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A fantastic combination of iconic attractions like the Abel Tasman National Park, the nearby 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 it's even better on a bike. Tasman's Great Taste Trail will appeal to a variety of cyclists; everyone from cross country riders taking on the whole loop, to casual day trippers around the coast.
This fantastic 4 day, 175 km ride will take in the absolute best of the Nelson Region and cater to all levels of cyclists. The majority of the route is Grade 1 and 2, catering for all abilities. Some of the inland route is Grade 3 riding, still suitable for most riders. As of 2018, most of the route is now complete, with only the inland section between Norris Gully and Riwaka still utilising the rural road network.
There are numerous itineraries for this route, so choose your own. The itinerary below suggests an easy two-day cruise along the coast, with two longer, more challenging days on the inland route.
Nelson to Mapua (35 km)
This trail offers 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. Beginning in central Nelson, the route uses urban cycleway infrastructure along St Vincent St before joining an old rail corridor before dropping back down past the airport. The trail then follows along the estuary. After about 10 km (on the approach to Richmond), the trail splits. Head towards Mapua via the Waimea Inlet boardwalks leading out to Rabbit Island. From the far end of the island, a short boat trip can take you to Mapua. This quaint little village has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants. Note that over the winter months the ferry operates on a limited schedule.
Mapua to Kaiteriteri (42 km)
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. Initially the trail follows the coast to Ruby Bay before heading inland onto Tasman View Rd, which as the name suggests, offers great views out to sea and down over Motueka. The trail skirts the edges of Motueka, but if you are in the mood for refreshments you can head through town instead. Continue north to Riwaka, known for its hops that give many of New Zealand's best beers their aromas. The final stretch takes you through kiwifruit and apple orchards and along the coast to Kaiteriteri - the entry to Abel Tasman National Park - with a beautiful golden-sand beach where you can end your day with a relaxing dip.
As a side trip, consider a trip over the Takaka Hill to Takaka and beautiful Golden Bay where a vareity of cycle trails are on offer - including the Heaphy Track which is now open to mountain bikers.
Kaiteriteri to Tapawera (57 km)
You are now entering the business end of your journey. The southern section of Tasman's Great Taste Trail leads down quiet back roads along the Motueka River's bank. Begin by back-tracking down the trail to Riwaka. Several short roads through Riwaka lead you to the Motueka Valley West Bank Road, a narrow but quiet road that will take you gradually up river. Eventually you will cross the river and continue on up the Motueka Valley Highway. Take in the views of the surrounding mountains as you come to Tapawera, a peaceful place to spend the night.
Tapawera to Nelson (62 km)
Today's ride will take you along an abandoned railway corridor past historic tobacco drying kilns and back into civilisation at Wakefield. Don't forget your head torch as you will pass through New Zealand's longest decommissioned rail tunnel! From Tapawera, continue along the road past Kohatu and up to Norris Gully Reserve (11 km). It's time to get your lights on and an extra layer of clothing before entering Spooner's Tunnel. At 1.4 km long, it is the longest tunnel open to cyclists in the southern hemisphere, and the 6th longest in the world! Belgrove is not much further down the trail, where a historic windmill can be found nearby.
From here it is flat and fast riding back into Nelson, passing through Wakefield, Brightwater and Richmond, each with their own culinary options.
The Great Taste Trail can be accessed from various points around the Tasman bay, including Nelson, Richmond, Motueka and more.
To get to these locations, there are plenty of buses arriving from other locations such as Picton and Christchurch. Once here, there are some buses operating around the region, but they are not very regular, so some time planning will be required. If cycling isn't an option, a taxi cab may be a better option.