The Great Taste Trail – Nelson Tasman
One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, the 200km long Great Taste Trail showcases the stunning beauty and magnificent bounty of the Nelson Tasman region. Trail goers can expect diverse breath-taking landscapes, quaint village accommodations and the famously fabulous range of fresh produce, handcrafted goods and yummy food at every turn – making this the adventure of a lifetime!
How Long Is The Great Taste Trail?
The Great Taste Trail is one of the 23 Great Rides that make up the New Zealand Cycle Trail network, it is currently a total of just under 200km long. Most of the trail is off-road purpose-built cycle trails, meaning you can get off the beaten track and enjoy pristine landscapes and the peace and quiet of the countryside.
Nelson Great Taste Trail Map
A detailed map for the Tasman Great Taste Trail is available here, or check out this handy interactive map for the perfect way to keep track of your progress and make sure you don’t miss any of the great sights to see and things to do along the way.
Great Taste Trail Distances
The Great Taste Trail can be hiked or biked in either direction for a multiday adventure, or you can choose a section or two and just head out for a couple of hours, or a day. Or skip ahead to your favourite spot and take your time from there – it’s up to you! To help you plan your outdoor adventure, here is a quick breakdown of the different sections of the trail, their distances and the approximate time it takes to cover them.
Town To Country – Nelson CBD to Wakefield
- Time 2-3 hours
- Distance 34km
- Difficulty – Grade 1 (Easiest)
Starting out from the Nelson CBD, the Town to Country section heads south towards the Nelson Airport, and following State highway 6, it passes through Richmond, then on out to the township of Brightwater, from here it’s a short hop on to Wakefield, just on the outskirts of Nelson.
This is the easiest of the Great Taste Trail sections, as the contour is mostly flat, and the trail is easy to ride or walk. It should be noted that when completing this section, there is also the option to take the turn off at Richmond and begin the Sparkling Coastline section of the trail if you wish. This will depend on which direction you wish to make the Great Taste Trail loop.
Rural Tasman – Wakefield to Tapawera
- Time – 2-3 hours
- Distance – 31 km
- Difficulty – Grade 2 (easy)
Starting out from Wakefield, the Rural Tasman section of the Great Taste Trail offers a glimpse into rural New Zealand and its colourful history. After passing through Wai-iti, Foxhill and Belgrove (don’t miss the historic Willow Bank Heritage Village), you will find yourself arriving at the Spooners Tunnel turnoff (roughly 17km along the trail).
The Southern Hemisphere’s longest decommissioned tunnel, riding through the historic Spooners rail tunnel is a trail highlight for many. At 1.4km long, don’t forget to bring a light and maybe an extra layer, as it can get chilly in the darkness of the tunnel. From here, it’s on to Kohatu, Mararewa and then to Tapawera for a taste of small-town NZ.
Back And Beyond – Tapawera to Riwaka
- Time – 4-6 hours
- Distance – 63km
- Difficulty – Grade 3 (intermediate)
Beginning at Tapawera, this is the section for a scenic snapshot of wide-open rural New Zealand, complete with picturesque mountains, forests and rivers. With all this great scenery, it’s not surprising this is the most challenging part of the Tasman Great Taste Trail; think gravel roads and hills with little cell phone coverage. The Baton River Swing Bridge is a highlight for many, its purpose-built location makes crossing the river a whole new experience.
As the trail progresses, you will find the Motueka River a welcome respite from the day’s heat – stop anywhere along the way and find a good spot for a swim. Having passed through Woodstock and Pokororo you will find the trail is mainly on the road, so do take care with traffic as you make your way onward to the Riwaka turn-off.
Sparkling Coastline –Kaiteriteri Beach (Riwaka) to Richmond
- Time – 4-6 hours
- Distance – 64km
- Difficulty – mix of Grades 1, 2, and 3 (easiest, easy, and moderate)
Upon reaching the township of Riwaka, you can choose to take the short detour (approximately 6 km, 20 minutes by bike or 1 hour walk) out to Kaiteriteri or just continue on down the coast and make your way back to Richmond. For this section, you will make your way along some of Nelson’s most beautiful beaches, including the popular Rabbit Island, Mapua, Ruby Bay, Motueka and Kaiteriteri beaches. Keep in mind you will need to catch the ferry from Rabbit Island across to Mapua. Visit the Mapua Ferry website for information on operating hours to ensure you get the timing right.
When completing this section of the trail, be sure to leave some time to stop to appreciate the stunning ocean views, pristine white sands and to swim or just dip your toes in the beautiful sparkling waters!
Food And Drink Out On The Trail
The Nelson Tasman region is a rather tasty place – it’s easy to get excited about the food and drink you will encounter along the trail. The fabulous climate and favourable weather Nelson experiences year-round means that a wide range of seasonal vegetables are readily available from local markets (including the Nelson Saturday Market), boutique vegetable shops and rural vegetable stalls. Expect to find a mouth-watering range of exquisite food, award-winning wineries, and craft beer – here are our favourites.
Nelson Saturday Market – Nelson
The Nelson Saturday Market is a great place for fresh food and vegetables before setting out on your hike or ride. The market operates from 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday; get there early to beat the summer crowds. Although not strictly a food-only market, there are a number of food stalls here, selling ethnic food, pancakes, fresh berries (in season), artisan meats, cheeses and breads and more. The Saturday Market is held in Montgomery Square in the heart of the city.
Nelson Farmers Market – Nelson
Showcasing locally grown foods, all the stalls-holders at the Nelson Farmers Market are local growers or producers. This is a great chance to meet and buy directly from the source. The Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays, 8 am – 2 pm on Halifax Street.
Hopgoods – Nelson
Superbly placed among the hub of restaurants and cafes below the steps of the Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of the city, award-winning restaurant Hopgoods offers seasonally-based bistro-style dining in a relaxed atmosphere.
Devilles – Nelson
Hidden gem of a café, Devilles offers a lively outdoor dining atmosphere complete with hearty meals and good coffee. You will find Devilles on New Street.
Nicola’s Cantina – Nelson
Nicola’s Cantina is the place to be for fresh Mexican food and casual dining. Get in early as this place is popular with the locals and fills up fast! You will find Nicola’s Cantina on Church Street.
Boat Shed Café – Nelson Waterfront
Waterfront restaurants offer relaxing outdoor dining and stunning views of the sunset over the sheltered waters of Tasman Bay, try the Boat Shed Cafe for an excellent example of both!
Eden’s Edge Lodge and Cheese Shop – Riwaka
Set on the grounds of Eden’s Edge Lodge, the Cheese Shop features local cheeses all sourced from the top of the South Island. Drinks and cheese are available onsite.
Eddyline Pizzeria & Brewpub – Richmond
Located just off the Great Taste Trail, Eddyline Pizzeria offers a good selection of craft beer, wines and ciders which pair perfectly with a slice of their yummy wood-fired pizza! Eddyline is a great place to meet up with family and friends before hitting the trail.
Java Hut – Mapua
A trendy little coffee bar located on Aranui Road, Java Hut serves excellent coffee, sweet treats, cold drinks and ice blocks – the perfect pit stop to refuel on a hot summer’s day.
Jellyfish Restaurant & Bar – Mapua
Located right on the water’s edge at Mapua, the Jellyfish Restaurant provides visitors with great food, great service and great views! Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, reservations are available through the website.
Riverside Café – Motueka
Located right next to the Rail Trail, the Riverside Café is a beautiful quiet spot for lunch or a snack (and a bit of a rest for those tired legs!). Expect good coffee, freshly baked cakes, and a nice little lunch menu featuring wild meats, local produce and other specialities. There is even a nice playground for the kids to keep them busy while you enjoy the beautiful mountain views.
Toad Hall – Motueka
Healthy fresh food is what you can expect at Toad Hall. The diverse menu provides something for everyone, plus there is a good selection of cabinet options too. Don’t miss their fantastic fresh juices – perfect for an energy boost while out on the trail.
Forsters Restaurant, Vineyard & Cellar Door – Moutere Hills
Forsters is located at the popular Moutere Hills Winery, just 15 minutes cycle from the Upper Moutere village. Rural New Zealand at its best, Forsters offers a relaxed, warm environment for a long lunch or dinner while enjoying the lovely views. While wine is the star here, the food is delicious and there is a small yet tasty menu on offer.
If you are looking to sample some of Nelson’s famous craft beer, cider and wine then you’ll find plenty of options along the Great Taste Trail. Award-winning cider is produced locally, including Rochdale Pear Cider made by McCashins Brewery. There are around eleven breweries in the region, with some offering brewery tours, and others having bars onsite. There are also many craft beer bars, including The Freehouse, which is located in an old church in the city and very popular with locals. There are also seven Sprig and Fern Taverns scattered throughout Nelson, serving beer and cider from the Sprig and Fern Brewery. Visit some of Nelson’s oldest, newest and best breweries on a local brewery cycling tour for an easy way to ensure you don’t miss all the best breweries along the way.
The Nelson region is home to an abundance of boutique wineries dotted across the picturesque hills and plains of these fertile wine-growing regions – too many to mention here! The local wineries are generally small and family-owned, meaning it is not unusual to meet the winemaker or a member of the family when visiting, and some cellar door experiences also offer food or are combined with cafes. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are the predominant wines produced in Nelson with three distinct sub-regions of production. The Waimea Plains, located on the rural boundary of the city, the Moutere Hills which lay to the west, and the Tasman Coastal region, which forms a narrow strip along the Nelson’s coastline. The best time to experience a cellar door tour is the period between Labour Weekend (October) and Easter (April), always check opening hours before stopping by.
Wait… There’s More!
Summer in Nelson sees a glut of delicious fresh produce options, including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, sweet corn, and lettuce in many varieties. Berries (boysenberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries) are grown commercially in the region, as are black currants, with December and January being peak season for these beautiful berries. Apples, pears and kiwifruit are also grown commercially, and apple orchards are another unique feature of the landscape, particularly in the coastal area to the west of the city. There are a number of small roadside stalls during the summer months for you to sample some of this fresh and tasty produce along the way.
And last but not least, Nelson is a port city with a strong fishing industry, so a wide range of fresh fish is available year-round, including flounder, snapper, groper, gurnard and many more species. To buy fresh fish head to Guytons, a large fish shop on the waterfront.
7 Local Events And Festivals In Nelson
Nelson is a lively place and has a small range of interesting events and festivals initiated by creative local people keen to share their passions. Timing is everything, so if you are looking to combine your Great Taste Trail with a local event or festival, here is a quick rundown of what’s on offer.
1. The Nelson Arts Festival – October
The Nelson Arts Festival is an annual event that brings together a range of international and national theatre, dance, music, writer’s talks, comedy, visual arts, community and family events. It also includes a colourful masked street parade on the first night of the festival. Nelson city is a great place to be during the arts festival, with colour, music and drama occurring in surprising places all around the city.
2. Adam Chamber Music Festival – February
Nelson has a range of venues for concerts and gigs. The recently renovated historic Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, formerly the Nelson School of Music, is the main venue for the annual Adam Chamber Music Festival. This festival is NZ’s most exciting chamber music event, with international artists joining NZ’s best to perform in beautiful venues renowned for their acoustics.
3. Nelson Jazzfest – Year Round
The annual Nelson Jazzfest program includes shows in a range of small and larger venues around the region, including free gigs in bars and cafes. Venues have included a historic house, a town square, an outdoor park, a vegetarian café, a country pub and a waterfront performance venue. Jams with established House Bands are part of the program, as are popular local and national jazz musicians.
4. Marchfest Nelson – March
Nelson is the Craft Brewing Capital of NZ and the only place in NZ where hops are grown. The Nelson Marchfest event is a weekend celebration of NZ craft beer, live music, food, wine and ciders. The event is held at Founders Heritage Park, a large indoor and outdoor museum in the city. This site includes an eclectic collection of buildings, including a Hop and Beer Museum, dedicated to Nelson’s hop-growing and brewing history.
5. NZ Cider Festival – November
Described by National Geographic as a “heaven for cider-seekers”, Nelson is the perfect location for a cider festival. The NZ Cider Festival celebrates all things cider in November of each year.
6. Nelson Buskers Festival – January
The streets of Nelson come alive during the annual Nelson Buskers Festival when award-winning street performers from around the world amaze their audience with all kinds of jaw-dropping craziness. The program consists of daily outdoor street shows, with families relaxing on blankets and cushions to enjoy the fun, to indoor ticketed shows.
7. NZ Antique & Classic Boat Show – March
Lake Rotoiti, in Nelson Lakes National Park, is the stage for the Antique & Classic Boat Show, which provides a weekend for boat owners to show off their craft and compete for a range of trophies. These include awards for the Best Sail Powered Craft, the Best Rowed Craft, the Steam Trophy and the best Jet-Propelled Craft. This boat show is a chance for boat enthusiasts (and boatie wannabes) to swap stories about their craft and for on-lookers to enjoy the beauty and style of these vessels. If you are planning to attend, don’t forget sand fly repellent and your beach chair!
Experience the very best the Nelson Tasman region has to offer with a biking tour on the Great Taste Trail! The Gentle Cycling Company offers multiday adventures or single-day trips – there is something for everyone! Book online today.