Nelson is located in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a stunning area that boasts some of the country’s best weather, as well as its smallest yet most visited national park, Abel Tasman. There’s plenty to see and do in the Nelson region, including kayaking, tramping, skydiving and, if you’re feeling a little crazy, piloting your own stunt plane! There’s also a fantastic adventure park situated among gorgeous forrested landscape called Happy Valley Adventures.
HAPPY VALLEY ADVENTURES
Happy Valley Adventures offers a number of really fun activities and makes full use of the many acres of land it encompasses. You can go horse trekking in the hills, have a paintball fight, ride a quad bike or fly high above the trees on their Skywire.
I opted for a Skywire ride and quad biking combo. After being picked up from town, I had a chance to get to know the friendly couple, Keith and Jill, who own and run it. We chatted over a cup of tea while I waited for my guide, Fletcher to get back down off the mountain.
GEARING UP FOR QUAD BIKING
When Fletcher arrived, he took me over to a shed and dressed me in some warm gear. The idea clearly wasn’t to make me look attractive. As well as an old farmer-style jacket and some non-matching gloves, he made me put on a hair net under my helmet! I guess hygiene should win out over vanity…
We each hopped on a quad bike and he showed me the controls. It was pretty simple, but there’s no better way to learn than to give it a go, so he sent me off on a flat course near the building’s reception so I could get a feel for it.
Quad biking is actually a relatively dangerous activity and it pays to be cautious. I passed the initial test – apparently not everyone makes it that far! – and it was time to get on the real tracks.
GETTING OFF TRACK
The first section was through the valley and involved crossing a number of shallow rivers. I was lulled into a false sense of security. As soon as we started up the mountain, the ground became much less level, and large rocks started to throw my steering sideways. This is not something you want when there’s a cliff to one side!
To complicate matters further, the farm’s dog had decided to hitch a ride on the back of Flecher’s vehicle and kept jumping off and running in front of me.
We stopped a few times to give my nerves a rest and check the dog was still with us and Fletcher took these opportunities to tell me about the local flora and bird life.
The track eventually led to the top of the hill, where there’s a lookout over the coast. They sometimes hire this area out for functions, but the main attraction is the Skyline – a flying fox over the valley floor.
With space for four people, the chairs are released and pick up speed as they soar 150 m above the tree tops towards anoter hill 3 km away. The real fun starts when you reach the other side and are suddenly released to head back the way you came. I’m not too embarrassed to admit that my screams could be heard across the valley as the seats tipped backwards on their return journey.
I clambered off the Skyline and we headed back down the hillside on our quad bikes. As I navigated the boulders, I started to feel like I knew what I was doing.
That was until my confidence was somewhat knocked when Fletcher told me that the route we’d taken was ‘Like The Sound of Music’ compared with the one the experienced drivers take.
I guess you have to start somewhere!
GETTING TO NELSON
Intercity Buses provide services to Nelson from Picton (just over 2 hours). For travel from the north island, you can book the InterIslander Ferry (3.5 hours from Wellington to Picton). If you’re coming from the south, there are buses from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Kaikoura (4 hours); Christchurch (7 hours); Westport (4 hours); Greymouth (6 hours). Use the search tool below to check for specific journeys, or click through to the Intercity home page for more information on multi-journey passes and day trips.
WHERE TO STAY
I spent a few wonderfully cosy nights at Tasman Bay Backpackers and it was one of my favourite hostels in New Zealand. The social area has a roaring fire to keep you warm in the winter evenings and there were hot water bottles scattered around too. The hairdryer in one of the bathrooms was a welcome extra, but the biggest bonus was the free chocolate pudding and ice cream every evening! Tasman Bay really goes out of its way to welcome guests and I can’t imagine there’s a better place to stay in Nelson.
I was a guest of Happy Valley Adventures. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.