Four reasons to take your next holiday at the top of the South Island

The north of the South Island is place full of adventure, gorgeous scenery and delicious food and wine.

Here are just four of the many reasons to make the area the destination for your next holiday.

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* Motueka: New Zealand's small-town doughnut capital
* Nelson Tourist Passport: Taking a trip on the world's longest flying fox
* Boost for tourism as Air New Zealand announce more flights for Nelson

TASMAN'S GREAT TASTE TRAIL

Tasman's Great Taste Trail links some of the region's best places to eat and drink.

Luz Zuniga/Stuff Tasman's Great Taste Trail links some of the region's best places to eat and drink.

This is an appealing cycle loop trail that runs mostly off-road between Nelson and Kaiteriteri, along the coast with an inland return.

The bulk of it is Grade 1 and 2 - and long sections are almost completely flat - so it's attractive even to non-cyclists, especially since it links some of Tasman's best places to eat and drink. The total length is 175 kilometres, but you can choose just one section.

Nelson to Mapua, for instance, is only 35km, which equates to around three hours of pedalling, not counting stops.

Leaving the city centre, there are suburbs to negotiate and the motorway running alongside for a while, but then you're off on your own, following the edge of the Waimea Estuary.

There are shorebirds, boardwalks, long bridges including a swing bridge, paddocks, wetlands and stopbanks. The route takes you out onto Rabbit Island and along its length to where the ferry, which is all set up for bikes, comes to transport you across to Mapua Wharf's eateries and art galleries.

Tasman's Great Taste Trail features shorebirds, boardwalks, long bridges, paddocks, wetlands and stopbanks.

Pamela Wade Tasman's Great Taste Trail features shorebirds, boardwalks, long bridges, paddocks, wetlands and stopbanks.

WHY GO?

Because what could be better than skimming along a trail away from cars, with the sea on one side, paddocks and hills on the other, breathing fresh air, listening to the birdsong and working up an honest appetite?

Going at pedal-speed, you notice so much more and you can stop and start just as you like.

It's not called the Great Taste Trail for nothing, either: there are cafes and restaurants, fruit stalls, craft breweries and vineyards at regular intervals along the route, including many artisan producers of arts and crafts as well as food and drink. The full route takes three days and there are some lovely accommodation options along the way.

INSIDER TIP

If you're not a cyclist, the trail is perfectly walkable. If you like things that are dark and spooky, seek out Spooner's Rail Tunnel on the trail, inland from Wakefield: 1352 metres of cool, damp, echoing blackness, hand-dug in 1891.

The Belgrove Tavern at its northern end makes for a welcome reward.

The Rabbit Island Ferry is able to transport you and your bike across to Mapua Wharf's eateries and art galleries.

Pamela Wade The Rabbit Island Ferry is able to transport you and your bike across to Mapua Wharf's eateries and art galleries.

ON THE WAY/NEARBY

Study your map and consider detours to nearby places like McCashin's Brewery at Stoke. You can do a tour of the factory there and have a tasting of its beers and ciders.

Eyebright the Country Store at Appleby has lots of pretty things to look at, including a guinea pig village.

You'll find Rabbit Island has been appropriately named. There's also plenty to please both the eye and the tastebuds at Mapua Wharf.

HOW MUCH?

The route is free, naturally. There are several bike hire places which offer varied options for self-guided tours, including shuttle services and bike pick-ups.

For example, Nelson Cycle Hire offers a one-day Mapua tour, which includes the ferry ticket and pick-up for return to Nelson.

BEST TIME TO GO

Any fine day, though some places close for winter - check ahead.

tasman.govt.nz/my-region/recreation/walking-and-cycling/tasmans-great-taste-trail

Virginia Woolf/stuff Stuff reporter Tim Newman rode the Skywire at Cable Bay Adventure Park to get a first-hand experience of a rescue helicopter fundraiser that also boosts local tourism.

CABLE BAY ADVENTURE PARK

A short drive north-east from Nelson is a green valley that leads between forested hills to the sheltered, shallow waters of Rotokura/Cable Bay.

It was named for the cable connection made in 1876, linking New Zealand through Sydney to the rest of the world. Later, the telegraph cable was moved to Wellington - but the valley still features a cable and it's a lot of fun.

At 1.5km, Cable Bay Adventure Park's Skywire Experience is the longest flying fox in the world.

Even better, four people can do it at a time, strapped into seats zooming along at up to 100 km/h, 100m above the bush below, forwards and then, even more fun, backwards. Part of the ride is slow, too, so you can hear the birdsong and enjoy the long views.

At 1.5km, Cable Bay Adventure Park's Skywire Experience is the longest flying fox in the world.

George Guille Media At 1.5km, Cable Bay Adventure Park's Skywire Experience is the longest flying fox in the world.

WHY GO?

Because no way is that all.

There's something here for everyone. How about doing a quad bike tour? You can ride solo or take a passenger, along forest trails, across farmland, up and down hills.

Too tame? Then go for a ride in the Argo, an eight-wheeled all-terrain vehicle that your driver will make as wet and splashy and bumpy as you want (or as sedate).

There's a big paintball theme park too, with forts, trenches, creeks and everything else you need for a messy battle. There's also an archery park here: learn how to fire a bow like Legolas.

There are mountain bike tracks (shuttle to the top) and e-bikes to hire for a gentler pedal around the park. Kids will enjoy the toys, messing about in the river, or feeding the farm animals and eels. And everyone will appreciate the licensed cafe: wood-fired pizzas a Friday and Saturday speciality.

INSIDER TIP

If it's the Skywire and horse trek that rock your boat, they're available as a combo: ride up to the flying fox, go for a whirl and then continue your ride.

The Argo is an eight-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle that your driver will make as wet and splashy and bumpy as you want.

George Guille Media

The Argo is an eight-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle that your driver will make as wet and splashy and bumpy as you want.

ON THE WAY/NEARBY

Carry on down Cable Bay Road and you'll get to the causeway across to Pepin Island. You can swim and go kayaking here, or maybe do the Cable Bay Walkway: about three hours along the coast one-way to Glenduan, with impressive views en-route.

HOW MUCH?

Prices start at £25 for two hours of Paintball, up to £185 for the 150-minute, 14km Quad Bike Tour. The Skywire alone is £105 adult, £75 child, £295 for a family of four.

Open daily.

BEST TIME TO GO

Choose a calm day for the Skywire: it's weather-dependent. Or if you're an Argo-naut, you might want recent rain for splashy mud. Reserve ahead for Paintball.

See cablebayadventurepark.com

The archway islands are perfectly placed as a focal point.

Pamela Wade The archway islands are perfectly placed as a focal point.

WHARARIKI BEACH

This a screensaver classic: a long, open beach where blue sea foams white onto sparkling sand, framed by sculpted cliffs with, as its focal point, a set of pierced islands.

Although word is getting out, often there's no-one else to be seen here, unless you count the colony of fur seals playing in the rock pools. Wharariki Beach, at the northernmost tip of the South Island's west coast, is famously remote, rugged and spectacular, and even more special for not being always accessible.

WHY GO?

Because it's such a splendid day out.

A half-hour drive from Collingwood takes you to the car park by the campsite. From there it's a brisk twenty-minute walk across neatly-nibbled farmland, through bush, and then over ridged sand dunes to get to the sea. Here, you'll find a wide expanse of fine white sand full of golden sparkles, and not one footprint.

That's as much because of the almost-constant wind as the remoteness: the sand is always on the move, and can even sting a bit on bare skin on a gusty day.

First, you'll notice the unimaginatively-named Archway Islands and the rock stacks, close to the beach and sculpted by the restless sea into satisfyingly artistic shapes. Then you'll look closer, and find fur seals - baby ones, in late summer - in the rock pools and maybe even a leopard seal snoozing in a shady cave. Look closer still, and you'll see the sandstone cliffs are layered with conglomerations of rounded pebbles, some of them marble.

The wind has been hard at work here as a sculptor too: behind the beach are matted thickets of bent and stunted manuka and grasses, forming permanent waves of vegetation.

Everywhere you look there is a natural glory to admire, and interact with: paddling in the stream and rock pools, poking into the caves, making driftwood sculptures, running and jumping down the huge dunes. Even if you're not alone, the beach is big enough for everyone to have their space.

The caves along the beach may sometimes hide a snoozing seal.

Pamela Wade The caves along the beach may sometimes hide a snoozing seal.

INSIDER TIP

Keep an eye on the tide - you don't want to be caught out, getting trapped at the end.

And don't even think about swimming here: the waves are fierce and the rips powerful.

ON THE WAY/NEARBY

You can go on a horse trek nearby and there are walking and mountain biking tracks in the area. Cape Farewell is accessible by track or road and well worth the effort for its spectacular views. Farewell Spit is in the area, too, although you're allowed to walk only a short distance along it by yourself - to get to the tip, you need to be on an organised tour.

HOW MUCH?

Access to the beach is free, but it will be hard not to call into the Archway Cafe back by the carpark for coffee, cake - and peacocks.

BEST TIME TO GO

Always at low tide.

Sunsets can be magnificent. And, if it's exfoliation you're after, on a windy day.

RICKY WILSON/STUFF There was strong support for the Queen Charlotte Track to become a Great Walk last year.

QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK

This is Abel Tasman's quiet sister.

Word has spread around the world about the glories of walking in that fabulous little National Park - the bush, the birds, the golden beaches, that turquoise sea.

Over in the Marlborough Sounds, though, you can spend from one day to five following the 71km Queen Charlotte Track where, apart from the occasional inter-island ferry gliding past, you'll have similar scenery much more to yourself.

The Queen Charlotte Track offers many reasons to stop for a while.

Pamela Wade

The Queen Charlotte Track offers many reasons to stop for a while.

WHY GO?

It's not only beautiful: it's entirely do-able for anyone reasonably fit. There are hills, but nothing too daunting; and long days, but comforts at night. You can choose to do as much, or as little,of the track as you like, with water taxis just a phone call away.

And all along the route are gorgeous views over the Sound, into secluded little bays, and on a clear day all the way from the Kaikouras to Kapiti Island. The birds are melodious, the bush is lush with ferns, beech and tawa, and there's even history here.

A popular one-day walk starts at Meretoto/Ship Cove, where a monument marks Captain Cook's favourite place to anchor, and features a cannon from the Endeavour. This first 15km section of the track begins with a steepish climb to a lookout and then winds down to Resolution Bay, gently undulating onwards to Endeavour Inlet, where there are several accommodation options set in idyllic locations.

How about rewarding yourself with a mulled wine at the cosy Furneaux Lodge, and recalling some more recent - and notorious - history there, with a cheeky game of Cluedo in the bar?

A cheeky robin sits on a visitor's foot on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Pamela Wade A cheeky robin sits on a visitor's foot on the Queen Charlotte Track.

INSIDER TIP

Keep your wits about you: it's entirely possible to round a bend and find yourself eye to startled eye with a couple of deer. If you don't want to carry your big pack, water taxis will deliver it for you to your next stop.

There will be sandflies.

ON THE WAY/NEARBY

An optional extra en route to Ship Cove is a stop-off at Motuara Bird Sanctuary. You'll spend an hour on the island, walking up to the lookout, past a memorial marking Cook's claiming British sovereignty here over the South Island. No-one has told the birds, who think it's all theirs, especially the little blue penguins glaring out of their nest boxes along the track.

Weka, bellbirds, tui , tieke and robins are just some of the other species enjoying this pest-free environment and not being shy about it.

Furneaux Lodge offers welcome comforts at the end of a day's walking.

Pamela Wade Furneaux Lodge offers welcome comforts at the end of a day's walking.

HOW MUCH?

Three ferry companies offer a variety of transport options to and from the track, beginning at £71 for a one-way trip with Beachcomber Cruises to Ship Cove. If you walk the whole track, you'll need to buy the £25 QCTLT pass to cross the private land.

BEST TIME TO GO

The track is open year-round.

See qctrack.co.nz

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