The picturesque Abel Tasman National Park area is a firm favourite holiday spot for many Kiwis. This is hardly surprising; one look at its golden sands and crystal-clear water is enough to make you wonder why you'd ever leave our shores for a beach holiday. But there are two routes into this delightful part of the South Island, and one is particularly attractive for anyone who enjoys good food, wine and art.
If you don't have to be anywhere at a certain time, I'd definitely recommend diverting through the gorgeous, rolling Moutere Hills as I did recently. There are plenty of things to do, places to stop and delicious things to consume.
It's also worth going if you're staying in Nelson — it's only a half-hour drive from the town centre and makes a delightful day trip. Here are some of our top picks for a day in Upper Moutere.
A local cider in New Zealand's oldest pub
was established in 1850 and is New Zealand's oldest functioning pub. You can read all about the history, and the Bensemann family — who built the Inn — on the walls. There are plenty of interesting brews on tap (including their own) but you'd be mad not to try a glass of
, which is made literally 4km up the road. The perfect drink for those year-round beautiful sunny days for which the upper South Island is so well known.
Hit up the Vineyards
There are several great spots for a splendid sav or a pretty pinot around the Upper Moutere area. Two definitely worth visiting — if you're looking for a bite as well as a tasting — are Moutere Hills and Kahurangi Estate . Moutere Hills' restaurant, Forsters, is popular with the locals; and Tasteology at Kahurangi does one of the best platters around — everything is locally sourced and utterly delicious. Neudorf Vineyards has the kind of relaxed garden setting that makes you want to stay and stay and you can buy local cheese and crackers to have with your Rosie's Block Chardonnay or Neudorf Pinot Noir (actually all their wines are excellent, which is why they are so popular here and in 16 other countries).
Browse some galleries
The peaceful country setting of Upper Moutere has attracted many artists to set up studios in the region, and at Bartlett and Gold and Michael MacMillan Galleries you can see the artists at work. Katy and Owen at Bartlett and Gold have a wonderful rambling garden punctuated with their brightly coloured clay pieces, which shows them in a totally different light to the more formal gallery and shop area inside. At Michael MacMillan you can not only browse his work, but grab a coffee and shop for pretty country homeware.
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Check out the local artisan produce
On the advertising for the wonderful Moutere Artisans annual open day there's a great tagline which reads "Visit Country folk who make really really nice stuff". This couldn't be more true and while you can't meet all of them, all of the time (they're not always open to the public) you can check out their "really really nice stuff" at delightful Moutere Gold (in the old post office building). Moutere Gold make their own beautiful jams and chutneys but also sell other local products, including Neudorf Mushrooms (first commercial growers of the Saffron milk cap in New Zealand), Neudorf olives and the luscious Thorvald Sheep's cheese — excellent on Penati nut and seed crackers, made nearby too.
Get on yer bike
Upper Moutere is the perfect area for cycling — especially if you enjoy the odd stop at a vineyard for a tasting. Check out Kiwi Journeys , Nelson Cycle Hire and The Gentle Cycling Company for bike hire, depending on where you're staying. If you'd like something slightly more guided, Wheelie Fantastic have one- and multi-day tours around the region with knowledgeable local guides. If those hills look too daunting, there are e-bike options at most hire places.