Abel Tasman & the North West holiday highlights

The Abel Tasman region is one of those absolute must-see places on a visit to New Zealand. It’s a remote and picturesque wilderness reserve near the north-west tip of South Island, with deserted golden beaches, secluded coves, lush forests and welcoming cities. Explore the spectacular Abel Tasman Coast Track, a long trail winding over beaches and across ridges – the headland at Separation Point is home to New Zealand fur seal colonies, and the adjacent Tonga Island Marine Reserve has little blue penguins, bottlenose dolphins and seals.

If you’re travelling to the north-west of the South Island, then be sure to do the Nelson to Hokitika route – a fantastic self-drive option. You’ll start in the quaint city of Nelson, on the shores of Tasman Bay and the gateway to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. From there, head up to Puponga, the northernmost settlement on South Island at the foot of Farewell Spit. This sand spit stretches for around 20 miles and is an internationally renowned bird sanctuary, home to New Zealand’s newest Gannet colony. You’ll also be able to take tours here including the sand dunes and historic lighthouse, try a variety of walks and soak up spectacular ocean views from the adjacent Cape Farewell clifftop. Next you’ll reach Punakaiki, an area famous for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes; these ancient limestone rock formations are one of New Zealand’s most visited natural attractions. Time it right and you’ll get to experience the full sea spray at high tide. Not far down the west coast from here is Greymouth, the largest town on the South Island’s west coast with a great range of shops, cafés and restaurants, where you can also drop off and pick up cars. Your final stop will be Hokitika, a quirky beach town which dates back to the great Kiwi gold-rush of the 1860s. It has a laid-back way of living and pretty beaches – artists flock here every January for the Driftwood and Sand Beach Sculpture Festival, to create sculptures with materials they find. Take a scenic 20-mile drive from here to Hokitka Gorge, where you can walk the easy Hokitika Gorge Track, lap up views from the swing bridge and take a dip in the turquoise waters.

Abel Tasman & the North West key facts

Time difference

GMT +12 hours (GMT +13 hours from the last week in March to the first week in October)

Currency

New Zealand Dollar (NZ$) comprising of 100 cents.

Flying time to destination

Auckland: 23 hours, Christchurch: 24½ hours.

Language

English. Maori is also spoken but is not widely used.

Passport & visas

Visas are not required for UK passport holders.

Voltage & electricity

230 volt AC. Three round pin plugs are used, therefore an adapter is required.

Abel Tasman & the North West good to know

Tipping

Tipping is a matter of choice. For excellent service, a discretionary tip of 10% may be given.

History

The history of New Zealand dates back to approx. 1250 AD. It was discovered by Polynesians, who settled and developed a distinct Maori culture centred on kinship links and land. New Zealand is often referred to as the 'youngest country', as it was one of the last major landmasses to be inhabited, and has a fascinating mix of Maori and European heritage.