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.