Coast to beautiful coast
From golden sand beaches to secluded coves and turquoise lagoons – the Top of the South has such a long, contrasting and fascinating coastline to explore that you may need more than one holiday to see it all.
Admire the Abel Tasman
Famous for its golden sand beaches, sweeping granite coastlines and lagoons so tranquil they appear almost ethereal, the Abel Tasman National Park is stunning from any angle.
The 60km Abel Tasman Coast Track runs between Marahau and Wainui in Golden Bay, and is one of New Zealand's Great Walks. The track is frequented at several points by scenic cruise, water taxi and boat transport, making it very easy to spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days just soaking in the beauty of this pristine paradise. Companies such as Wilsons Abel Tasman offer all-inclusive and multi-day guided trips so that you can truly relax and immerse in the experience.
Combining land and sea experiences is the best way to enjoy the unique, contrasting landscapes and natural attractions along the sweeping coast. Walk, or paddle in by sea kayak and venture up hidden lagoons and rivers, overnighting at beachfront lodges or DOC campsites. Or, cruise in by yacht or boat: being on the water allows you to explore sea caves, granite archways and offshore islands, such as predator-free bird sanctuary Adele Island, and spot seals, penguins and dolphins.
The palette of coastal colours is just as spectacular from the sky. Helicopter in from Nelson, Motueka or Marlborough, and land near stunning Awaroa Beach, famously purchased by the New Zealand public. Once you’re there in the heart of the park, stay a while at Awaroa Lodge, or walk a section of the track to discover more hidden delights of the park.
Sounds like adventure
Comprising of 1/5 of New Zealand’s total coastline, just looking at a map of the Marlborough Sounds is enough to bring out an itch for adventure.
The 73km Queen Charlotte Track takes in a wide variety of that coastline, from picture-postcard Ship Cove/Meretoto in the north, to bush-clad Anakiwa in the south, with ridgetop views across Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui and Kenepuru Sounds.
Like the Abel Tasman, the track has many entry points visited by Picton water taxis Cougar Line and Beachcomber, which can also transport sea kayaks and mountain bikes (biking is permitted on the track). Both companies offer scenic cruises with the option of stopping at Motuara Island, a protected bird sanctuary, or a day trip to historic Ship Cove/Meretoto.
On the quieter but no less interesting side of the Sounds, the Pelorus Mail Boat from Havelock offers a unique locals’ perspective on life in isolated properties, and a full-day trip will take you to corners of this vast coastline rarely seen by visitors.
And of course, the Marlborough Sounds, too, is spectacular from the sky – book a helicopter tour with a local operator, or have them land at a secluded lodge for lunch or to stay.
Taste your way around
Tasting fresh seafood paired with Marlborough wine while cruising the clear waters of the Marlborough Sounds, or indulging in a gourmet picnic on a private Abel Tasman beach – this, surely, is the very best way to enjoy the exquisite flavours of the sea.
Marlborough Tour Company’s Greenshell Mussel Cruise departs from Havelock, the Greenshell Mussel capital of New Zealand, and the Seafood Odyssea Cruise leaves from Picton. Both tours cruise past mussel and salmon farms, and offer generous servings of freshly prepared mussels, King salmon, Cloudy Bay Clams and paua.
Or, why not catch your own dinner? Katabatic Charters will take you fishing and foraging in the Sounds, before your catch is prepared on-board by your skipper, who happens to be a trained chef.
Wild and secluded D’Urville Island at the top of the Sounds provides some of the best fishing around – if you know where to look. Fishing charters from Nelson Tasman and Marlborough will show you the best spots to throw in a line, go spearfishing or foraging on the rocks before an incredible dinner on the boat or the beach. Be sure to admire French Pass, known for its wild tides.