Nelson’s Māpua is a creative, coastal destination worth so much more than just a brief stop, as Fiona Terry discovers.

Māpua, one of Tasman Bay’s coastal gems, was once the area’s fruit shipping port. Now it’s a bustling destination worth so much more than just a brief stop.

A bypass which opened in 2010 may have made the diversion to this appealing little seaside township slightly longer, but visitors are drawn there for its surprisingly large selection of cafés, restaurants, bars and galleries. It’s also a popular stop on the cycleway – Tasman’s Great Taste Trail; a small ferry links to the golden sands and forest tracks of Rabbit Island across the estuary inlet.

Those travelling by road arrive in the centre with a bakery, shops, sports fields and tennis courts. Further along is the pedestrianised waterfront precinct, at the edge of which is a wharf where the adventurous leap into the swift tidal waters. A small museum marks the rich history of this settlement, the reputation of which was temporarily tarnished before the clean up of the former fruit chemical factory site, a process that was completed in 2008.

The Golden Bear Brewing Company’s pub and music venue has a window looking onto giant fermentation tanks making innovative tipples such as the Smokin' Otter IPA. Nearby, Hamish’s has long been a drawcard for its ice creams and, for many years, The Smokehouse has served up hot-smoked seafood and fish and chips in generous portions.

By the early 1930s Māpua was handling nearly half of Nelson’s apple crop. The cool stores added in the 1950s now house upmarket shops and galleries.

A waterfront park gives oodles of picnic site options and a boardwalk offers spectacular views towards the Richmond Range. For those wishing to stay longer, there’s a nearby leisure park with direct access to a beautiful golden sand beach.

Reported by Fiona Terry for our Autumn 2022 issue

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