The Marlborough Sounds are one of the nicest places in New Zealand to sea-kayak. Marine life is abundant in the Sounds and, depending on season, you’ll see little blue penguins, fur seals, dolphins, orca and rays as you paddle through the water. The bird life is extraordinary, including pied and spotted shags, Australasian gannets and fluttering sheerwaters. Occupying the western half of the top of the South Island is Nelson, a sunny, warm region filled with activities both on land and water. With 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, Nelson claims to be the sunniest region in New Zealand – but those of us living in Marlborough fuel a friendly rivalry on that front. Home to three National Parks, Nelson is a thriving area that is one of the most popular tourist destinations for both domestic and international travelers. For generations, many New Zealand families have spent their summer holidays in and around Nelson and this region can suit almost any holiday desire – you can just as easily find a remote piece of wilderness as you can an adrenaline ride or a trendy café. In addition to spectacular walking tracks, golden sand beaches and glorious inland lakes, Nelson is a haven for artists and craftspeople and has an annual calendar punctuated with festivals; two of the most renowned are the Montana World of Wearable Arts show (held every year in September) and the Taste Nelson Festival (held in February). New Zealand’s largest dance festival, The Gathering, is a three-day rave that takes place at the end of January in Golden Bay. This area is lovingly referred to as the “Heart of the Parks.” Say Golden Bay to most people who have been there and you will get a wistful look. I think just about everyone loves it; its remoteness and isolation have allowed a casual, free spirit to survive. It’s a crescent-shaped bay, hemmed by the Abel Tasman National Park on the south, Farewell Spit on the North, and Kahurangi National Park on the west. There are marvelous beaches, unique landforms, great walking tracks, good food and funky places to stay. What more can you want? But, at over one million acres, Kahurangi, also in this region, is one of the largest of New Zealand’s national parks. Its features include an incredible limestone-and-marble cave system, glacial lakes and alpine mountains. Maori are believed to have inhabited parts of the area from the 14th century and they are believed to have traveled its coast in search of greenstone (pounamu). Because of its vastness, there are vegetation changes from one side to the other. The east is punctuated by beech forest, the west by podocarp with vines, ferns and shrubs, and on the coast there are large stands of Nikau palm. A park of superlatives, it is home to the largest cave spider and the great spotted kiwi, as well as the smallest weta and the tiny rock wren. There are more than 350 miles of walking and tramping tracks in the park, including the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and the very popular Wangapeka Track. These are just a few of the highlights from this remarkable guide. All of the hotels and restaurants in the region are detailed as well. She tells you about the best walks, the river trips, where to shop, where to explore... and much more. Filled with color maps and photos.
About Bette Flagler
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Published July 23, 2012
by Hunter Publishing.