Best in Nelson
With Easter comes the sweet smell of spice and fruit wafting up from warm hot cross buns slathered with butter. For others, Easter is a time to gorge on chocolate eggs, or to appreciate the sleep-in that comes with public holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday. There's a religious element too.
Today I am going to talk about none of these things. Instead I am going to provide five ideas for making the most of having a public holiday during the last of our beautiful autumn weather. You probably know about most or all of these options, but might only have them pencilled on your to-do list. Take the time to tick off a few of these easily accessible adventures.
Mt Robert Nelson Lakes National Park is a one-hour drive from Nelson. There are lots of adventure opportunities here, particularly for those who prefer a little solitude.
Mt Robert rises steeply from the still waters of Lake Rotoiti and the track up this hill is a good day out. You start from the car park near St Arnaud and enter tall beech forest before emerging onto the mountain face. The track zig-zags steeply, but there are places to rest, and Bushline Hut is a great place to stop for lunch.
Take a deep breath before striking out for the summit where there are incredible views - east down the Wairau Valley, north to Mt Richmond Forest Park, west towards Kahurangi National Park and the Buller Valley, and south to the rest of Nelson Lakes National Park. This is a steep and exhilarating climb and you should allow four to five hours for the walk; longer with children.
Cable Bay Walkway Twenty minutes' drive north of Nelson is Cable Bay and a three-hour walk over to The Glen. Cable Bay Walkway is a "maximum gain for minimum pain" type of experience. A bit of uphill to start, sure, but the reward is fantastic with wonderful coastal views of the Boulder Bank, Pepin Island, Delaware Inlet, and across to Nelson City and the surrounding hills. The walk is mainly through farmland but does include a native bush section.
Note that the walk is mostly on private land and public use is permitted by the Stuart family's generosity. Also, the track is not a loop so if you don't want to walk there and back, arrangements need to be made. A good idea is to have one party leave from The Glen and another leave from Cable Bay and to swap car keys half-way.
Kaikoura Whale Watching For those wanting to go further afield try a few days in Kaikoura. This is a haven for nature, wildlife and cultural activities. A highlight has to be a Whale Watch tour which, while pricey, is a unique experience. Giant sperm whales are the stars and are year-round residents.
Kaikoura has the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including the albatross, giant petrel and Hutton's shearwater. Another highlight is the seal colony along the coast just north of Kaikoura at Ohau Point. This is the largest seal colony in the South Island, with around 3000 seals, and you will know exactly where to stop because there are plenty of parked cars.
Tasman's Great Taste Trail Park your car at Motueka Quay and bike to Kaiteriteri and back. The trip is 14km each way and will take just over an hour either way, including stops for photos, and slightly longer if you have the bad luck to get a puncture.
This is not a race track, rather it is a pleasant cycle along the Motueka waterfront and then through the the orchards that surround Riwaka. Just before finishing, enter the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park for a blast on the Easy Rider track.
Once at Kaiteriteri, mountain bike enthusiasts can explore tracks in the 180-hectare Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park. The Department of Conservation, the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Board and local mountainbikers have created a recreational off-road venue on public conservation land, and the outstanding result caters for all levels of rider.
Those needing a rest from their bike-seat can get a coffee or an ice-cream and head to the beach.
Day trip into Abel Tasman Take an easy one-hour drive to Marahau, a mellow beach town. This is the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, which stretches up and around Separation Point to the eastern reaches of Golden Bay.
The park is famed for its granite cliffs and golden sand beaches which, in combination with the green native bush, makes for a brilliant colour combination.
From Marahau to Anchorage is a four-hour walk (12.4km). You cross the estuary and then follow a well-marked track through open country, then beech forest and kanuka trees.
The track eventually turns inland, winding in and out of gullies before emerging to a view of the beautiful Torrent Bay.
Descend to Anchorage Hut and the beach and then catch a water taxi back to Marahau and your car.
For families with children, you will know that the Easter holiday doesn't finish on Easter Monday. Instead there is a whole two weeks to get out and about and enjoy the region.
Easter eggs and hot cross buns are ideal energy food to consume while out there.