The Nelson Bays region at the top of the South Island of New Zealand is famed for sunshine, art and craft and alternative lifestyles, and has a rugged farming backbone. The region includes Tasman Bay, the more central and populous bay, and the more remote Golden Bay to the north-west. It is bounded by the Richmond Ranges, Kahurangi National Park and Nelson Lakes National Park. The Abel Tasman National Park is on the northern coast between Tasman Bay and Golden Bay.
- Golden Bay, over the Takaka Hill from Nelson and a world away, with beautiful golden sand beaches, native bush and solitude
- Nelson Lakes has the largest native eels in New Zealand inside its National Park and good alpine skiing centred on St Arnaud
- Collingwood – at the northern end of Golden Bay, gateway to Farewell Spit and Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park
- Kaiteriteri – beach town and popular holiday spot between Motueka and Abel Tasman National Park
- Mapua – small seaside town between Nelson and Motueka
- Motueka – the largest town outside Nelson and its satellites
- Murchison – some of the finest white water rafting and kayaking in the Southern Hemisphere
- Nelson – the region's only city, with many galleries, cafes and restaurants fringing its cathedral, and a big safe sandfly-free beach at Tahunanui
- Onekaka – small town in the middle of Golden Bay
- St Arnaud – village that is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park
- Takaka – the largest town in Golden Bay
- Wakefield – village south-west of Nelson
From the east, State Highway 6 is the main route leading from Blenheim (and Picton) through Renwick, Havelock and the Rai Valley before reaching Nelson. State Highway 6 continues south through Richmond, Wakefield, Murchison and on to Westport and the West Coast. State Highway 63 starts at Renwick and leads to St Arnaud before rejoining State Highway 6 at Kawatiri Junction.
In the main, both buses and shuttle services in and out of the region follow State Highway 6. Nelson Lakes Shuttles specialise in providing transport for trampers, hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and skiers. They run on-demand together with scheduled services to St Arnaud and between Picton, Blenheim, Murchison as well as other tramping destinations further afield.
- Nelson Airport (NSN IATA), one of the busiest airports in the country with Air New Zealand and other airlines providing scheduled services.
- Takaka airstrip (KTF IATA) has scheduled flights from Wellington on Golden Bay Air as well as charter operations.
For those without transport, there is reasonable bus transport around the region.
- Between Nelson, Stoke and Richmond – Nbus suburban buses are available, operated by Nelson Coachlines.
- From Nelson to St Arnaud – Nelson Lakes Shuttles.
- From Nelson to Motueka, Kaiteriteri and Marahau (the eastern end of the Abel Tasman National Park) – Abel Tasman Travel.
- From Nelson to Motueka, Takaka, Collingwood and the eastern end of the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park – Golden Bay Coachlines.
- Trek Express, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 128 735, fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Specialising in transport to hiking tracks.
- Nelson Lakes Shuttles, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tasman Helicopters, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
Sunburn and sun stroke might be the greatest dangers in this region!
For those heading south to Christchurch, there are two options which take roughly the same length of time. State Highway 6 branches just after Murchison lending to Springs Junction. Turning east leads soon to the hot springs complex of Maruia Springs before steadily climbing up the Lewis Pass on the Main Divide of the Southern Alps. Beyond too long the turn-off to the spa town of Hanmer Springs is reached, 1.5 hours from Christchurch. The alternative it to travel to Blenheim and then south on State Highway 1 through the whale watching town of Kaikoura. Both routes take approximately 6 hours.