Waimea Inlet

Image: Christine Riggle | Creative Commons


Enjoy a walk in the plains or low hills around Nelson or Motueka — an area known as the Waimea Basin.

Track overview

About this track


Near Nelson

Albion Square

In the heart of Nelson City is a lovely and historic area known as Albion Square. Part of this square is an historic reserve looked after by DOC. There are several historic features here that complement the nearby Hardy Street Girls School, an old (1864) post box still in use, the Suter Gallery and the Queens Gardens.

Interpretation panels on both Hardy and Bridge Streets help orient visitors to the square and its features, and provide more detail on its history.

Waimea Inlet

Waimea Inlet is the largest estuary in the South Island. Rich in food resources it was coveted by Maori; 33 archaeological sites are known from its shores. Following European colonisation in the 1840s, large areas of the inlet were drained and the coastal forest burned or logged.

Despite its modification, the estuary is considered to be of outstanding biological importance; the abundance of food attracts large numbers of fish; 50 species of wading birds have been recorded and there are rare plants and a carabid beetle found only at Tahunanui Beach.

The most popular areas of the Waimea Inlet are Tahunanui 'back beach', Monaco, Moturoa/Rabbit Island (the Rabbit Island gates are closed at night) and Mapua. Boat ramps are provided at Nelson, Monaco, Mapua and the inside of Rabbit Island (high tide only).

Note: The outgoing tide can cause embarrassing and inconvenient delays for boat owners - time your visit carefully. Follow the rules regarding dogs, hunting and fires in individual places. Do not disturb the birds.

To the South

Eves Valley Scenic Reserve

Time: 20 min return

Eves Valley is off Waimea West Road, 27 km from Nelson.

This little reserve in Eves Valley is a regenerating beech-podocarp forest covering 28 hectares. The reserve has many picnic areas, good access to the stream and a scenic 20-minute bush walk.

Note: Dogs and camping are prohibited. Fires may only be lit in the fireplaces provided.

Snowdens Bush Scenic Reserve

The reserve is on Waimea West Road, just west of Brightwater, 21 km from Nelson.

Although severely modified, this reserve is an example of a forest type that once covered much of the Waimea Plains. It is dominated by totara, titoki and matai, and since grazing was stopped in 1972, a varied understorey has developed.

This 5.6 hectare reserve is a popular picnic and recreation area, with several paths meandering through the forest.

Note: Camping and dogs are not permitted.

Belgrove windmill

The Belgrove windmill is on State Highway 6, 39 km south of Nelson.

The Belgrove windmill was built in 1897 on the Nelson railway line. It was used to pump water to help cool engines beginning the steep climb to Spooners tunnel. When the line closed, amid much protest in 1955, the windmill was left in place because it was also being used for domestic supply. It is one of only two such windmills remaining in the country.

Noter: The windmill is beside a busy weighbridge; watch out for logging trucks.

Hope Saddle

Hope Saddle  is on State Highway 6.75 km south of Nelson.

In 1871, a winding, precipitous track was cut through the bush over Hope Saddle. In 1879 the first horse drawn vehicles started using it, as part of the route from Nelson to Westport. At the saddle today, travellers can stop for a while and enjoy the views of forests and mountains. There is a shelter and toilet; interpretation signs and picnic tables are provided at two viewing points.

Nature and conservation

Waimea Inlet is popular for fishing, whitebaiting, water-skiing, sea kayaking, jogging, walking, duck hunting, dog exercising (in some places only) and bird watching. Bird watching is best on the north-eastern corner of Bells Island at high tide during the summer season, when there are many northern hemisphere migratory birds present.

Know before you go

  • Be wary of sudden weather changes.
  • If boating in Waimea Inlet, time your trip with the tides.
  • Light fires only in designated areas.


Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   nelsonvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
Motueka Office
Phone:   +64 3 528 1810
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   motueka@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Cnr King Edward & High Streets
Motueka 7120
Postal Address:   PO Box 97
Motueka 7143
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