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Best of Blenheim and Tasman

Journey across the top of the south and its iconic wine and food districts. You will visit Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay and the Marlborough Sounds

8
Days
1,287
Kms
40+
Stops
Over 10%
Of New Zealand's coast

This is one of New Zealand’s newest themed highways and takes you through an amazing highlights package of the top of the South Island. You can access this route from many places. Firstly, it is a perfect way to start your roadie in the South Island if arriving on the ferry into Picton. Next, it can be joined on to either the Wild West Coast Road or the Alpine Pacific Touring Route to create a longer itinerary and of course you can do it as a loop journey form Christchurch for ease of accessibility which is what we cover here.

The Marlborough Sounds, made up of the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, Pelorus and Mahau Sounds has a massive 1,300 km of coast and sunken valleys to explore. This makes for a beautiful and dramatic landscape, home to hidden beaches, playful dolphins and lazing seals. Getting out of the water and into the rolling hills, you find one of New Zeeland's great walks with many shorter trails taking you through native bush tracks alive with bird song. To top it off, Marlborough has more sunshine hours than most other areas of New Zealand making it not just a 4-season destination but home to some of New Zealand's most famous vineyards.

Gaze across over 20,000 hectares of ever-green vineyards as you weave your way through one of New Zealand's iconic wine regions in Blenheim, where over 70% of New Zealand's wine is produced. The vineyards are split between the Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley and the Awatere Valley where they produce many wines, including the world-famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Entering Nelson Tasman, you gain access to three national parks including one of the jewels in the New Zealand crown - Able Tasman National Park.  This incredibly picturesque place can be explored on foot through the amazing walks or via the water. Sea kayaking is something the region is famous for, allowing you to explore hidden away golden beaches and watch out for the local seals and dolphins who call the sheltered bays home as you paddle at your own pace.

Then of course you have the extraordinary Golden Bay right at the top of the South Island. A mix of fertile plains, steep mountains and amazing coastal scenery, it really is one of the most unique landscapes in New Zealand. While it is home to some incredible beaches, it also happens to be where some of the clearest fresh water ever measured in the world can be found.

And the best part? We have just scratched the surface of all the amazing sites on this amazing touring route!

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

Day 1: Christchurch – Kaikoura - Marlborough Sounds (5hrs, 347km)

Your day starts with a straight shot North from Christchurch on SH1, or if you are coming from the North Island, then it starts as soon as the ferry docks at the Picton ferry terminal.

Coming from Christchurch, you will pass over the scenic hundalee hills before following the picturesque coast as you play “spot the seal” all the way to Kaikoura where famously, “the mountains meet the sea”. This is one of the best wild life spotting destinations in New Zealand, if not the world. Being so close to the sea and home to a massive fishing fleet, be sure to try some fresh seafood for lunch, with blue cod and grouper being excellent local fish. Treat yourself to the local delicacy of cray fish while in town, especially as Kaikoura translates to “eat crayfish” in Maori!

Next up, the top of the South welcomes you as does the start of the Treasured Pathway. Right away you can see the beauty of this route as you explore the main bodies of water that make up 1/5th of the coastline of New Zealand. The Sounds have over 50 conservation reserves, 1,500 km of coastline and numerous hidden bays and quiet beaches where you will find your own piece of paradise to explore or relax in.

With crystal clear water and a plethora of marine life, this is one of the most stunning places for you to do an island hopper cruise, or you can even do a tour to swim with the famed bottlenose dolphins, one of New Zealand's friendliest.

Highlights

Where to stay: Momorangi Bay is a DOC Campground set on a sheltered, north facing bay in Queen Charlotte Sound that gets plenty of sun. It is perfectly placed to enjoy not just watersports but also lots of walks in the area, with the Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks being just 15 minutes away.

Apollo hint: While at Momorangi Bay, be sure to check out the glow worm grotto on site to see some of New Zealand's famous living stars!

Cruising on the Queen Charlotte Sound

Day 2: Explore Marlborough Sounds and Havelock (1hr 30mins, 50km)

Start the day by exploring the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the most scenic walks in New Zealand. You can do an easy day walk between Anakiwa to Davies Bay or take a water taxi to some of the harder to reach bays. While there, make sure to visit ship cove, a heritage icon of New Zealand for both our Maori and European history as both sets of explorers stopped off here on their own journeys of discovery before you continue yours.

While the Marlborough sounds often get all the accolades, the Pelorus River offers one of the most beautiful sites in the country and you can spend the afternoon exploring this gem, either by a boat or kayak trip or by stopping off at one of the many swimming holes the river is known by. Keep an eye out though, you may just run into some hobbits bouncing down the river in barrels as this was where they filmed part of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” on middle earths “Forest River”.

Highlights

Where to stay: Pelorus Bridge Campsite is one you will certainly need to book as it is amongst the most popular campsites in New Zealand. Camp beside the gorgeous river amongst towering native trees home to native birds like the Tui and Bellbird and you may even be lucky enough to see our native long tailed bat as it passes overhead!

Apollo hint: Havelock is the green lipped mussel capital of the world, so either dive for your own or try some at one of the many seafood restaurants as you pass through.

Walk the stunning Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds

Day 3: Nelson and Kaiteriteri (2hrs 30mins, 120km)

For many, Nelson is their favorite place in the South Island and over the next few days, you will fall in love with the Tasman district like everyone else! Being home to all of New Zealand’s hops and New Zealand's first commercial winery, along with some fantastic cideries and craft breweries, one thing you won't be in Nelson. is thirsty!

First up, take a stroll to the center of New Zealand, a lovely 30 min walk that gives lovely views of both the Tasman bay and Tasman mountains. Explore the city and its lovely queens' gardens and the Suter art gallery, you can even visit Jens Hansen, the ring maker for Lord of the Rings where you can check out some of the rings used in the films or have one ring to rule them all made for yourself!

Next stop is Mapua where you can have dinner at the famed boatshed or if you have more time, check out the great taste trail, a scenic cycle trail that takes in the tastes of the region in more ways than one. From great food to spectacular scenery, this is one of New Zealand's great rides for a reason.

Back on the road, head west, stop for a picnic on the lovely scenic drive on the ruby coast. It gets its name from the colorful pebbles that can be found on the beaches as you head towards Motueka. Stock up on some supplies before heading to one of the most stunning beaches in New Zealand. Kaiteriteri and its iconic split apple rock.

You are now in one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand

Highlights

Where to stay: The Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve is a great choice to stay out in the Tasman region. Just meters away from the fabulous Kaiteriteri lagoon and being the gateway to Able Tasman National Park, this campsite is perfectly placed to allow you to relax or explore or both!

Apollo hint: The Riwaka Tavern is one of New Zealand's iconic pubs and is the home to local live music. Make sure you drop in and add to its history

Centre of New Zealand walk at Nelson

Day 4: Able Tasman National Park – Golden Bay (2hours 30mins, 100km)

This area is unique in many ways, one of which is that it gives you whatever kind of holiday you want. You can do one of the many short coastal walks like part of the famed Able Tasman Coastal Track that explores the hidden coves, golden beaches and crystal waters as you walk in the shade of native trees, bird song echoing with your footsteps. If you want to do some exploring, get a water taxi to some of the more remote beaches. Our favorite option is the “Taxi - Paddle” where you can get a water taxi deep into the park and kayak back. Pick empty beaches along the way to call home as you paddle back watching out for the local wildlife as the seals and dolphins might want to come out to play!

Whether you spend a day or a few hours, the park really will leave a lasting impression on you and you won’t want to leave, but over the marble mountain you go to explore Golden Bay.

Highlights

Where to stay: Tōtaranui Campground is one of New Zealand's favorites. It allows guests to camp right next to the golden beaches of the bay and is located at the top end of Able Tasman National Park. It provides an ideal place to base yourself while exploring the east side of Golden Bay.

Apollo hint: By getting the sea Kayak to drop you and your kayak further north, you can paddle back with the current and not have to see the same coastline twice on your journey.

Sea kayaking at Marahau in Able Tasman National Park

Day 5: Explore Golden Bay (1hr 30mins 61km)

Waking up in Golden Bay, it is a place as much about natural beauty as it is a hive of cultural attractions. It has a vibrant art community with local galleries and murals. Your first site of the day is the spectacular clear waters and gorgeous boardwalk at Te Waikoropupū Springs, the largest cold-water spring in the Southern Hemisphere offering some of the clearest water ever measured in the world! These springs are for looking at only, the water should not be touched for any reason. They are a place of taonga, meaning treasure for local Maori.

The golden sands and crystal-clear waters make these some of the most beautiful beaches in the country so be sure to enjoy a walk and swim, with Tata beach being a favorite. The best part? Thanks to their remoteness, you will often have them to yourself! There are so many adventures to be had in this area, it's hard to name them all, but ensure you take a walk on the Rawhiti Cave Track to one of the most diverse twilight zone caves anywhere in New Zealand.

After, head north for dinner at the iconic “Mussel Inn”, home to amazing food and if you time it right, some awesome local live music.

Highlights

Where to stay: Golden Bay Holiday Park is ideally placed to explore the top end of Golden Bay and is just a 5-minute drive from the iconic “Mussel Inn”, a great place to have dinner after a day of exploring.

Apollo hint: The Mussel Inn is an iconic music venue so make sure you look at what’s on so you don’t miss out on some awesome performances by local artists.

Looking down into some of the clearest water in the world at Te Waikoropupū Springs

Day 6: Golden Bay – Nelson Lakes (4hrs, 245km)

Today you can access some incredible sites like the massive dune system, archway islands and wide white sand expanses of Wharariki Beach. This is a spiritual place and one you can’t help but feel touched by. In Maori culture, this is where they say goodbye to the spirits as they leave this world.

You can access Wharariki Beach and many walks like those to cape farewell and farewell spit, one of the longest spits in the world. It is a place of international significance being part of the Flyway Reserve Network, where migratory shore birds feed and rest on their extraordinary journeys around the world, making it a favorite for bird watchers.

Finish up the day with a trip back over the Takaka Hill for your stop off at Nelson Lakes National Park, a must do stop on any trip to the Tasman region.

Highlights

Where to stay: Kerr Bay Campground provides stunning night sky views to match its beauty in the day as it over looks Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Apollo hint: While stunning at any time, Wharariki beach is best visited at low tide to allow you to explore the coastline more easily

Dune running at Wharariki beach, Golden Bay

Day 7: Nelson Lakes National Park – Hanmer Springs (3hrs, 235km)

Today you first get to explore the lovely Nelson Lakes area, with Lakes Rotoiti and Rotorua forming the core of this 100,000+ hectare alpine national park. Both lakes feature honey dew forests creeping down to the lake edges. With three lovely short walks on offer, you can try and spot the nectar loving native birds that call this unique area home. Be sure to grab a photo on (or jumping off!) one of our most photographed and picturesque wharfs at Lake Rotoiti before you leave!

After, you can choose to either head back to Christchurch via the beautiful Lewis Pass with a stopover at Hanmer Springs or jump on to your choice of two other themed highways to extend your journey. You can head over to Westport to join The Great Coast Road to explore one of Lonely Planet's highest ranked coastal drives in the world or after a stop off in Hanmer Springs, you can continue on the Alpine Pacific Touring Route.

If you have headed to Hanmer, take a late dip in the pools as the perfect welcome to Hanmer Springs alpine spa town!

Highlights

Where to stay: In the summer, there is a great Freedom Camping area at the confluence of the Hanmer and Waiau rivers giving you 24/7 access to awesome swimming holes, while in the winter the Top 10 is ideally located to give you walking access to the pools, restaurants and activities in the township

Apollo hint: Make a stop at St Arnaud, the gateway to Nelson Lakes. In winter, the water at duck pond freezes over meaning you can ice skate here!

The scenic wharf at Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 8: Hanmer Springs – Christchurch (2hrs, 129km)

Start the day with a final dip in the pools before doing the lovely “art in the forest” walk where you can see some fabulous carved art work on a short and relaxing forest trail before picking from a long list of awesome adventure activities to do.

Hanmer Attractions provides your one stop shop for adventure in Hanmer Springs. From jetboating to river rafting, to quad bike tours and bungy jumping, they have it all waiting for you to try. The best part is, they all run from one location making it easy to do multiple tours in a day.

On your way home, see if you can spot frog rock before travelling through the Waipara wine region on your way back to drop off at Apollo Christchurch.

Highlights

Apollo hint: If you have the time, there is a scenic walk on the old weka pass railway at Waikari to some ancient limestone over hangs. These are home to some early Maori wall art thanks to Maori first exploring this area 1,000 years ago!

Relax at the alpine spa town of Hanmer Springs

Ready to explore?

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