When you explore the area using The Great Taste Trail, there are other places just off the trail and other activities that aren’t cycling that can add to the whole experience of a cycle tour. The activities and places that can be included from as little as a 30-minute stop along the way to a day or more of exploring with or without your bike.
These are our top 5 places to visit we think add to a Great Taste Trail cycle adventure…in no particular order
Rabbit Island Beach
The beach is very close to the cycle trail and at low tide there is an expansive area of sand forming a long beach. Park up your bike and either have a picnic or go for a swim in the warm, safe water. You can swim safely here at any tidal stage. It just means at low tide you walk a bit further to get to the sea. At high tide some of the beach remains above the high-water mark, but it would be more difficult to go for a walk along the beach when it is like this. There are no lifeguards on this beach, like many beaches in this area. Most of the time when we go there for a swim or a run, we feel like we have it to ourselves, or at least the other people are so far away, that you hear nothing but the sea. It’s a quiet place and as no commercial activity is allowed on the island; it retains its simplicity as well as tranquility.
Even in the height of the Summer holidays, the beach is so long that it never seems crowded (apart from Christmas day, when many local families go there every year to celebrate Christmas).
Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman National Park is an easily accessible coastal paradise. You can choose to explore the park from land, on the water, or in the air, with tour operators offering cruises, water taxi services, kayaking options, heli-tours and sailing. There are so many ways to explore the Park and there is something for any budget. You can get a quick taste of the Park on a half-day trip or take in its full splendor on a multi-day trip. Any of these trips can be part of a cycle tour, at the beginning, middle or end. There is no cycling allowed in the Park (although there is discussion about a cycle track being formed in the future), which gives you a chance to enjoy a day or more off your bike. This is a popular option for multi-day cycling tours
Whilst summer is a popular time to visit, locals believe that the shoulder seasons are the best time to explore the park, as crisp mornings, calm waters and quiet beaches allow you to truly enjoy the peace and serenity. That said it is another example that even in the height of Summer, once you set off from the main embarking/disembarking areas, the beaches and tracks remain quiet. This is reflected in the native wildlife both terrestrial and marine. This is an essential part of the scenery. Native bird song fills the forest; shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for food; fur seals lay on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island. Kayaking and walking quietly bring you close to nature and the kayaking companies make it suitable for those with little or no kayaking experience.
Recent additions to the park activities are Waka Abel Tasman which blends paddling with Maori culture and Abel Tasman Canyons who offers a range of active canyoning trips for the adrenalin seeking adventurer.
This area is off the Great Taste Trail but using well-connected back roads you can explore this rural area with orchards, hop gardens, boutique wineries, craftspeople and artists, not to mention the village of Upper Moutere which is home to the Moutere Inn. An iconic Nelson venue rich in history and known for its range of local craft beers and ciders. The village, the countryside and the locals offer a charming glimpse into real New Zealand. The soil and micro-climate allow for some amazing local produce. When the berry season starts in late November, honesty stalls with strawberries, boysenberries, blackberries, blueberries and our favourite, karaka berries pop up around the area.
Pics Peanut Butter World
Peanut Butter ‘World’ may make you think of a theme park, but don’t, it’s not a theme park but a funky factory with a nice café. It offers free tours of the factory as well as an exceptionally large jar of peanut butter that gives you a good view of the area if you go up to the lid. You need to book the tour online or take a chance and wait to you get there, you might get lucky and if there is availability, you may be able to join a tour. Pics peanut butter is a $50 million success story with humble beginnings in Nelson. When peanut butter lover Pic Picot discovered sugar was creeping into supermarket brands, he decided to start making his own in his garage. Ten years later, he sells 20,000 jars a day of Pic’s Peanut Butter around the world.
It can be found near Stoke and by leaving The Great Taste Trail, you can follow another local cycle path, that takes you almost to its door. The tours are Mon-Friday 10.00, 11.30 or 1.30. and they each last 50 minutes. Café hours Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm Saturday 9am – 3pm closed Sundays and public holidays. Kids get a chance to make their own peanut butter and adults can taste other nut butters.
If you have a peanut allergy, it’s probably best to give the tour a miss. The café sells more than just food made with peanuts, so you should find a tasty treat whatever your dietary requirements.
As the cycle trail passes through the wharf area and is the point at which you connect to Rabbit island via a little foot passenger ferry, it is likely you will find yourself here. The biggest problem might be making yourself leave. It has a mix of restaurants, café, wine bar, brewery, The Smokehouse deli and fish and chips with a new menu and additional fryers dedicated to gluten free food. The Golden Bear brewery and Rimu Wine Bar have live music most weekends. It is an extremely popular place to relax with gourmet ice-cream, a coffee or a wine or beer and people watch. It has a relaxed coastal village feel and the wharf area is very bike and pedestrian friendly as cars are excluded.
Locals of all ages also head to the wharf to cool off with a ‘wharf jump’. The drop from the wharf to the water can vary quite a bit as the estuary has a very large tidal range. Thankfully due to the history of the wharf (which is very well presented in the Maritime museum on the wharf), the estuary is a deep channel, so no matter how far the drop to the water, you won’t hit the bottom. If you are around when it is the end of the school year, the leavers class of Mapua Primary School come down with their teacher and all jump off the wharf together. The kids will have done it a million times before, but I’m not so sure about their teacher. I wonder is it the highlight of the teacher’s year….or not.
Many cycle tours spend a second night at Mapua, so that they can enjoy all that Mapua has to offer and so that they can explore the area of Upper Moutere, which is close to Mapua.