9 Nelson Tasman Walks and Where to Treat Yourself Afterwards

A view of a beach at the Abel Tasman from above.

Nelson Tasman is the Top of the South’s destination for history, culture and varied natural landscape. It’s also a pretty neat part of New Zealand Aotearoa for a spot of walking and eating.

Words by: Claire Williamson

From urban strolls to high-intensity hikes, Nelson Tasman has something for every level of adventure. With easy access to stunning coastline or forested slopes, you don’t have to go far to immerse yourself in nature. Here’s our roundup of the best walks in the region, plus nearby locations where you can recharge with a cuppa, brew or pastry. Not into the walking part? Just head over to our Nelson cafés for a day of flâneuring instead. 

A large outdoor walkway leading up to a sculpture on a sunny Nelson day.

Nelson City Centre ArtWalk + The Free House

95 Collingwood Street, Nelson (The Free House)

Perfect for culture vultures and those looking for an easier stroll, the Nelson City Centre ArtWalk is an outdoor urban gallery spread throughout the city’s CBD, starring The Suter Art Gallery’s extensive collection of locally significant art. Follow the ArtWalk Map to hit all 20-plus sites (you’ll recognise artist names like John Gully and Rita Angus), or simply pause to admire one or two if you’re on your way elsewhere. When you’re done, make your way to The Free House to sample their excellent, ever-changing pints and a cone of incredibly addictive hand-cut chips.

Abel Tasman Coastal Track + The Smoking Barrel

105 High Street, Motueka (The Smoking Barrel)

As its name suggests, this 60km trail winds its way along the lush coast of the Abel Tasman National Park. Before you lace up your hiking boots, make sure to stop at The Smoking Barrel in Motueka to stock up on a selection of their famous made-in-house donuts—flavours change weekly—and a cup of coffee. Sufficiently sugar-fuelled, you’ll then be ready to take on the trail. From the parking lot, head to Apple Tree Bay for a relatively easy, two-hour return that gives you a taste of the park’s views, or plan to book in at one of the trail’s four huts or campsites if you want to make it a multi-day trek.

 

Te Waikoropupū Springs + The Mussel Inn

259 State Highway 60, Onekaka (The Mussel Inn)

Just over the Tākaka Hill in Golden Bay, the crystal-clear waters of Te Waikoropupū Springs beckon. From the start of the springs’ scenic reserve, it’s an easy 45-minute-return walk along the boardwalk trail through the bush. The one-way route leads you along the main pools—no touching this natural taonga!—where you can see the “dancing sands” effect caused by water moving with force through underwater vents. It’s then just a short drive to local mainstay The Mussel Inn, where you can fill up on hearty fare (often made with produce grown on-site) and local brews and soft drinks.

Two women looking down into Harwoods Hole in Nelson.

Harwoods Hole.

Photo supplied by Nelson Tasman. Photo by Oliver Weber.

Harwoods Hole + The Wholemeal Café

7110/60 Commercial Street, Tākaka (The Wholemeal Café)

Housed in the former Takaka Theatre, The Wholemeal Café is an eye-catching, expansive space painted goldenrod yellow offering Café Timor Leste coffee and a selection of fresh, tasty sweets and savouries. After admiring the eclectic premises, head over to the Harwoods Hole Track, a fairly easy 6km-return track that ends in New Zealand’s deepest sinkhole, the aforementioned Harwoods Hole.

Note: While the track is suitable for most ages, the edge of the hole is not cordoned off, and children should be well-supervised. Approaching the hole, not to mention caving, should only be done by experienced professionals. 

A couple sitting watch the sunset over Cable Bay in Nelson Tasman.

 Cable Bay. 

Photo supplied by Nelson Tasman. Photo by CJ Maddock.

Cable Bay Walkway + Cable Bay Café

799 Cable Bay Road RD1, Nelson (Cable Bay Café)

Stretching between Cable Bay and The Glen, this three-hour walking track (one-way) provides stunning views of Nelson’s Boulder Bank causeway, Abel Tasman National Park and Cable Bay estuary. Pro tip: If you want to do the whole walkway, plan to drive there in two cars—park one at the Glen end, and another on the other side at Cable Bay, so you aren’t accidentally committing to a six-hour return hike. Whichever end you start at, stop by the charming Cable Bay Café just off the beach, which boasts a compact but delicious menu of drinks and light lunch fare. Bookings recommended during the popular summer months.

The reflective lake of Lake Rotoiti on a sunny day.

Lake Rotoiti Circuit + Alpine Lodge

75 Main Road St Arnaud RD2, Nelson (Alpine Lodge)

Surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks, the Lake Rotoiti Circuit is a picturesque trek through dense beech forest and natural bush. While the 23–31km loop can be done in a day, you can also halve the circuit by catching a water taxi to one of the huts and circling back to Kerr Bay from there or split it into two days. Bring warm clothes and layers, as the alpine conditions mean weather can change rapidly. Back in St Arnaud, the Alpine Lodge is your one-stop shop for accommodation and restorative meals.

The Grampians + Le Posh Patisserie

2 Russell Street, Stepneyville, Nelson (Le Posh Patisserie)

Start your morning at Le Posh Patisserie, a classic French patisserie in unassuming premises, where you can snag some of the best tarts, eclairs and croissants Nelson has to offer. Whether you eat then and there or stash the treats in your bag, head to the Grampians—steep hills rising behind Nelson, offering excellent views over the city and out to the coast through its winding tracks, which are forested in pine and native plantings. When you make it to the radio tower at the peak, hunt out the (somewhat concealed) wooden viewing platform, where you can sit and polish off any pastries that survived the trip. 

Image credit: Nelson City Council

The view of Golden Bay from the Aorere Goldfields Track.

Aorere Goldfields Track + The Langford Store

1810 Collingwood to Bainham Main Road, Bainham, Golden Bay (The Langford Store)

Steeped in local heritage, the Aorere Goldfields Track leads you to some of the more accessible remnants of the area’s history. The trail follows an old miner’s track and water race until it reaches Stafford’s Cave, which can be climbed provided you have a higher level of fitness, headtorch and sufficiently sturdy boots. If you just want to take a look at the so-called Ballroom without spelunking, the trail skirts the outside of the cave system to the large cavern’s entrance. Back down in Bainham, The Langford Store is another piece of living history, packed with goodies both vintage and new. Order a drink and a scone or other sweet slice, and explore what life would have been like in the early 1900s.

A woman biking on a bike track on Coppermine Trail.

Coppermine Trail + Rustic Cuisine

228 Rutherford Street, Nelson (Rustic Cuisine)

The 38km Coppermine Trail is a shared track for walkers and mountain bikers that loops between the Book and Maitai valleys. It follows the line of New Zealand’s first railway and peaks at the Coppermine Saddle.

Walks on the trail can be scaled depending on how much time you have. From the Brook Street entrance it’s a three-hour walk to Third House, and from there, you can continue on to the saddle or Maitai Dam or backtrack to the starting point. Back in town, pop into Rustic Cuisine for a hearty galette, quiche or other tasty French treats.

Photo supplied by Nelson Tasman. Photo by Virginia Woolf Photography 

Neat Nelson Tasman Places

The Apple Pickers' Cottages

One of the black Apple Pickers' Cottages nestled among bushes.
Place Nelson Tasman
Accommodation key icon.

Channel your inner Rita Angus and step into an idyllic piece of Nelson Tasman at The Apple Pickers’ Cottages.

Zappekin Artists & Allies

Studio space at Zappekin Artists & Allies, Nelson Tasman.
Place Nelson Tasman
Galleries and museum key icon.

Zappekin Artists & Allies is a co-op of seven resident creatives formed to create community for local artists, a space to come together and work in, exhibit and collaborate in.

The Wholemeal Café

A view of the colourful Wholemeal Cafe from above.
Place Golden Bay
Cafes key icon.

Arguably the town’s most recognisable eatery, The Wholemeal Café, is housed in the former Takaka Theatre that dates back to 1910.

Arden + Porta Via

Customers sitting on a bench seat at Arden.
Place Nelson Tasman Editor's Pick
Bars key icon. Restaurants key icon.

Arden is a culinary experience you shouldn’t leave Nelson without enjoying.