Vast flooded valleys characterise the South Island’s northern tip – the imposing front to rolling vineyards, national-park beaches and historic towns. Expect adventure aplenty, coupled with amazing seafood and, in Marlborough, some of Australasia's finest wines.
Most introductions to the South Island are made at the Marlborough Sounds. And what a welcome it is, with giant carpeted crags and passing dolphins rising together to salute your ferry crossing. Be sure to linger longer for island wildlife, Captain Cook’s hidden cove and an abundance of hiking and kayaking opportunities in among its labyrinth of peak-backed bays. Turning inland, you’ll soon reach Blenheim whose position on the fertile Wairau Plains has given rise to a spread of award-winning vineyards, particularly noted for their sauvignon blanc.
Head west from the Marlborough region and you’ll arrive into Nelson. As one of New Zealand’s oldest settlements, you’ll find its historical credentials in the Art Deco Christ Church Cathedral, botanical gardens and the superb Founders Heritage Park, a pioneering replica village. Set idyllically between the Arthur and Richmond ranges, Nelson is also the picturesque gateway to Abel Tasman.
Nelson, New Zealand
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park quickly dispels any notion that New Zealand is all mountains and glaciers. Bookended by Golden and Tasman Bays, long burnished beaches dip into crystal-clear waters while dense native bush covers dramatic limestone jags. And the country’s smallest national park certainly packs a lot in, with kayaking, cruises and the most popular of New Zealand’s Great Walks – the Coast Track – all vying for your attention.
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand