Adventure in Tasman Bay | Otago Daily Times online news


If you’re making plans for some great backyard adventures this spring and summer, sun-drenched Tasman Bay is a fascinating proposition.

I started at the Cable Bay Adventure Park, which certainly meets all the requirements for exciting outdoor adventures. The multisport champions Richard and Elina Ussher took over the 400 hectare site three years ago – and things are still making leaps and bounds.

Their vision is driven by an ongoing desire to be great guardians of the land. Their nursery pumps out more than 50,000 native seedlings a year, drives the reforestation program, and complements the remaining ancient jungle that encases much of the property and has some seriously impressive old Podocarp specimens up to 1,500 years old.

Totara was previously felled extensively on the site. I stopped to admire a magnificent carving by Tane Mahuta, which was carved from a totara that was felled on the property 50 years ago.

One of the best ways to soak up the verdant splendor of Cable Bay is to have an affair with the park’s signature attraction, Skywire. The tour begins with a 4 km drive in one of their four-wheel drive vehicles that leads through pristine jungle.

Located 300 meters above the Base Cafe, the Skywire offers breathtaking views of the Cable and Delaware Bays, the Western Ranges and north towards D’Urville Island.

This 3.2 km long trip, considered the longest flying fox experience in the world, takes you over the treetops, 150 m over the wondrous green mosaic of the forest. The Skywire can accommodate up to four “flyers” at a time, not unlike a chairlift, with about 1,000 m of gravity-assisted freewheel that reaches speeds of up to 100 km before slowing down to a calmer pace so you can drool over the top Scenery as you fill your Insta feed. Then you do it all over again – backwards. I loved it. There is no other ride in New Zealand like this one.

The park also has its own paintball area, argo amphibious rides, quad tours and bike paths that are constantly being expanded. It is noteworthy that access to the park’s MTB trails is free. So you can either bring your own bike or rent a bike from the entire fleet of spring-loaded e-bikes, mountain bikes and children’s bikes.

Eager to pedal around the Tasman Bay coastline, I met up with Andrew Schwass and the team at Kiwi Journeys. This locally run family business specializes in self-guided and assisted tours on the Nelson’s Great Taste Trail and the West Coast Wilderness Trail. They have bases in Nelson, Mapua Wharf and Kaiteriteri practically all over the region with the largest selection of quality bikes in the region. Andrew equipped me with an Avanti e-bike for my fabulous foray on the Great Taste Trail from Richmond to Mapua Wharf. The entire trail is a whopping 174 km, but it is deliciously broken down into manageable sections, including my romp, which was an easy 20 km drive. After refreshing myself with a delicious Tahuna Light Pilsner and pizza at Eddyline Brewery, I set out on this beautifully landscaped path that crossed the lazy Waimea Estuary, which was bustling with waders and sea birds.

The wonderfully wobbly Waimea suspension bridge adds some excitement to the ride before the landscape changes to the fertile orchards and pastureland that line the coast. A convivial team of Clydesdale horses jumped on the fence to pass before I drove to Rabbit Island, where the vast white sand stretched like an ironing board under brilliant sunshine. The pristine 13 km long tidal beach is popular for swimming and a very popular picnic area in the welcome shade of these mighty pines. Finally, we took the dutiful Mapua ferry across the western entrance of Waimea Inlet to Mapua Wharf. I’m dying to come back one more time to do more of the 10 juicy stretches of the Great Taste Trail through this scenic wonderland.

The name Mapua is already synonymous with naturists. As Andrew said, Summer in Mapua is the season of the stranded whales, although you will likely only come across bare meat at Mapua Leisure Park. Mapua Wharf is a vacation paradise in its own right, a sight to behold, with a seductive array of boutiques and lively waterfront restaurants crowding for your affection.

Mapua means “abundance” or “productive” – how perfectly suitable for this pleasure zone. Caffeine friends? Make your way to Rabbit Island Coffee Co. Their coffees are carefully selected from direct trade partners, and you can experience the roasting process up close to sample a range of coffees and brewing methods. I loved the smokehouse where local products are delicately smoked using traditional brick ovens and natural manuka shavings. Their premium hand-smoked seafood, all 100% natural and with no preservatives, is delicious.

Located right on the water, with a view of the Kai-Jumper, the Jellyfish Restaurant is a long-runner – I love their fried prawns. And how could you say no to a scoop or two of real fruit quality at Hamish’s Ice Creams?

If you’re looking to take your blissful encounters with the wondrous embrace of Tasman Bay and Abel Tasman National Park to the next level later this year, Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures is the place for you, private personalized sailing tours and multi-day sailing vacations. Jane-Maree and Martin Holmes founded their illustrious business 20 years ago and with their fleet of sailing catamarans they constantly raised the bar for their successful offer. Jane-Maree remarked to me that the last summer season was a record season despite the devastation of Covid-19. A flood of kiwis flocked to book scheduled tours and private sailing vacations in the region’s heartbreaking waters. With cosmopolitan and experienced skippers equipped with local knowledge at the head of your fleet, you couldn’t ask for a more authentic, inspiring and enlightening holiday experience on the water. They will share the secrets of the region with you and lead you to the seductive nooks and crannies and secret gems that many people miss.


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