Nelson and canyoning in Abel Tasman

I’m not sure if I’ve just forgotten how tiring it can be travelling from place to place, or if I’m doing more than I usually would to get as much done as I can, or if I’m just getting old, but the last few weeks have really taken it out of me.

Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

I had given myself a week in Nelson, sometimes known as the sunshine capital of New Zealand – and it’s easy to see why. Partly for the time of year but also for where it’s located and the land formations around it, it’s protected from a lot of severe weather and that has meant glorious sunshine almost every day I stayed.

It was also nice being in a place with more people again!

Taking a little time to myself

When I got to Nelson, I immediately wanted to look around and as there was a nice evening, I took a short walk around to see what was going on. This was a Friday night and the hostel I had booked into was in the centre, so I expected some activity.


Maybe I’m used to bigger cities where there’s always something happening.

That said, there’s a fair bit to see. Founders Heritage Village is a good way to spend some time and explore the history of the settlement, with plenty of information about its early days and supported by replica buildings from that era.

Right next to this is the Miyazu Garden, and that’s a great place to wander and relax in the sun or the shade. I particularly loved the Yin and Yang lawn.

There are gardens to explore and a river with a path to walk, which you can follow from the beginning right through the full 8km and see the changes as you move between areas of the city.

Reaching the geographic centre of New Zealand

One thing of note is that in Nelson, you can find the geographic centre of New Zealand.

Of course, it’s on top of a hill.

So, me being me, on a hot and sunny afternoon, headed off to the botanical gardens and picked one of the numerous trails leading up the hill. Immediately, I had flashes of Roy’s Peak (yes, I’m never letting that one go) on the steeper parts, but it didn’t take too long to reach the top and get the obligatory photo with the monument.

Standing at the geographical center of Aotearoa New Zealand
Standing at the geographical center of Aotearoa New Zealand

Being on top of a hill, there are great views in almost every direction with the city spanning ahead of you and valleys behind.

From here, you can take a path along a ridge that follows the edge of the city, offering more views from different angles along the way. The end of this path ends directly opposite Founders Heritage Park. Of course, I did this particular walk in reverse, which is also the harder way to do it, apparently.


Abel Tasman and trying out canyoning

Abel Tasman National Park is huge. It runs for 70km or so in length, and that’s not to mention how wide it is. It’s also beautiful.

With limited time to see it, and canyoning on the list, it made sense to combine the two. This is where Abel Tasman Canyons came in. This particular day also meant a water taxi almost halfway up the coast to start the day and even from the coast, you can see the place is stunning!

The canyoning began with a 90-minute walk up. Of course, you have to go up to come back down, but thankfully, it wasn’t overly steep after the first 10-minutes or so. As has been the case with most of the activities on this trip, the group was small; three of us and the guide. That meant it was a small, intimate group.

When we reached the start, we had some lunch, got into the wetsuits and entered the water.

Icy-cold water.

What did we expect? We’re at the top of a river. Even on a hot day, of course it was cold, and there’d be plenty of submersion coming. Better to get used to it while we could.

What followed was an exhilarating trip down the canyon that included slides, abseils, drops, ziplines and jumps. It wasn’t the most extreme route available, but for a first time, it was exciting enough! We all got on well and had fun encouraging each other, volunteering others to go first and doing some daft stuff!

For example, we know by now I’m terrified of heights, yet I’ll still do my best to jump or fall from them. The first big jump we reached was 6m high. I took a breath, ran and plunged into the freezing water.

It was amazing!

Yet, a later jump, 8m high, caused me pause. It wasn’t so much the extra height, but I had no room to run. I could take one step and made the first jump fine, but the second, that actually took another minute or two. Why?!

It reminded me of the canyon swing, where I flailed off the edge after already doing a cutaway. What is with my head and second attempts? We’ll never know.

Casually falling down a waterfall after a slide
Casually falling down a waterfall after a slide

The last (serious) part was interesting. A slide that ended in a sheer drop. From our vantage, we couldn’t see how big a drop it was and we had to hold our knees as we went over. I was unsure of this, mostly because I was worried I’d be too slow and end up in some weird position as I dropped.

Not only did I do fine, but it wasn’t a big drop. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse!

Check out this video for a little bit more on the day:

At the bottom, the Cleopatra Pools, we met with members of the public after finishing our private course. One more slide and a walk back to the beach to change and take the water taxi back to the start. I was tired and ached the day after but that was a hell of an adventure, and I’d love to do it again. It was a great way to sign off my time in Nelson before starting the trip back down south.

Next stop; Kaikoura.

Until then.

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