Whether you arrive by ferry, plane or an even longer road trip, the top of the South Island is chockablock with stunning scenery and interesting stop-offs along the way. And the aptly named Coastal Explorer route from Picton to Collingwood is a perfect example.
Setting off from Picton, marvel at the coastal scenery as you head west along Queen Charlotte Drive. You'll want to make a stop in Havelock, the coastal village at the head of Pelorus Sound and at the mouth of the Pelorus River. But make sure you're hungry; more than offering some powerful photo opportunities, Havelock is also known as the green-shell mussel capital of the world.
When you've had your fill, jump on to SH6, and continue west. Less than 20 minutes away is Pelorus Bridge, and the crystal clear, deep swimming holes beneath it. An added bonus: the river was the location of the dwarves-in-barrels scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, so film buffs can tick that off the wish list.
With togs wet and Instagram snaps posted, keep driving SH6, towards the Tasman Sea, and Cable Bay, 18km northeast of Nelson. There, the ways to pass the time are near endless. Perhaps you want to get back in the water and swim or dive near the Horoirangi Marine Reserve. Do you fancy taking a walk across the hilltops, for the best views of Tasman Bay below? Or maybe you want to feel the wind in your hair at the local adventure park, home to one of the the world's longest flying foxes. They are all perfectly good options.
You are also only minutes away from central Nelson, and its restaurants, cafes, and accommodation options. If you end up swapping SH6 for SH60, nearby Richmond has more than 20 cellar doors to indulge in. And if you really want to enjoy the fruits of the region, jump on a bike and cycle some of the Tasman's Great Taste Trail, which loops through the Tasman Bay towns of Nelson, Wakefield, Richmond, Motueka and Kaiteriteri.
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Let's not forget, there are the nearby beaches if you haven't had enough of the surf and sand that is unmissable in this region. Abel Tasman National Park is also within about an hour's drive from Nelson, and the walks, kayaking and general wonderment at the stunning landscape are all worth the detour if you can make the time.
For a final push on the Coastal Explorer route, hit the highway uphill to the top of Tākaka Hill, before heading down to Golden Bay and Collingwood. Here, you can explore the bird sanctuary of Farewell Spit, Te Waikoropupū Springs, and the Kahurangi National Park. Or just put your feet up and enjoy the serenity.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com