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A fantastic combination of iconic attractions like the Abel Tasman National Park, the relatively unexplored Golden Bay Region, year-round mild temperatures, award winning wineries, breweries and cafes and strengths in the arts, the Nelson-Tasman region is a wonderful place for any person to explore - and better on a bike. The Tasman's Great Taste Trail will appeal to a variety of cyclists; everyone from cross country riders to day trippers.
Tasman's Great Taste Trail
This fantastic 4 day and 175 km ride will take in the absolute best of the Nelson Region and cater to all levels of cyclists.
Beginning just outside of Nelson in Richmond, the trail will offer riders views stretching from the Western Ranges to the stunning blue waters of the Tasman Bay and the Waimea Estuary - home of a range of bird species including the white heron. Boardwalks will take cyclists along the estuary to Rabbit Island where there is an option of a boat trip to Mapua. This quaint little village has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants.
Leaving Mapua to the north-west, the Tasman Loop Trail heads to Motueka - a well serviced town with shops, wineries restaurants, a range of accommodation options and fresh fruit stalls leading into town. Leaving Motueka the trail heads north to Riwaka - just outside of the Abel Tasman National Park. You could tackle the hill to Marahau via the road, however the Tasman Loop Trail then heads south.
As a side trip, why not consider a trip over the Takaka Hill to Takaka and beautiful Golden Bay where a vareity of cycle trails are on offer - including the newly opened to mountain bikers, Heaphy Track.
The southern section of Tasman Loop Trail leads down quiet back roads along the Motueka River’s bank.
Take in the views of the surrounding mountains as you come to Tapawera. At Tapawera, cyclists will begin a 56 km ride along an abandoned railway corridor past historic tobacco drying kilns to Kohatu Junction. Don't forget your head torch as you will pass through New Zealand’s longest decommissioned rail tunnel, curving just over one km before emerging south of Belgrove. The trail then passes through Wakefield and then heads back to Richmond.
The Great Taste Trail is fully operational between Richmond and Mapua. The temporary section along lower queen Street has now been replaced with the boardwalk that takes you over a corner of the Waimea estuary and then crosses the Waimea river, using the new, purpose built swing bridge. The Rabbit Island path has also been resurfaced, so no more sandy patches! The route from Mapua to Motueka has been finalised and it is possible to follow it for some of the way, where it uses existing paths and quiet roads. The section of the trail offers some fantastic views and many stop off points at studios, galleries, cafes and restaurants. There are also quite a few options for day rides using quiet roads and tracks that are not on The Great Taste Trail, but are around Mapua and Motueka.
Rabbit Island to Mapua
From the entrance to Rabbit Island (30km west of Nelson) follow an easy cycle trail to the western end of the island. From there you can catch the Flat Bottom Ferry across to the village of Mapua, which has a range of shops to buy food from. After refuelling, catch the ferry back to Rabbit Island and cycle back to the start.
Nelson to Mapua
The link between Mapua and Nelson is open and ready to use. A newly opened suspension bridge crosses the Waimea River, and connects these to routes. This trail stretches from the centre of Nelson to Mapua
Nelson to Richmond
Fourteen kilometres of easy cycle trail between Nelson and Richmond is open and ready to ride. It provides a pleasant half-day ride.
A rail trail starts from the small park on the corner of Saint Vincent St and Totara St, 2km southwest of the Nelson i-Site. After another 2km you will ride onto Beatson Road and down to another cycle trail beside Whakatu Drive. You pass Nelson Airport and will now be on the Tasman’s official Great Taste Trail Loop Trail. Carefully follow the cycle trail signs down to the Coastal Route to Richmond. From Lower Queen Street in Richmond the path continues another 1.4 km to the Appleby Highway overbridge.
From here the trail continues towards the historic village of Brightwater. It follows the edges of vineyards, berry farms and peaceful pastoral landscapes to the banks of the Waimea River. A one km stretch of off-road trail, taking cyclists into the historic village of Brightwater, is due for completion in April of 2012.