To the west of Nelson are three significant national parks. The nearest as well as the most popular is Abel Tasman National, which has some of the best coastal scenery in New Zealand.The coastline is packed with white and gold sandy beaches and smaller coves.Behind the beaches are hills clothed in temperate rainforest and manuka. The main way of experiencing the park is to walk the Abel Tasman Track. This walk takes three days to complete and is the most popular hike in the country. If three days is too much, you can take a sea taxi to any of the beaches giving you the option to do a partial walk or just a lazy day at a one of the scenic secluded beaches.
Kahurangi National Park is New Zealands second biggest park after Fiordland.This park has some scenic coastal scenery on the west coast, but the coast here is more famous for being rugged and wild than gentle sandy beaches .Much of this western coastline is fringed with Nikau palms which gives this temperate area a tropical look. Nikau palms are the world's most southerly palm tree and the only palm native to New Zealand. Farewell Spit on the north coast is also a notable area. It is a protected area of sand dunes that branch off the top of the South Island. Kahurangi National Park also contains the northern tip of the huge Southern Alps mountain range and has an extensive network of caves including the deepest cave in the southern hemisphere. The best way to see this park is to walk the Heaphy Track a 4 to 5 day walk.
Further to the south and inland from Kahurangi lies Nelson Lakes National Park which has beautiful mountain and lake scenery containing many walking tracks for all levels of fitness. Nearby is Rainbow Ski Field, the only area in this region that has a commerical ski field.