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Nelson-Tasman Area Guide

The Nelson-Tasman area ranges over the north west corner of the South Island, its sunny weather, golden sand beaches, and national parks attracting scores of holiday makers every summer.

The largest settlement in the area is the small city of Nelson on the edge of Tasman Bay, its safe swimming beaches and good weather attracting holidaying families, who swim in the warm waters off Tahunanui Beach in the summertime, and a thriving community of artists producing glassware, ceramics, paintings and sculptures from studios dotted around the countryside. Just to the south west is the town of Richmond, where the Tasman Brewing Company (formerly Harrington's Brewery) made its special Lord of the Rings brew, the rich, dark Harrington's Stout.

From Nelson, state highway 60 leads north, passing the orchards of sunshine-filled Motueka, to reach the tranquil lagoons and clear waters of the Abel Tasman National Park. The park stretches from tiny Marahau, just north of Motueka, to the eastern end of Golden Bay and can be explored on the 51-kilometre Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks, or by sea kayaking around the inlets and bays.

The beach resort of Kaiteriteri lies 15 kilometres north of Motueka on Tasman Bay, its sandy beach crowded during peak holiday time in January. To the north, over the 791-metre Takaka Hill, are the beaches of Golden Bay, the main town, Takaka, made more colourful by its resident alternative lifestylers. Just outside Takaka lies the Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs, the largest freshwater springs in the southern hemisphere, with special scopes through which to view the underwater world.

The quiet town of Collingwood to the north offers four-wheel-drive tours along the 35-kilometre Farewell Spit, the northernmost point of the South Island. Known as Onetahua (heaped up sand) to the Maori people, the sand bar is home to more than 90 bird species, including migrating godwits and a breeding colony of gannets. Collingwood lies at the northern end of the Kahurangi National Park, near the start of the four-to-six-day Heaphy Track, another of New Zealand's Great Walks.

To the south lies St Arnaud, the base for exploring the Nelson Lakes National Park and its blue alpine lakes, Lake Rotoiti and Rotoroa, their clear waters surrounded by mountains and beech forest.

West of St Arnaud is the small junction town of Murchison, the southernmost township in the Nelson-Tasman area, its position on the Buller and Matakitaki Rivers making it an ideal spot for jet boating, kayaking and rafting. From Murchison, roads lead north to Nelson, east to Blenheim, west to Westport, or south east to Christchurch over the Lewis Pass.