Northern South Island
The upper South Island is a haven for beach and wildlife lovers, and offers some of the best examples of coastline scenery in the country.
The following road trip plan will take you on a magical journey to a fantasy land of stunning beaches, sweeping valleys and gentle rivers. You'll be surrounded by things to do, but not by thousands of other tourists trying to cram into the same attractions.
And as an added bonus, we've thrown in a 5 day trek of the Queen Charlotte Track.
Dolphin Nature Tour
View dolphins and other natural wonders in the beautiful surroundings of the Marlborough Sounds.
Queen Charlotte Track
A 5 Day Guided Walk (71km) is the complete package, four days of walking, and one to rest and relax – or to enjoy a day’s sea kayaking.
World or WearableArt & Collectable Cars Museum
Two breathtaking museums under the same roof - something for everyone.
Marlborough has some of the best wineries in the country. Make time to sample the best of New Zealand.
The northern most tip of the South Island awaits - including lighthouse and Cape Farewell.
After disembarking the Interislander ferry, consider opening the day with a cruise from a company such as Dolphin Watch Nature Tours. You'll be able to see fur seals, penguins and possibly even the endangered Hector's dolphin, as the company claims it has a 90 per cent encounter rating.
If another boat ride doesn’t tickle the taste buds, take a guided kayak day trip through Queen Charlotte Sound. With pristine waters, wildlife, flora and fauna in abundance, this back to nature expedition is a great way to kick-off your new adventure.
Be sure to engage the services of the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company. They’ll be able to help out with kayaking, biking and walking throughout the Marlborough Sounds.
If you’re an independent hiker (or happy to be guided), the 5 Day circumnavigation of the Queen Charlotte Track is a must do. The Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company have a variety of packages from freedom to ‘glamping’ (resort accommodation, daily luggage transfers, packed daily lunches, information kits, maps and base support).
Most of all, don’t forget the camera!
If hiking isn’t for you or you have a couple of young ones in your party, skip Stage 2 (and 5 days) and go straight to Stage 3.
Places To Stay
No holiday parks at this location
When you're ready to leave Picton, exit north via Queen Charlotte Drive to snake your way along the pristine Marlborough coastline. Luminous greenery will follow you the entire way, and you'll bob in and out of sparkling bays, many of which are great picnic locations.
Soon you'll come upon your first major stop, buzzing Nelson. There's quite a lot to do here so set-up base at the Tuhuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park and set off to explore the surroundings.
If there's one thing the upper South Island is famous for other than its scenery, it's the wine. Titillate your taste buds with a tour of the local vineyards by popping on an experience hosted by Bay Tours. Whether you're interested in going for a full day or just a half day, you'll be able to sniff, swirl and savour a great many wines, as well as sample locally brewed beer and see some unique Nelson-made art work.
Nelson is home to artist’s galleries and workshops, historic buildings and a multitude of innovative cafes. Ensure that a visit to the World of Wearable Art & Collectable Cars Museum is on your list.
Leaving Nelson, travel North to Motueka, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and Kahurangi National Parks. Motueka is the base of many tourism ventures in these parks, taking into account the extensive limestone cave systems, which attract cavers and rock climbers. For more information be sure to call into the Abel Tasman i-SITE Visitor Centre located in the middle of town.
Moving on, not far past Motueka, turn off State Highway (SH) onto Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road. This will take you to the southern entrance of the Abel Tasman National Park, one of the nation's most famous walking regions. Though the full Coastal Track lasts over 50 kilometres, you can't leave the area without popping up the way for at least an hour or so, your finger fixed to the button on your camera.
Back on SH60, it's just a short jaunt up to Golden Bay and your final destination on this route. Staying at the Golden Bay Holiday Park, you’ll be nestled beside a shimmering golden beach and BBQ area to enjoy a classic Kiwi feast.
If you're looking to stretch your legs again, try the short walk at the base of Farewell Spit, the longest sand spit in New Zealand and the northernmost point of the South Island. It's also a breath-taking bird sanctuary, and tours are available if you want to see more of it.
This brings you to the end of this great itinerary. Hang out for a couple of days in Golden Bay and turn back the clock or simply steer the vehicle south to take into account the magnificent, rugged and historically influenced West Coast.