The Tasman region is one of many places in New Zealand to be named after Abel Tasman, the first European discoverer of New Zealand. Many of Abel Tasman’s other namesakes are located within the region, including the Tasman Sea, Tasman Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park.
The area is located at the northern tip of the South Island and encompasses an area measuring nearly 10 000 square kilometres. The Tasman region is bordered by the Matiri Ranges to the west, the Tasman sea to the north, the city of Nelson to the east and the Victoria Ranges to the south. Needless to say, the geography of this area is diverse and includes mountainous townships, major rivers, bays and estuaries for fishing and Farewell Spit, a forty kilometre sand spit stretching out in to the Tasman Sea. There are also three major national park located within this region; Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park and Kahurangi National Park.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Maoris’ first settled the area in the twelfth century, most likely lured by the plentiful sources of food along the coast. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first recorded European to discover the area. Under the leadership of Captain Arthur Wakefield, one of the founders of the New Zealand Company, European settlers arrived in 1842, quickly setting up farms and agricultural areas. New Zealand’s first gold rush took place in this area in 1856. Fruit cropping became popular in the mid 1900’s and remains a valuable crop for the area.
As of June 2009, the population of the Tasman region is 17 000. The area has one of the lowest population densities of the nation, an estimated 4.3 people per square kilometre. This is largely due to the lack of urban areas, as 58% of the region is national parks.
The beautiful natural landmarks within the region provide ample amusement. Tourists can enjoy a cheap day out at one of the many golden beaches, pristine national parks or bodies of water. Test your fitness on one of the walking trails or just relax amongst the beautiful scenery.
The city of Nelson is not only the largest fishing port in Australasia – it is also the leading wine producing area in New Zealand. There are 26 family owned vineyards and wineries to be toured. Beer and fruit are also local specialties.
The Tasman region has a high ratio of professional artists. The World of Wearable Art is a popular – and world class – modern art museum. There is a huge variety of arts and crafts workshop on offer, including such unique pursuits as bone carving, olive oil production and collecting and cooking seafood.
Things to do
· The Tahuna Beach Holiday Park is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere; even if you don’t like camping, this place has to be seen to be believed. On site facilities include the usual – communal bathrooms, swimming pool, children’s playground – and the sublime – like mini golf, a fitness course and a worm farm. Accommodation options run the gauntlet from camping sites to self contained units.
· Nature lovers will be rewarded with a variety of rare and unusual wildlife when visiting the Abel Tasman National Park. Nestled inside this faunal hot spot is the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, which not only gives visitors an up close look at marine animals – you can also swim with fur seals. The lack of human predators in the park has made these mammals friendly and fearless.
· The high quality produce on offer means that most restaurants and cafes in Nelson are outstanding. The Smokehouse, on old Mapua wharf, is reputed to be the best.