We all know Nelson Tasman provides us with plenty of places for a beach fix and that we each have our own personal favourite beach.
This is a brief ode to the spits – Farewell Spit, Marahau Sandspit & Motueka Sandspit – the beaches nearby that fill our lungs with ocean air and where we can feel the sea breeze upon our face. The spits are places that are a quick daily dose of nature, a brief break from a day around town or even a remote full-day adventure.
Often windswept and sandswept, you can feel the exposure of being at the northern tip of the south island when you’re out on the Farewell Spit. The entirety of this 34km is an impressive stretch of spit and is one of the longest in the world. When looking at Farewell Spit on the map it looks remarkably akin to a kiwi beak.
Farewell Spit Eco Tours run fantastic daily guided trips along the spit if you are interested in learning about the critters that live on the spit as well as the human history of the place.
With its unique geological form Farewell Spit is also known for the whale strandings – such as the one in February this year. Thanks to the amazing work of the charity and members of the public many pilot whales have been relaunched safely back out to sea.
If you often find yourself wandering the beaches of New Zealand the Project Jonah is a fantastic organisation to get involved in.
Just as you drive into the village of Marahau there is a carpark at the northern end of the Otuwhero Estuary. Even at the peak of summer you can have the place to yourself if you wander for two minutes along the beach. It is an easy place to take 5, stretch the legs and wander up and down the spit to soak in the unspoilt coastline of the Abel Tasman in the north. As you look out to sea you can admire the two islands Motuareroiti and Motuareronui (more commonly known as Adele and Fisherman Islands) floating in the distance.
As the tide comes in you are left with a golden-sand island that you can swim out to and claim as your own mini tropical island or wait until low tide and walk along it and out to the water for a swim.
The Motueka Sandspit is a little gem in the town of Motueka. You can walk along barefoot in the sand, search for shells and spot birds. When you need to switch off and reconnect with nature this is a great local spot, and it is so close to town. Although you will find others along the spit, you will generally have the beach to yourself, especially as you head further south along towards the tip of the sandspit.
The sandspit can change dramatically, even between tides, depending on the weather conditions. After a storm, particularly a strong easterly in combination with a king-tide, there will be massive piles of driftwood and even small rocks washed up on the beach. Until it was destroyed in a storm the Sandspit was also home to a fantastic creation by local artist Twig (aka Jamie Brown). Lots of people use the driftwood to make fantastic shelters; a perfect respite from the heat on a famously sunny Nelson Tasman day. The horizon is dotted with these structures; a fun reminder of families and friends playing on the beach.
If wildlife spotting is your thing, then this is an ideal space for a walk. Spot the regulars such as oyster catchers and herons to the more elusive spoonbills and godwits. Every year around the middle of September the first of the godwits arrive in Motueka after their epic, non-stop flight from Alaska.