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Day trips

10 reasons for a day trip to Mapua from Nelson

  • 4 minutes

Nelson, South Island

Unwind at Mapua Wharf

Relax and rejuvenate with a day at Mapua. The wharf is the hub of a vibrant visitor experience. Once the wharf housed apple stores and pack houses is now a bustling destination to while away a summer’s day revelling in the arts and hospitality of the Wharf. The Waimea Estuary and Rabbit Island are picturesque backdrops to the cafes, restaurants, artisan shops and microbrewery. Hire a bike from a local to explore Rabbit Island via the Mapua Ferry. The list of things to do is extensive.


  1. Appleby gourmet A2 icecream is an international award winner and a local. Mapua Wharf has a drawcard with Appleby at Hamishs offering the full range of delicious flavours together with Appleby vanilla folded and wrapped around freshly pulped Nelson berries. Image a flavour created out of a love of ginger biscuits. A2 velvet ice cream with Hakanoa ginger syrup and ginger crunch married into a heavenly melt in the mouth moment. There are sharp delicious ginger bites throughout, intense creaminess and swoosh of vibrant spice making it sinfully divine. Find Appleby at Hamish on the wharf and enjoy. Ice cream and summer is the perfect combination for a warm day.
Wharf on inlet know as Waimea Estuary in small coastal township on Tasman Bay in South Island New Zealand, Mapua New Zealand
Wharf on inlet know as Waimea Estuary, Mapua New Zealand
  1. Jump from the wharf and ride the tide is a rite of passage for locals and there is nothing better than fish n chips and then watch the tidal rise and fall to judge the best time to jump. The exhilaration, the adrenaline of Mapua jump the wharf. Check with locals first about safety and the right time to join the club.
  1. The Smokehouse is an institution and a wharf old timer that was an original functional business smoking and preparing local fish for the Nelson and beyond market. Today there is a range of heat and serve meals, pates, smoked fish and salmon as well as freshly battered fish n chips. The smoking process continues to be carried out by hand using traditional brick kilns with natural manuka shavings and a refreshingly simple brine. Many years later, this same care, commitment and method of smoking is as strong as it ever was. Chilled, ready to eat, nothing frozen, 100% local and a serious contentor to Mangonui, Northland to fish straight off the wharf and onto the plates of consumers.
@Mapua Ferry, Nelson, New Zealand
@Mapua Ferry, Nelson, New Zealand
  1. Mapua Ferry is a mere 10 minute ferry ride to Rabbit Island, yet the magic of a ferry ride is not diminished by the short journey. Take your bike and catch a ride to Rabbit Island, it gets very busy in summer and it is a good idea to forward book in the peak season. For further details check out Mapua Ferry – Nelson. Across the channel from the new floating wharf pontoons is Rabbit Island. Motoroa or Rabbit Island is the largest of a group of sandy islands lying in the Waimea Estuary, and along the seaward side there is more than 8km of safe sandy swimming beaches.
  1. Bird watchers have the Waimea Estuary, the largest in the South Island to pop onto their bucket list destinations. The inlet is of international importance for migratory bird species and is of national significance for other endangered or threatened species. These include birds such as bar-tailed godwit, white heron, Caspian and black-fronted terns, variable oystercatcher, Australasian bittern, and banded rail, and plants such as coastal peppercress and grey saltbush. The inlet is important to life-cycle stages of fish species, which are dependent on the continuity and sequence of habitats from the streams, through the inlet, and to Tasman Bay, being maintained. For more information check out Waimea Inlet Forum. Bird watchers hot spot at low tide and photographers can practice their rapid movement shots with the birds.
Miranda white heron, Auckland, New Zealand
White heron, New Zealand
@The Coolstore Gallery
@The Coolstore Gallery
  1. Explore wharf galleries. Cool Store gallery has a collection of over 150 painters, jewellers and sculptures providing choice for visitors. Forest Fusion Functional Art is impressive stainless steel sculptures which include wind sculptures, and gorgeous Tui and Fantails. Perhaps not easy to squash into the suitcase. Shipping can be arranged. There are ranging pewter as the medium for decorative objects, prints and homeware ware pieces. Shoppers can spend a satisfying afternoon browsing what Mapua Wharf has to offer.
  1. Port Mapua Maritime Museum is a quiet corner of the wharf. The Museum is a reminder of a historic working wharf that was responsible for the shipment of produce and fish from the area. The Museum is supported and managed by volunteers under the auspices of the Mapua Boat Club. There is a record of history and events that have shaped the wharf’s past. The photo collective is extensive. At the Mapua museum you can walk through the rich maritime history of Nelson and its coastline of Tasman and Golden Bay and enjoy photos and video interactive displays along with maritime memorabilia detailing the wharf’s history. It is always fascinating poring over old photos of trading and passenger vessels, the cargo carried and unfortunate maritime accidents on the Mapua sandbar. The Museum documents the role early Maori played and the intimate knowledge traditional custodians played in the area. The Museum is supported and managed by volunteers under the auspices of the Mapua Boat Club. Open 7 days a week, 9am-4pm Free, donations welcome.
@Māpua Boat Club & Maritime Museum
@Māpua Boat Club & Maritime Museum
  1. Cheers to a local brew, Golden Beer Brewery is located at the wharf. Golden Bear Brewing Company is a great place to catch up with friends, enjoy craft brewed beers, listen to live music, soak up the views from the outdoor seating and sample dishes reflecting flavours from California, Mexico and Southwest America. For details about their operations and menu check out Golden Bear Brewing.
Rabbit Island, the other side of the river from Mapua Wharf. South Island, NZ
Rabbit Island, the other side of the river from Mapua Wharf
  1. Moturoa / Rabbit Island Exploration. Mapua Wharf is in the heart of the cycling trails, the Great Taste Trail and others making Rabbit Island a popular spot to visit. There are various trails around the Island identified by the names of various picnic areas. There are signs along the foreshore pointing to beach access. Visitors can cycle through the Reserve to Richmond via the Waimea swing bridge and onto the boardwalks which appear to float above the estuary. Keep an eye out for birdlife flitting among the peppercress estuary bushes. The public reserve has toilets, changing sheds and BBQ. Remember to check the Reserve gate opening and closing hours which are updated and posted on entrance signs.
  1. Mapua is a great meeting place for cyclists, day trippers and groups who are indulging in a variety of activities from wine tours, a day lounging on the beach or shopping. Mapua is a hub with road and cycle routes connected to Richmond and beyond to Nelson. The wharf has routes leading into the Moutere Hills and Motuka. For Nelson based holiday makes Mapua is a great day trip to a heritage area offering a range of attractions to suit the needs of the most discerning visitor.

Where is Mapua

With a thriving wharf and commercial area, Māpua has grown in popularity for visitors, with numbers swelling the region over the summer months. A large fair and market is held every Easter Sunday. Source Māpua, New Zealand – Wikipedia.

Best time to visit

Spring to Autumn. Year round with space aplenty in the low season.


Mapua means abundance and the rich waters of the Waimea Estuary have attracted settlers from early Maori through to the bustling community that has grown up around the Mapua Wharf today. The photo museum operated at the wharf by the Mapua Boat Club records this history and events that have shaped the growth of the wharf.

Getting there

A half hour drive from Nelson

A short 25 minute drive from Nelson, the Mapua Wharf makes a great day out with friends and family. The waterfront park includes an amphitheatre for public concerts and the ferry service connects Rabbit Island with the Mapua Wharf as part of the Great Taste Trail cycleway.

Cycling from Richmod (Nelson) is on the flat easy route of the Great Taste Trail.

Fitness types can cycle the Richmond to Mapua section of the Great Taste Trail and follow the coastline of Waimea Inlet and on to Rabbit Island. Built to accommodate cyclists and foot passengers, the ferry is a 10-minute trip from Rabbit Island to Mapua wharf.  19.8 km

  • Length: 19.8 km (Reservoir Creek to western end of Rabbit Island)
  • Duration: Required 1-2 hr by MTB
  • Trail Type: Shared track
  • Physical Difficulty: Easy

The journey is worth it.

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