Nelson Tasman

Sunny top of the south

Nelson Tasman

Sunny top of the south

Located in the north western corner of the South Island, this region is home to three national parks and two Great Walks, all within easy reach of the small port city of Nelson. It also happens to be New Zealand’s only hops growing region so after a hard day of hiking, paddling or cycling, you’ll be able to relax with a fine craft beer.

Nelson region marker

Despite being relatively close to each other, each of the region’s national parks are quite distinctive, offering adventurers a range of different experiences and landscapes from hiking besides alpine lakes and through mountain forests to kayaking along palm-fringed golden sand beaches.

Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Nelson.

Drive times

  • Picton to Nelson: 105 km / 65 miles – 2 hours
  • Blenheim to Nelson 115 km / 74 miles – 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Nelson to Kaiteriteri (for Abel Tasman): 60 km / 37 miles – 1 hour
  • Nelson to Puponga (For Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach): 150 km / 93 miles – 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Nelson to Saint Arnaud (for Tasman Lakes): 85 km / 53 miles – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Nelson to West Coast (Punakaiki): 265 km / 165 miles – 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Nelson to Christchurch (via Lewis Pass): 415 km / 258 miles – 5 hours 50 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Nelson Airport is just 15 minutes from the city centre by car/taxi/shuttle and a number of operators provide domestic flights to the main centres.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Nelson (NSN): 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Nelson (NSN): 40 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Nelson (NSN): 55 minutes
  • Paraparaumu (PPQ) to Nelson (NSN): 45 minutes

There is also a small aerodrome in the small town of Takaka which is close to the northern end of Abel Tasman Park.

  • Takaka (KTF) to Wellington (WLG): 50 minutes
  • Takaka (KTF) to Nelson (NSN): 30 minutes
  • Takaka (KTF) to Karamea: 30 minutes

The Nelson Tasman region’s climate is said to rival that of the Mediterranean and that’s certainly true of the coastal areas and the city of Nelson itself, which regularly competes with Blenheim and Tauranga for the most annual sunshine hours. Overall the region is known for warm summers and cool winters although inland valleys do experience intense winter frosts with snow on the high peaks.

The average high in summer (December – February) is 23 °C / 73.4 °F while the average low is 13 °C / 55.4 °F. In winter (June – August) average temperatures drop to 13 °C / 55.4 °F high and 2 °C / 35.6 °F low.

Check current conditions and get the latest weather forecasts on

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Nelson Tasman

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Nelson & Tasman region.

Visit Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman may be New Zealand’s smallest national park but it sure does deliver, with golden sand beaches, clear turquoise water and an abundance of marine and bird life. The 60 km / 37 mile Abel Tasman Coastal Track is on of New Zealand’s official Great Walks, offering both camping and hutted accommodation. Alternatively, try a half, single or multi-day kayak tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks or combine hiking and kayaking for the best of both worlds.

Abel Tasman

Visit Kahurangi National Park

In contrast to Abel Tasman, the more remote Kahurangi National Park offers a diverse landscape of mountains, alpine meadows and coastal forest with palm fringed beaches on the island’s west coast. There are numerous walking tracks although many of them require good backcountry skills and fitness. Kahurangi is also home to the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks which can be hiked in 4 to 6 days. Between May and November the track can also be cycled although this is classified as an advanced mountain biking track.

Heaphy Track

Visit Nelson Lakes National Park

The small village of St Arnaud is the gateway too this national park which marks the start of the Southern Alps. Extensive glaciation and erosion of the alps has left behind beautiful forested valleys and crystal clear lakes which can be explored via a number of walking tracks, ranging from a few hours to several days. If nothing else, consider a rest stop on the edge of Lake Rotoiti if travelling along Highway 63 between Blenheim and the West Coast.

Nelson Lakes

Visit Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach

Farewell Spit marks the northernmost point of the South Island. While it’s possible to walk a short distance along the base of Farewell Spit, this internationally-renowned bird sanctuary is only fully accessible with DOC approved tour operators. However, nearby Wharariki Beach with its iconic rock formations is easily accessible and the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Wharariki Beach