New Zealand is made up of two islands, both of which have a diverse and beautiful natural setting. Known for its glaciers as much as its beaches, New Zealand is the perfect destination for adventurers and lovers of the great outdoors. Sensational national parks, diverse and exciting cities, and pleasant weather make New Zealand a location that should be on everyone's bucket list. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Queenstown

Queenstown
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Queenstown, on the South Island, is one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand for tourists. There are so many outdoor activities to be done in Queenstown that it's pretty much a requirement on any traveler's bucket list. Visitors can skydive or bungee jump, with amazing views of lakes, canyons, and mountains on the way down, or go whitewater rafting on the Shotover River. There are also opportunities to see some of the prominent and recognizable filming locations from the Lord of the Rings series on a guided tour of nearby Glenorchy.

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2. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park
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Located on the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its gorgeous sandy beaches and the granite cliffs that rise up above them. The perfect spot for a day trip to the beach, where visitors can kayak, canoe, and sunbathe on a secluded stretch of sand, Abel Tasman National Park is also well known for its hiking trails. The most famous of these, the Abel Tasman Coast Track, is nearly 40 miles long and takes an average of 3 to 5 days to complete, but there are plenty of other shorter trails for amateur hikers or those looking for a simple day trip.

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3.Aoraki - Mount Cook

Aoraki - Mount Cook
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The village of Mount Cook sits at the bottom of this massive mountain, which at 12,218 feet at its summit is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. The mountain lies within the bounds of Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, which is an exceptionally beautiful place, full of rocky snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear glacial lakes, and some lovely hiking trails. All the trails in the area provide some wonderful mountain views, and most take about 3 hours to complete, but climbing Aoraki / Mount Cook itself is not a feat that is recommended for amateurs.

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4. Auckland

Auckland
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Auckland is one of the biggest cities on New Zealand's North Island and is one of the most major cities in the whole country. It's a world-class city with some unbelievable nature right at its doorstep, and it makes a great homebase for a stay in New Zealand. From here, it's easy to reach some of the wonderful surrounding nature and the adventure that it brings - kayaking to a volcano or strolling along the black sand beaches, for example - all while being able to return to a place with countless restaurants, shops, nightlife, and accommodation when you're done.

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5. Central Otago

Central Otago
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Central Otago refers to the central region of the South Island, in the Otago Region. In sunny Central Otago, visitors will find dry, hilly landscapes and some beautiful heritage towns. Otago was the center of the gold rush in New Zealand, and some of the small towns there, like Bannockburn, Naseby, and Ophir, still reflect this history with their old-school charm. The region is also perfect for wine growing and is home to a number of excellent vineyards, which are especially famous for pinot noir. A tour of the local fare in Central Otago is sure to include some fantastic wines alongside local cheeses, meats, and produce grown in the region.

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6. Chatham Islands

Chatham Islands
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The Chatham Islands are an archipelago of about ten islands located about 500 miles east of New Zealand's South Island. The Chatham Islands, with their sheer rocky coastlines and rugged green wilderness, were the ancestral home of the Moriori people, a Polynesian tribe very similar to the Maori of New Zealand's main islands. There are daily flights to the Chatham Islands via Air Chathams, which leaves from Auckland and Whanganui. The islands are famous for delicious, fresh seafood, which can be sampled at any of the restaurants on the Chatham Islands. There are also lots of opportunities to view wildlife, from the abundant birds and animals to the flowering plants in the archipelago.

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7. Christchurch Canterbury

Christchurch Canterbury
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Christchurch is a city on the South Island of New Zealand on the East Coast of the island and in the region of Canterbury. It's the second-largest city in New Zealand and is known as the Garden City for its gorgeous gardens and parks. The traditional English feel of Christchurch is offset by the common New Zealand feeling of never being too far from nature, and it's true: There are oceans, beaches, and mountains at the city's doorstep. The region of Canterbury is well known for its diverse landscape, with snow-capped mountains, beautiful blue lakes, and grassy plains.

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8.Dunedin

Dunedin
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Dunedin, a city on the South Island, was founded by Scottish immigrants. It's a university town that isn't as often visited by tourists as other cities in New Zealand, so it has a best-kept secret feel to it. The beautiful Edwardian and Victorian architecture, trails for hikers and bicyclists, and diverse city life full of food, nightlife, art, and shopping all combine to make Dunedin a lovely paradise of a city. There are beautiful beaches, unique food, and even access to the Otago Peninsula, where keen-eyed visitors might spot an albatross or a yellow eyed penguin.

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9. Fiordland

Fiordland
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Fiordland is named for the fiords of Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound, which were carved by glaciers millions of years ago and lie within Fiordlands National Park. The crystal-clear blue waters, from which mountains rise up on all sides, are part of some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of New Zealand. The mountain to sea vistas, with their forests and splashes of color, are picture perfect, as are many aspects of this beautiful place. For a fully immersive experience, visitors to Fiordland can go hiking, climbing, fishing, camping, or kayaking.

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10. Kaikoura

Kaikoura
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Literally named for its food, kaikoura in the Maori language means "crayfish food." Most restaurants in Kaikoura serve this local specialty, caught right off the coast. Kaikoura is actually very well known for other marine life as well; there is an abundant population of seals, dolphins, and whales that live permanently in the ocean near the town. A whale watching tour taken from Kaikoura is almost always fruitful, with plenty of wildlife to observe, including a local population of fur seals that are pretty entertaining. Located just a few hours from Christchurch, Kaikoura is a great spot for a day trip.

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11. Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo
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This town in the geographical center of the South Island is named for the lake of the same name, which lies just north of the town. Lake Tekapo is beautiful and colored a unique cloudy blue due to the glacier-ground rock flour in its waters, and the town, with mountain vistas rising from the lake's turquoise edges, is both historical and friendly. Lake Tekapo might be gorgeous during the day time, but once the sun sets, this area is truly magical. It's part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, meaning that once night comes, the skies of Lake Tekapo are lit up by a mind blowing number of stars.

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12. Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka
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Lake Wanaka, the fourth-largest lake in New Zealand, is located inland on the South Island in the Otago Region. The crystal-clear waters of this gorgeous lake make for some beautiful photos, and the sunny inland weather makes for even more beautiful days spent out on the water. During the summer, Lake Wanaka is perfect for sailing, fishing, and kayaking, and the nearby mountains provide a great setting for hiking, climbing, and even skydiving. During the winter months, the peaks surrounding Lake Wanaka are busy with skiers racing down the slopes.

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13. Marlborough

Marlborough
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Marlborough, a region located at the northernmost tip of the South Island, is a name that should sound familiar to anyone who appreciates a good wine. The region is famous worldwide for its sauvignon blanc, which is grown and produced at vineyards throughout the area. Other reasons to visit Marlborough include its delicious fresh seafood from the coastal waters and, like most of New Zealand, its gorgeous landscapes. Along the coast of the region are a mass of tiny coastal islands and waterways, with dramatically shaped pieces of green land rising up out of the blue water, which is very popular for boating.

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14.Matamata

Matamata
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Matamata is a must-see destination for any Lord of the Rings fans visiting New Zealand. This small town on the North Island has a number of delicious cafes, and its location, set into the shadow of the Kaimai Mountain Range, is downright stunning. But what draws people to Matamata is what lies just southeast of the town, namely the filming set and location for Hobbiton, the home of Frodo Baggins and his hobbit companions in The Lord of the Rings series. There are 44 hobbit holes set into the hills of this location, including Bag End.

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15. Milford Sound

Milford Sound
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Milford Sound is a beautiful sight: Forged thousands of years ago by glaciers, its waterfalls and flowing waters are framed by sky scraping mountains, which reach up with their rocky fingers into the air. Boat cruises of the sound, which are offered both during the day and overnight, are an excellent way to interact with this piece of nature. There is also ample opportunity at Milford Sound to see the fiord from a sea kayak, from the air, or from beneath on a scuba dive. Along the edges of the fiord, hikers can traverse the Milford Track, which winds its way through the vivid wilderness and takes approximately 4 days to complete.

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16. Napier

Napier
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In 1931, an earthquake devastated the town of Napier, killing over 250 people and destroying many of the town's central buildings. Resilient and determined, the survivors of the earthquake began to rebuild immediately, and they did so in the style of the period. As a result, the town of Napier serves today as an excellent example of art deco architecture, with distinctly New Zealand touches such as Maori patterns and aesthetic details. Delicious vineyards that produce pinot gris and Syrah, farmers' markets, and annual festivals to celebrate the town's heritage are just a few of the other details that make Napier feel like a step back to a simpler time.

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17. Nelson Tasman

Nelson Tasman
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Nelson Tasman is the sunniest region in all of New Zealand, and its landscapes - full of golden beaches, dense green forests, tall mountains, and freshwater springs - reflect that sunny demeanor. On a sea kayak tour, visitors can spot penguins, seals, and maybe even some dolphins, while on land they can visit Abel Tasman National Park. Nelson is a city famous for its Nelson Bay scallops, and restaurants along the coast will serve them with a delicious glass of local wine. It is also a city that has long drawn creative people into its arms, and the art galleries, craft fairs, and studios in the area provide visitors with an opportunity for a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

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18. Northland

Northland
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Northland is, as the name suggest, the northernmost region of New Zealand. Its climate is subtropical, with lots of sunshine, warm temperatures, and pleasant days, and the region encompasses not just the main island but also the Bay of Islands as well as thick forests of kauri trees and an abundance of marine life. Snorkeling off the Poor Knights Islands, watching for dolphins from a boat tour, surfing down the Te Paki sand dunes, or enjoying a drink at the Duke of Marlborough - home of the oldest liquor license in New Zealand - are just some of the exciting adventures that await.

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19.Rotorua

Rotorua
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Rotorua is lucky to be in possession of a veritable natural wonderland, with recreational options for families, adventurers, and sightseers. Its lakes are perfect for fishing, boating, and relaxing on the water. Maori culture is strong in this area, and visitors can catch a performance of a traditional Maori song and dance in the living Maori Village or at the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. In Whakarewarewa Valley, tourists can view the Pohutu Geyser, a 30-foot geyser that erupts multiple times a day, and see the bubbling pools of mud formed by the geothermal activity of the region.

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20. Taupo

Taupo
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Lake Taupo, on the North Island, is a large and beautiful lake that formed in the caldera of a volcano of the same name. It is the largest lake in New Zealand based on surface area, and the lake, in its volcanic bowl, is a beautiful place to visit. Visitors to the area can soak in the warm, geothermal pools at Wairakei Terraces, fish for trout in the lake's waters, or cycle along the trail that follows the edges of the lake. There are also opportunities for adrenaline sports, such as bungee jumping and skydiving, and a strong presence of the Maori people. Some of the most beautiful Maori artwork can be found on Lake Taupo at the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, and with the Kai Waho native experiences, visitors can experience traditional Maori food and music.

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21. Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park
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In Tongariro National Park, which is a World Heritage site, there are three active volcanoes, including Ngauruhoe, which served as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings series. On the slopes of one volcano, skiers race down the sides, and on another, there are boiling pools of mud and emerald lakes full of volcanic gas. Hiking trails lead to the Red Crater, an active crater on top of Mount Tongariro. At the base of the volcanoes, visitors can paddleboard, kayak, and enjoy the large lakes that lie peacefully at the bottom.

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22. Waitaki

Waitaki
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The Waitaki Region stretches through the center of the South Island, meaning that it contains beautiful coastlines as well the imposing mountains and green plains of the island's inland regions. In the coastal town of Moeraki there are boulders strewn upon the beach that are over 65 million years old, and in the waters off the land's edge there are dolphins that leap into the air as they play. Further inland, the town of Oamaru and its white stone buildings are a lovely and charming stop on the way to the famous Aoraki / Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand.

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23.Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves
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Waitomo Township is green and hilly, but underneath the sunny, glassy area lies something much darker and more intriguing: A system of caves and underground streams. Visitors to the Waitomo Caves can see the massive stalactites and stalagmites all lit up by the population of phosphorescent glow worms that live in the caves and illuminate the space with an eerie light. Those with a more adventurous heart can also choose to explore the caves via a zipline or by blackwater rafting, which involves holding tight to a rubber tube as they navigate the twists and turns of the underground river.

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24.Wellington

Wellington
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Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, is located at the southern end of the North Island. There's a huge art scene in this city, which is well known for its creative spirit. Visitors to Wellington will enjoy its many art museums and galleries, tours of movie sets and locations, and all the shopping and food that the city has to offer. A quick ride on the famous Wellington Cable Car will provide visitors with a gorgeous view of the city and surrounding areas, and a short drive out of the city will find tourists in some truly beautiful natural areas.

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25.West Coast Glaciers

West Coast Glaciers
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The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, located on the West Coast of the South Island, are two large glaciers that still flow nearly to sea level, even in this age where most of the world's glaciers are shrinking. Their lower altitude relative to most glaciers and the mild climate of the region mean that these two glaciers are very easy to visit, and tourists will get a kick out of climbing among the ancient ice, parts of which have open tunnels like caves that visitors can explore. To visit the glaciers, guests must book a helicopter or ski plane to the starting point and hire a guide to lead the trip onto the ice.

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25 Best Places to Visit in New Zealand



More Ideas: West Coast Glaciers

The West Coast Glacier area of New Zealand is a great way to see what the Ice Age was like in a modern setting. The area is a paradise for hikers, campers, and thrill seekers of all ages and experience levels who can spend anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks seeing all the sights.

History

The West Coast Glaciers, headed up by Fox Glacier, is a small area on New Zealand’s South Island. There is a current population of just over 300 permanent residents. The area is known mostly for its geographic and geologic features as well as its tourism. The city was founded after the local gold rush (in Okarito) and many of the local buildings have been restored and are available for tours.

Permanent Attractions

For the thrill seekers, the West Coast Glaciers offers skydiving. In fact, one of the original places to skydive off of glaciers is located at West Coast. Over 20,000 have taken the plunge with Skydive Fox (which has been voted the second most scenic in the world after only Mount Everest). The flight takes visitors over Westland National Park, subtropical rainforest areas, lakes, rivers, the Tasman sea, the highest mountains in New Zealand (Mount Tasman and Mount Cook/Aoraki), and the biggest glaciers/snow fields in the entire Southern Alps. Freefall options range from 30 seconds to 65 seconds (from 9,000 to 16,500 feet).

Guests who prefer to stay on the ground can take one of the many glacier walks. One of the most popular is the Franz Josef walk, which takes about an hour and a half to complete. This moderately difficult walk will lead visitors through rocky riverbeds, and appropriate footwear is required. At the end of this walk is a short climb leading up to the viewing area, 750 meters away from an ice wonderland. If guests watch closely, they will be able to see that the glacier is, in fact, constantly moving. Be aware that falling rocks and ice are possible, so stay on guard. Wear warm clothing and carry water.

Another local hike is the Pororari River walk/track. Close to the scenic Punakaiki Village, this short hike leads visitors through limestone gorges, huge rocks, and deep pools. There are spectacular views leading down the riverbed. Guests can also choose to camp out while visiting.

Close by is the Paparoa National Park. Running from the ocean to the mountain range, the park was initially established to contain the complete range of different landscapes and various ecosystems located there (gneiss and granite summits that make up the Paparoa range, as well as the Punakaiki layered rock formations). Guests should take the Inland “pack track,” a historic trail that was formed originally by gold miners. One of the most recommended attractions is to actually camp out on the trail, especially under what is known as the Ballroom Overhang. There is also much wildlife to see, including bird watching of the Westland Black Petrel and the Great Spotted Kiwi.

Special Events

During the holiday season, the West Coast Glacier area hosts the Paroa Winter Ball. This ball comes complete with finger foods, champaign, and live music and lets guests get all dressed up. Nearby, Hokitika also hosts a full winter festival including live music and shows, live Christmas trees, a winter solstice lantern parade, and more.

Another tourist favorite is the formal whiskey tasting events, hosted in June. Guests can sample five different whiskeys (including some not yet released) as well as dining on appetizers and listening to live music. Tickets need to be purchased in advance and the event is only for guests over legal drinking age (18 in New Zealand).

The area is also host to a variety of different cultural events, including Broadway musicals, national touring musicians, and other plays and productions. The website contains a full and comprehensive calendar of all events offered and is regularly updated. In addition, many of the local tourist companies will offer special tours during select times of the year and should be contacted directly prior to any planned visit for reservations.

Dining and Shopping

The West Coast Glacier area has a wide variety of different restaurants, cafes, and bars located right on the glacier. From the Salmon Farm cafe which serves freshly caught fish to the Bigfoot Bar and Restaurant with a variety of spirits and traditional bar food, everyone can find something on the glacier. There are also shopping options offered there, including local handmade goods from the Hobnail Shop.

More Places to Visit in New Zealand

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More Ideas: Abel Tasman National Park

Guests visiting Abel Tasman National Park, in scenic New Zealand, will be awed by the large amount of natural beauty that it contains in such a relatively small area. Guests who stay anywhere from 24 hours to a week (or more) will find a nearly unlimited amount of adventure awaiting them.

History

The park was established in 1942 at the top of South Island, although the ground that encompasses the park can be traced all the way back to 1642 when the park’s namesake, Abel Tasman, met the native Ngati Tumatakokiri people. The park takes up a relatively small 22,530 hectares, which makes it the smallest of all of the national parks in New Zealand. The care and management of the ecosystems in the park has been funded by Project Janszoon, which was started in 2012 as a privately funded trust.

Permanent Attractions

The National Parks offers the same features as many national parks do, with the majority of the attractions and activities taking place outdoors. It is strongly encouraged that guests check the weather ahead of a planned visit to ensure that it won’t be either too hot or too cold to enjoy a significant amount of time outdoors. All access to the national park is made through the small, local settlement of Marahau.

To make the best of a visit to the national park, download the virtual visitor center app (available for in both Google Play and the App Store). This free app provides handheld information about the history of the park, different points of interest, tide information, and weather alerts.

Walking and Hiking Trails - There are six different planned walking and hiking trails located in Abel Tasman. Guests should be aware of the wind forecast and come prepared with sunscreen, appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes.

- Coastal Track - The longest and most popular trail at Abel Tasman, the Coastal Track generally takes visitors between three to five days to complete from start to finish. It is considered an intermediate trail that is 60 kilometers in length, featuring sometimes steep and muddy terrain. The view from the track features beautiful golden, sandy beaches and Cleopatra’s Pool (a naturally formed rock pool with a moss lined waterslide. There is also a 47-meter suspension bridge over Falls River inlet (make sure to keep an eye out for the fur seals that live there).

- Harwood’s Hole Track - A much easier and shorter trail (just under three kilometers), the Harwood’s Hole Track usually takes visitors about 45 minutes to complete. Leading visitors through beech forests and limestone formations. Be on the lookout for New Zealand’s deepest (at 176 meters) vertical shaft but approach with caution as there are no barriers.

- Inland Track - A three-day trail with over 40 kilometers of track, the Inland Track is one of the more advanced trails in the park. Walk or hike through undisturbed forests and granite outlooks with stunning views of the coastline. There are multiple designated camping spots located just off the trail as well.

- Totaranui Walks - This trail is actually a combination of shorter, easier nature walks of varying distance. Although some of the terrain is considered “intermediate,” the distance makes many of these easily walkable for even the youngest guests.

- Wainui Falls Track - Just under an hour and a half round trip, the Wainui Falls track takes visitors through the native bush to the most accessible falls in the park. There is also a swing for children to enjoy, as well as a suspension bridge guests will cross on their way. Guests should keep an eye out for the unique Powelliphanta Snail, which is one of the biggest in the world.

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Mountain Biking - In addition to the walking and hiking trails available in the national park, there are also two different areas that have been designated for mountain biking.

- Moa Park Track - Accessible from the car park at Canaan Downs and available all year round, the section of trail from the Wainui Track to the Rameka Track turnoffs, the Moa Park Track forms a complete circle as well as linking to another bicycle trail in the nearby area.

- Gibbs Hill Track - The second area of bike track is around the Gibbs Hill Track. Guests should be aware that it is only available between May and October.

Canoeing and Kayaking - The only way to access some of the coves around the bypasses, as they are sheltered from both the road and from the trails. Guests are welcome to sail, boat, canoe, or kayak through the waterways, and many water vehicles can be rented if guests don’t have their own. Guided tours by canoe or kayak are also available. Be aware that the majority of the islands can be visited, however, Tonga Island cannot (as it is a current seal breeding colony).

Hunting - Hunting is welcome at Abel Tasman, but only in the two designated hunting areas. Failure to abide by the laws of the national park may result in prosecution, and guests who plan to hunt must make sure to have all necessary permits with them at all times while visiting.

- Northern Abel Tasman - Encompassing the northern coastal areas of the national park from around the Awaroa Inlet to Separation Park, hunting of feral pigs, goats, and red deer is permitted in the Northern hunting section. Terrain includes both coastal areas and forest. Contact the Takaka Office for additional information and permits.

- Southern Abel Tasman - Mostly focusing on feral pigs, but with smaller populations of goats and red deer, the Southern Abel Tasman hunting area is on the eastern side of Takaka Valley (and is three different reserve areas in one - Dry River, Rawhiti Caves, and Takaka Hill). The terrain is mostly forested areas. Again, contact the Takaka Office for necessary permitting and additional information.

Special Events

Abel Tasman does not offer any official special events or festivals due to their status as a national park and conservation area, but they welcome the booking of all kinds of special events by their guests.

One common event type hosted at the park is the birthday party. Having a birthday party at this beautiful, coastal national park can be a once in a lifetime event that the birthday boy or girl will remember for the rest of their lives. Guests can stay onsite at one of the many beachfront lodges before heading out to walk/hike, kayak, take a boat tour, or just spend time at the beach. The variety of options available make having a birthday party at the park perfect for guests of all ages. There is also bookable space inside the lodges

A favorite event to hold at the national park is a wedding. The staff at the park offer a variety of different flexible options so that guests can choose and tailor their dream event. Guests will call in and speak with the reservation team, who will walk them through their options. Choose from a formal wedding or a more casual one, or a traditional wedding vs a modern one. Guests can get married on their state of the art catamaran, a secluded, golden sand beach, or in one of the rooms at a beachfront lodge. Simply plan the dream wedding and let the event staff plan and manage the rest, including the menu and the bar. There is plenty of space for the entire wedding party to stay on the grounds afterwards, as well.

Aside from private special events, the nearby town of Nelson hosts an annual event called the Coastal Classic. This event has continually made the list of the top 50 running events held in the world. Although the trail changes every year, the run is generally around 40 kilometers. Guest who sign up for the run will receive a boat transfer into the event, a support package, a safety back up, and a celebratory dinner after the run is over. The event is held during the “low season,” when the tides allow for a more diverse trail experience, which generally happens between September and October.

Dining and Shopping

There are a variety of different dining options for guests who choose to dine in instead of cooking out while visiting the national park. The majority of the restaurants are located inside the Awaroa Lodge. Guests wanting to remain outdoors as much as possible should stop by the Pizzeria, which is both located outside and also offers al fresco dining set in a glade of trees. Serving not only pizza but also beverages, light snacks, and other cafe options, the Pizzeria is accessible from some of the trails as well. For a more formal experience, check out Harakeke. The restaurant keeps its own organic garden and uses the produce they grow to produce a seasonal, local menu. For shopping, check out the Abel Tasman Center. There is a fully stocked general store also full of souvenirs. Also, just a few minutes outside of the park, the city of Motueka has a large shopping center/mall.

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