There are plenty of exciting options for exploring this beautiful region, with tour operators offering everything from guided walks and 4WD safaris to swimming with the seals.
A popular half-day tour includes a coastline cruise of the Abel Tasman National Park, with opportunities to see seals and other wildlife. The half-day Nelson city self-drive tour is ideal for art enthusiasts. It visits the impressive Suter Art Gallery and its four exhibition galleries, historic South Street and its pottery gallery, and craft outlets such as the Bead Gallery, which allows visitors to create their own masterpieces. On a Saturday, Nelson's morning market is a must-do with stalls of pottery, woodware and local produce open until 1pm.
Water-based activities range from whitewater rafting on the Buller and Gowan Rivers, with their gorges and waterfalls, to sailing on Nelson harbour and fishing for trout in Motueka River. Adventure seekers en route to the West Coast can stop at Murchison, a popular adventure centre and the base for rafting excursions on the Buller River.
Full day options include a visit to Farewell Spit – the spectacular north-westerly limit of the South Island, with its historic lighthouse. A bird sanctuary frequented by godwits, the spit can be visited by 4WD safaris.
Longer tours take in the beauty of Nelson's three national parks, offering a taste of the great outdoors. Abel Tasman has 3-5 day guided kayaking and walking tours, or trampers can walk the popular 3-4 day Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Nelson Lakes offers lakeside tramping around Rotoiti and Rotoroa, while Kahurangi's rugged Heaphy Track requires 5-7 days to be seen to best advantage.
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