Motueka is a great place. Looks on the map like a small place to pass through on the way to Abel Tasman, but there's a lot to do there and for staying for a while there can't be many better towns in New Zealand. Small but with the facilities and nightlife of a much larger town, extremely friendly and welcoming locals, arguably the best climate in New Zealand, tons to do within easy driving distance. I'd stop here for at least a week and make it your base for exploring Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks. Though this is really the sort of place you'd want to live permanently someday, you don't get the full appeal of it in a few days. Other than the obvious attraction of Abel Tasman, Golden Bay is well worth a trip over the pass to visit Farewell Spit and the Pupu springs (very good on a day with nice weather, far better than you might imagine) among other attractions. What I would most recommend though is the trip up Mount Arthur to the flora carpark (steep, unsurfaced road but easily achievable in a two-wheel-drive car or campervan) and then up the trail to the Mount Arthur Hut and beyond. Nice walk through the native forest up to the hut, takes one to two hours depending on how slowly you take it, but don't be tempted to turn back there as I was the first time I went up. The hut is at the treeline, carry on for another ten minutes to come out on the tops and be rewarded with some of the best views you will ever see in your life, I say that without hype. Seriously incredible, going up there was like drugs, I went back half a dozen times and would have carried on doing so if I hadn't left to fly back to the U.K. Easy walk on a good surface too, even in the winter. The wild Kea parrots up there that will fly down and walk around a few feet from you if you are lucky are the icing on the cake. You can carry on further up all the way to the summit of Mount Arthur if you have the time. Don't miss this out - it was the highlight of my whole six months in New Zealand, and it's one of the first things I plan on doing when I go back.
On the way to small hippie town of Motueka, you will wind your way through the mountains past beautiful views of the hills and valley below. Roadside stands selling local honey and free range eggs are scattered along the winding path and on a sunny day you can stop for watermelon, apples, or apricots for a picnic in the hills. Most tourists stop in Nelson and never venture over the hill to reach Motueka or the small towns beyond, so this area remains quiet and natural. You can take a bus from Nelson to Motueka or it is a forty-five-minute drive over the hill.
The town is small but has a few great cafes with a particular focus on healthy options. With so much local produce in the surrounding areas, the town has a very natural, earthy feel. For a small town in the hills, there is a great variety of art galleries, local cafes, and friendly shops to visit. There are a few hostel options in Motueka where you will find accommodating hosts and other adventurous travelers. Many Motueka hostels are geared toward hikers and backpackers on their way to the Able Tasman National Park, so the hostels and information centers in town can give you good advice about hikes and camping before you venture into nature. Able Tasman National Park is beautiful and offers many options for day walks and multi-day hikes through the hills or along the coast.
If you continue driving and hour and a half further, past more fruit stands and mountain views, you will find gorgeous gold sand beaches near Takaka. Motueka is a good stop between Nelson and Takaka to take a break from the nauseating roads, and since Motueka is slightly larger than any of the towns beyond, it is a good place to buy groceries and other essentials before venturing onward. Motueka is a fun, small town with an earthy vibe that will appeal to travelers who like art, healthy local food, and exploring the outdoors.
Hi, I'm Amanda Haehl,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Motueka hostels. Welcome.