Nelson — Kaiteriteri (1-4 days, 38-175km)
Tasman’s Great Taste Trail starts at the Nelson Airport or the Nelson i-SITE and offers panoramic coastal and mountain views over Tasman Bay, Waimea Estuary and the Western Ranges, with many stops for fine food and relaxation.
After leaving Richmond, riders pass over boardwalks along the edge of the Waimea Estuary, home to a range of internationally signiﬁcant bird species, including the white heron and royal spoonbill.
From here the trail crosses to Rabbit Island, where riders can take a boat trip to the Mapua wharf and enjoy cottage-industry shops, cafés and restaurants.
From Mapua the route leads via Tasman and Harley Roads to Motueka, which hosts award-winning wineries; then on to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Motueka Valley section of the trail from Riwaka goes to Woodstock on country roads along the Motueka River’s west bank. The picturesque landscape is one of rivers and rolling hills with a gorgeous backdrop of forest and mountains.
From Woodstock, a Grade 3 route heads over Dovedale Hill to Wakeﬁeld on an unsealed undulating country road that climbs up to 300m. This route is temporary and will be replaced with a ﬂatter route via Tapawera and Kohatu Junction in the future.
From Wakeﬁeld, the trail returns to Nelson on purpose-built cycle paths and lanes and takes riders through vineyards and cafés, with various accommodation options. The full loop is 175km. From Wakefield, a 26km return side trip can be taken to historic Spooners Tunnel.
Known for its aromatic smoked seafood, Mapua is an essential stop for any food-lover. The waterfront cafés and fine-dining restaurants offer superb views to complement the great cuisine.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
This may be New Zealand’s smallest national park (22,530ha), but it’s huge on exquisite natural features. When you’re unwinding on a stretch of golden sand here you could be forgiven for thinking you’re on a tropical island.
If kayaking had a home in New Zealand it would undoubtedly be here… you can spend your days exploring the beautiful bays and coves by yourself or with a guide. You can also charter a yacht, swim with seals, paddle a sea kayak or go skydiving.
Water taxis to the park are available from Kaiteriteri and Marahau. Road access is via Kaiteriteri and then Marahau.
RIDING THE TRAIL
NELSON TO WAKEFIELD, (GRADE 2 EASY) 30KM OR NELSON TO MAPUA, (GRADE 2 EASY) 35KM
Starting from the Nelson i-SITE, follow the Railway Reserve cycle path through Nelson and Stoke. At the northern edge of Richmond, the trail splits in two. Either ride around the Waimea Estuary, across a custom-built swing bridge over the Waimea River to Rabbit Island and then by ferry to Mapua, or carry on straight ahead towards Richmond.
MAPUA TO MOTUEKA, (GRADE 2 EASY) 26KM
From the Mapua wharf follow the signs through the back streets of Mapua, then along the coast to Ruby Bay. From here the trail heads inland with a couple of short hill-climbs and panoramic views to Lower Moutere, Motueka and Tasman Bay.
MOTUEKA TO KAITERITERI, (GRADE 2 EASY) 16KM
Shortly after connecting with the coastal highway as you enter Motueka, the trail turns right on to Courtenay St. It heads out to the coast for a section before turning back inland to cross the Motueka River to Riwaka. From Riwaka it’s back towards and along the coast, with a short climb on an easy forest trail through the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park and to Kaiteriteri Beach.
RIWAKA – WOODSTOCK (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE ON ROAD ) 32KM
This section leaves the cycle trail for a sealed back-country road along the Motueka River. After Riwaka where the trail to Kaiteriteri turns right, go straight ahead onto Factory Rd and through Brooklyn to the West Bank Rd. Follow the signs to Woodstock, crossing the Motueka River back to the main road on the third bridge. After about 300m on the main road turn left onto a side road to Woodstock.
WOODSTOCK TO WAKEFIELD, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE ON ROAD) 30KM
Follow the signs to the gravel Pigeon Valley Rd to Wakeﬁeld, which goes over a 300m saddle in pine forest. It’s used by logging trucks on weekdays. Please pull over and let them pass. At Wakeﬁeld, connect back onto the cycle trial to Richmond and Nelson. Cross the main highway onto Edward St and head up a short hill to the cycle trail in front of the church. Soon after this a left turn takes you onto a trail through farmland to Brightwater on the return journey to Nelson.
WAKEFIELD TO SPOONERS TUNNEL, (GRADE 2 EASY) 19KM
Spooners Tunnel can be visited as a side trip from Wakefield. South of Wakefield the route is on highway for 5.2km to Wai-iti and then is back to off-road trail. It goes alongside the Wai-iti River and pastoral countryside, then plantation forestry following the old railway line to the 1.4km long Spooners Tunnel. The tunnel is not lit so a torch is required; you will also need a warm clothing layer. Spooners Tunnel is NZ’s longest decommissioned rail tunnel, the 5th longest tunnel open to cycling and walking in the world, and the longest in the southern hemisphere. From Spooners Tunnel you can continue on the main road for 30km to Kohatu, Tapawera and Woodstock, or retrace your route back through the tunnel.
ALONGSIDE THE TRAIL
Smack bang in the middle of nowhere is Spooners Tunnel, New Zealand’s longest unused rail tunnel. Construction began in 1873 of a railway line to connect Nelson to the rest of the South Island. Teams of men worked three shifts with picks and shovels to dig Spooners Tunnel; many workers were Chinese, Japanese and Italian immigrants. Although the Tunnel was completed in 1893, it took another three years of financial problems and track construction before the first train went through.
The tunnel provided an important connection from Nelson through to Golden Downs. Several sections were added over the next years, but construction was hampered by economic recession and doubts about the long-term viability of the line. Development of road travel reduced railway use for freight and public transport.
After 1931 the railway line was under constant threat of closure. The dream of linking Nelson to the main trunk line and the rest of the South Island was never realised and the line became known as the ‘railway to nowhere’. Trains used the line and Spooner Tunnel until services stopped in 1955. The line was dismantled amongst fierce public protest. One of the protestors was pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies. Their decision to sit on the tracks at Kiwi Station at Tapawera for a week ended with nine women, including Davies defying an oncoming locomotive and being arrested.
The rail link had run for 79 years and remains an important part of Nelson’s history.
Nelson’s central location at the top of the South Island makes the region very accessible from all points around New Zealand, whether arriving by road, air or sea.
Many visitors drive to Nelson as part of a South Island tour. Good roads connect Nelson to the West Coast via the Kahurangi National Park, to Blenheim and to Christchurch via the Lewis Pass. Whether you travel to Nelson through Murchison or follow the Kaikoura coast you will see some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Nelson Tasman region is well serviced by coaches operating into and around the region.
Driving distances and times
Blenheim to Nelson (117 km) 1 hr 45 mins Picton to Nelson (144 km) 2 hrs Westport to Nelson (266 km) 3 hrs 15 mins Christchurch to Nelson (424 km) 6 hrs
Nelson airport is the fourth busiest commercial airport in New Zealand, and flights operate from 6 am to 10pm pm daily with more than 66 arrivals and departures to and from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
In addition, there are scheduled flights on light aircraft between Nelson and Paraparaumu and between Takaka and Wellington, Palmerston North and Karamea
Regular Cook Strait ferries provide vehicle and passenger access between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. The two primary ferry companies are the Interislander and Bluebridge. Regular coach services connect Nelson and the inter-island ferry services at Picton.
- Nelson Tasman Marlborough i-SITE
- Tourism website for the Nelson/Tasman Region
- Heart of Biking Nelson/Tasman
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Available throughout the trail.
DRINKING WATER: Water can be purchased at shops at each township along the trail. Some drinking water is also available at reserves such as on Rabbit Island. The longest distance without water supply is from Richmond to Rabbit Island (15km).
The Nelson Tasman region is blessed with a mild mediterranean climate and often boasts the highest annual sunshine hours in New Zealand – perfect for exploring the region’s cycle trails! Even in winter the region enjoys many clear sunny days for riding.
During summer (December to February) temperatures vary from 13 ̊ C to 22 ̊ C During winter (June to August) temperatures vary from 3 ̊ C to 13 ̊ C January and February are the hottest months of the year and July is generally the coldest.