Motueka (pronounced mott-oo-ecka, meaning ‘Island of Weka’) is a bustling agricultural hub, and a great base from which to explore the region. It has vital amenities, ample accommodation, cafes and roadside fruit stalls, all in a beautiful river and estuary setting. Stock up here if you're en route to Golden Bay or the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks.
Abel Tasman National Park
Coastal Abel Tasman National Park blankets the northern end of a range of marble and limestone hills that extend from Kahurangi National Park. Various tracks in the park include an inland route, although the Coast Track is what everyone is here for – it's NZ's most popular Great Walk.
Boasting NZ’s highest concentration of yoga pants, dreadlocks and bare feet in the high street, Takaka is a lovable little town and the last ‘big’ centre before the road west ends at Farewell Spit. You’ll find most things you need here, and a few things you don’t, but we all have an unworn tie-dyed tank top in our wardrobe, don’t we?
Kahurangi National Park
Kahurangi – ‘blue skies’ in one of several translations – is the second largest of NZ’s national parks, and also one of its most diverse. Its most eye-catching features are geological, ranging from windswept beaches and sea cliffs to earthquake-shattered slopes and moraine-dammed lakes, and the smooth, strange karst forms of the interior tableland.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park surrounds two lakes – Rotoiti and Rotoroa – fringed by sweet-smelling beech forest with a backdrop of greywacke mountains. Located at the northern end of the Southern Alps, and with a dramatic glacier-carved landscape, it’s an awe-inspiring place to get up on high.
Takaka Hill (791m) butts in between Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. It looks pretty bushy but closer inspection reveals a remarkable marble landscape formed by millions of years of erosion. It's smooth beauty is revealed on the one-hour drive over the hill road (SH60), a steep, winding route punctuated by spectacular lookout points and a smattering of other interesting stops.
About 10km northeast of Takaka is pint-sized Pohara, a beachy village with a population that quadruples over summer. It has more flash holiday homes than other parts of Golden Bay, but an agreeable air persists nonetheless, aided by decent food and lodging, and a beach that at low tide is as big as Heathrow's runway.
Known simply as ‘Kaiteri’, this seaside hamlet 13km from Motueka is the most popular resort town in the area. During the summer holidays its golden swimming beach feels more like Noumea than NZ, with more towels than sand. Consider yourself warned. Kaiteri is also a major departure point for Abel Tasman National Park transport, although Marahau is the main base.