Marahau, the southern gateway to the park: 67km (42 miles) NW of Nelson; Takaka, the gateway to Golden Bay: 109km (68 miles) NW of Nelson

Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park. It protects 23,000 hectares (57,000 acres) of easily accessible coastline, offering unbeatable gold-sand beaches and forested headlands. Marahau and Totaranui are the main gateways to the park, a 1 1/2- and 2 1/2-hour drive, respectively, from Nelson.

Farther north, Golden Bay sits peacefully beyond the twists and turns of Takaka Hill, opening out in a spread of forested parks and golden beaches. The scenery is breathtaking, and the area draws many visitors keen to hike the Abel Tasman's Coastal Track and Kahurangi's Heaphy Track. Today, it is a fertile mix of dairy farming and arty alternative lifestyles - a reflection of the number of people who've reached this corner of the world and found they didn't want to leave.