The small settlement of St Arnaud, a short drive from Nelson, is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park (102,000ha) which includes serene lakes and the majestic mountains that make up the northern expanse of the Southern Alps. The beech forests around the namesake lakes, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa contain a network of walking tracks allowing visitors to explore the lake edges and forest. On signs around the area, you can read about the Rotoiti Nature Recovery program which aims to maintain a predator-free sanctuary around the nectar-producing beech forest. The success of this program is evident in the rich variety of birdsong you’ll hear as you walk the trails. You’ll see many smaller forest-dwelling birds including tomtits, robins and rifleman, and soaring above the forest canopy you might be lucky enough to see the South Island kaka. The Department of Conservation website has more detailed information on the many walks you can enjoy in the park.
Tracking west into the Kahurangi mountains, enjoy a flight over unspoilt country before your pilot lands at a remote alpine location, where you can enjoy the overwhelming surrounds of New Zealand’s second largest National Park. Following your mountain landing, you descend further north west to Golden Bay, and track the beautiful coastline to land in the remote settlement of Puponga, situated at the base of Farewell Spit.
Here join Farewell Spit Eco Tours for a private guided tour of Farewell Spit, the natural sandspit that spans approximately 26 km above the tide mark across the top of the South Island. Hear the history of Puponga and New Zealand’s first Radar Station. See where whales strand and uncover the mystery of the migrant waders. During the summer there are up to 20,000 godwits and 30,000 knots at the Spit, as well as other northern migratory birds, New Zealand natives and introduced species.