddle!
Tired and happy, head back to your accommodation via the Moutere valley and stop for dinner at the historic Moutere Inn.
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Today is another day of golden sand and beautiful water.
For a delicious start to the day head out to Motueka and just past the roundabout as you enter town is the delightful Toad Hall.
You will likely be doing some walking today so make sure you all have comfy shoes and a packed lunch and water – we also think you will want to pick up donuts from The Smoking Barrel at the other end of town!
Head again to the golden sands of the Abel Tasman National Park to explore. You have a couple of options – you can either catch a boat from Kaiteriteri into the park, or you can drive to Marahau and walk in and back.
After a lovely day in the park, there is no better place to refresh than the Riuwaka Resurgence. Located at the base of the Takaka Hill, 7km down Riwaka Valley Road, park and then enjoy a gentle 10 minute walk to where the Riuwaka River emerges from the ground. Please note that traditionally, Māori would not eat or swim at the site so be respectful of this when you visit.
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Where to stay in Nelson Tasman
For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.
Parkside Motel – centrally located in Richmond (20 minutes from Nelson toward Motueka) Parkside offers clean and sunny family accommodation. They have a range of studio, one and two bedroom options that include well-appointed kitchens. There is also a guest laundry, heated seasonal swimming pool and lovely views over the park.
The Hotel Nelson – perfectly positioned in the centre of Nelson with an outdoor heated swimming pool. Family apartments can sleep up to eight and come with a kitchen. The licenced restaurant offers a good selection of affordable meals for breakfast or dinner.
The Sails Nelson – luxury accommodation, beautifully furnished and with sumptuous bedding with feather mattress overlay and feather pillows. Block out curtains, fully equipped kitchens and courtesy bikes make staying at The Sails a delight.
Quest Nelson – located in central Nelson and offering serviced apartment style accommodation perfect for families. Fully equipped kitchens and daily housekeeping service is included (excluding Sundays and public holidays) making it a perfect home away from home experience.
Asure Fountain Resort Motel – located in Tahunanui just a short walk from the beach, the Fountain Resort has a range of spacious, well-equipped units that can sleep up to six, with parking at the door. Each room has kitchen facilities and the grounds host an expansive children’s playground, BBQ area, and seasonal swimming pool.
Kingsgate Motel – located in the heart of Nelson just a short walk from town, the 11 fully self-contained motel units offer affordable accommodation. The kids will love the two bedroom units that are two level (one bedroom units are also available). You will love the space, the air con/heat pump and also the free off-street parking. Kingsgate also has a seasonal heated swimming pool.