Cruising with the top down in Nelson Tasman and Marlborough

Road tripping in a classic car, helicoptering to remote lodges or cruising the beautiful clear waters by boat – the Top of the South is so easy to get to, but it’s also stress-free and fun to get around.

Touch down in paradise

Centrally located within New Zealand, the Top of the South is easy to get to from anywhere. In less time than it would take to negotiate a busy Auckland motorway on a long weekend, you could be touching down in paradise, relaxed and ready to explore. 

Nelson Airport is well connected with the rest of the country, offering direct flights between six destinations, including Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Paraparaumu, while Blenheim and Picton Airports have direct flights from Auckland and Wellington. Choose between Air New Zealand, Sounds Air or Origin Air; the journey from Auckland to Nelson is a quick 75 minutes, or 90 minutes to Blenheim. The Top of the South is also connected with daily flights to most other North Island centres via Wellington or Auckland.

Once you’ve landed, prepare to be immediately wowed: Nelson Airport’s architecturally stunning new terminal is a traveller’s treat. With its impressive sloping ceilings and full-length windows designed to take in the natural landscapes, this airport is made to be part of your holiday. Before retrieving your bags, indulge in some local gourmet goodies at the Nelson Store, or celebrate your arrival with a craft beer at the McCashins Bar.

In Marlborough, the runway is right in the heart of wine country, with the nearest cellar door mere minutes away. Marlborough-based Sounds Air lands here and into Koromiko near Picton, where soaring between the hillsides feels like the start of an adventure before you’ve even touched the ground.

Once you’re here, you could continue your journey by air to reach remote accommodation locations without the added travel time. Local airlines and helicopter operators will whisk you away to almost anywhere, taking in spectacular views of Kahurangi and Abel Tasman National Parks or the Marlborough Sounds on the way.

The classic road trip

Cruising the sun-soaked coastline with the top down, the wind in your hair – it’s the stuff classic road trip dreams are made of.

Nelson-based RentAClassic has a range of convertibles, coupés & saloons for an unforgettable driving holiday – you can even rent a driver. Or how about zipping between cafes, galleries and to the beach on a vintage scooter from Vintage Scooter Adventures?
Whatever wheels suit your style, exploring by road is a fabulous way to see the best of the Top of the South, and more.

Hire a vehicle from one of the local rental companies, exploring the scenic routes, the side roads or the well-connected highways, and soak in the natural beauty of this place, your way.

If you’d rather sit back and admire the scenery than watch the road – totally understandable – then take a bus or shuttle between or around the regions. For urban exploration, grab a taxi, a city bus, or indulge in a guided sightseeing or vineyard tour.

Sea change

Bringing your own car or campervan from the North Island is as easy as driving onto a ferry in downtown Wellington, then emerging into beautiful Picton. The Interislander and Bluebridge ferries cross Cook Strait several times daily, and come with the added bonus of a scenic cruise through the Marlborough Sounds.

If that scenery piques your interest, stay on the water and explore. Beachcomber Cruises and Cougar Line will whisk you for lunch at far-flung Sounds lodges or several points along the Queen Charlotte Track. To explore neighbouring Pelorus/Te Hoiere Sound, water transport options include the Pelorus Mail Boat and Havelock Water Taxis.

In the Abel Tasman National Park, the sea is also a great way to explore further afield. Catch a scenic cruise, water taxi or boat trip from Marahau or Kaiteriteri, hopping off at one of the glorious golden beaches nestled along the coastline or walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.

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