Mapua is a clear reflection of what makes New Zealand so special. It’s a quaint beach town full of quirky shops, cute cafes, and tasty restaurants. In addition, Mapua has great access to outdoor adventures. But of course, I can’t forget to mention that one of the main draws of Mapua is its extensive winery and brewery trail.
Located on the north coast of the South Island, Mapua has perfect weather almost year-round. So no matter when you visit New Zealand, you can enjoy many of the country’s awesome activities here. The Mapua Wharf is the cultural heart of town while the iconic Rabbit Island is a beach bum’s dream. And if you’re an avid cycler, the Great Taste Trail runs right through Mapua.
When I visited, I needed several days to enjoy all Mapua had to offer. But creating an itinerary in advance will definitely help you maximize your time. And to make your planning easier, I’ve put together this city guide with the 12 best things to do in Mapua. So keep reading to experience it all!
- About Mapua, NZ
- Things to do in Mapua
- 1. Explore Moturoa (Rabbit Island)
- 2. Have a beer at Golden Bear Brewing Company
- 3. Visit Abel Tasman National Park
- 4. Have a meal or coffee at The Jellyfish
- 5. Go boutique shopping
- 6. Have Appleby Farms Ice Cream from Hamish's Mapua
- 7. Go wine tasting
- 8. Visit Nelson
- 9. Ride to Nelson or vice versa
- 10. Visit the oldest pub in New Zealand, the Moutere Inn
- 11. Rare Creations, Interactive Wooden Art Gallery
- 12. Check out Motueka
- Where to stay in Mapua, NZ
- Thanks for reading!
- Why I Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
- Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
About Mapua, NZ
Mapua is tucked in Tasman Bay and is only 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the larger city of Nelson. It is also one of the closer towns to Abel Tasman National Park, which is about 37 km (25 mi) north. Since it’s centrally located with a tourist-friendly downtown, Mapua has soared in popularity.
The Mapua Wharf is one of the main attractions of the town. It sits on the Waimea Estuary and provides stunning landscapes. “Mapua” means abundance in Maori, as early inhabitants of this area saw the abundance of water, food, and animals that the estuary provided.
Once settlers moved into the area and began to build up the town, the wharf was used for exporting apples and other fruits. To this day, a handful of restaurants and businesses on the wharf have a fruit-related namesake.
The creation of the Great Taste Trail really put Mapua on the map. This epic cycling track takes you along the coastline, through more quaint towns, and along dozens of wineries and breweries. The climate of this area is ideal for farming and growing and also provides the ideal weather for year-round cycling!
But Mapua isn’t just a travel destination for foreigners. On Christmas Day, locals from all over the country head to Rabbit Island to barbecue and enjoy the sunny beach. The influx of travelers has helped build up the city and create lots of locally owned businesses, adding to Mapua’s charm.
Related Read: Are you visiting Mapua from the North Island? Read everything you need to know about catching the ferry to the South Island!
Things to do in Mapua
1. Explore Moturoa (Rabbit Island)
Visiting Rabbit Island is one of the main draws of Mapua! This picturesque beach stretches for 13 km (8 mi) of coastline. The views are incredible, and the water is calm, making it the perfect spot to swim and relax in the sun.
Rabbit Island famously got its name from the mass amounts of rabbits that reside here! While there aren’t a ton of facilities on the island, this is a popular spot to barbeque or bring a picnic, play beach games, and relax by taking in the gorgeous view.
You can also get active on the multiple hiking and cycling tracks on the island! One of my favorites is the Rabbit Island Loop, which runs along the perimeter of the island. It’s a 13.5 km (8.3 mi) loop, but you can do as much or as little as you’d like!
But the best way to access Rabbit Island from Mapua is by cycling! The famous cycling trail, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, stretches from Nelson to Motueka and runs right through Rabbit Island. When cycling from the east, you’ll bike over the Rabbit Island Bridge. And when coming from the west, you’ll need to hop on the ferry.
This ferry runs between the Mapua Wharf and Rabbit Island’s wharf and only takes about 10 minutes. It costs $12 NZD one way or $15 NZD roundtrip. This is ideal if you’re traveling by foot or bicycle, as no vehicles can fit on this ferry. However, if you want to access the island by car, you can cross the Rabbit Island Bridge from the south and head through the reserve!
In winter (May 1st – September 22nd), the ferry operates on weekends only, from 10 am – 4 pm on the hour. The return trip from Rabbit Island to Mapua runs at ten past the hour from 10:10 am – 4:10 pm. In the summertime (September 23rd – April 30th), it keeps the same schedule but operates daily.
Regardless of if you’re there to chill or adventure, a trip to Rabbit Island is a must! I recommend packing a picnic and heading out on a sunny day.
2. Have a beer at Golden Bear Brewing Company
One of my absolute favorite ways to explore a city is by checking out its local breweries! There is always a unique charm to a local brewery, and Golden Bear Brewing Company is no exception.
This brewery has a solid list of core beers that are always on tap. Plus, it also has a great selection of seasonal beers that are unique and constantly rotating. These brews are inspired by New Zealand ingredients and the local landscape. You’ll also notice flavors from California, Mexico, and the southwest of the USA, where the brewers are from!
Their food also reflects the brewer’s homeland, and the tacos, nachos, and burgers accompany the craft beer perfectly. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve found something new and delicious to try.
Not only is the beer amazing, but they also frequently have events at Golden Bear Brewing. Check out their website before you go so you can catch live music or a specialized menu event, such as a beer and dinner pairing!
This is a great afternoon stop to enjoy a pint and the sea breeze, as they are located right on the historic Mapua Wharf!
Related Read: If you’re a craft beer fan, check out the best breweries in Queenstown!
3. Visit Abel Tasman National Park
If you’re looking for some outdoor adventure during your trip to Mapua, Abel Tasman National Park is the best place to go! Located only 37 km (23 mi) north of Mapua, it’s easy to take a day trip to this iconic park.
Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks. However, it’s one of the most popular due to its great hiking tracks, proximity to the coast, and how beautiful it is!
There are over 30 beaches and bays here, offering plenty of good sea kayaking opportunities. You can rent kayaks in Marahau for $99 NZD per person for the entire day.
Of course, if you haven’t done a lot of kayaking before or are traveling with kids, then you might feel more comfortable taking this small group tour. You’ll get to paddle around Split Apple Rock, which is one of the park’s most famous sights. The experience begins at 8:30 am in Marahau and lasts for 3 hours. The tour costs $108 NZD per adult and $67 NZD per child (ages 5 -15) and can be booked online here.
If you prefer to hike, the Abel Tasman Coast Track extends for 60 km (37 mi), taking you the length of the park! If you’re into overnight backpacking experiences, this is one of the top South Island treks that should make your bucket list. But if you’re not looking for quite that much of a challenge, you can do a smaller portion of the trail. It has many sections and loops that make great day hikes.
It doesn’t get as cold here as in some parts of New Zealand, so you can visit year-round. The summers are nice and warm, with an average of 20-25°C (68-77°F). If you’re visiting in the summer, I recommend hiking in the morning and then relaxing on one of the many beaches in the afternoon!
4. Have a meal or coffee at The Jellyfish
The Mapua Wharf is a historic piece of the city. It has that iconic coastal feel, full of shops, tasty restaurants, and the ocean air all around. When I visit Mapua, one of the first things I do is head to the wharf!
One of my favorite places to stop for a meal or coffee is The Jellyfish! This restaurant overlooks the water and has an excellent patio, giving you uninterrupted views as you enjoy your meal!
I stopped here for coffee in the morning, which was a great way to start the day. The wharf was quiet, and I could sit and enjoy looking out at the water, making this a pretty memorable place!
The Jellyfish has some great food options as well. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks, you can’t go wrong. When I came here around brunch, I had their cinnamon French toast and kimchi bloody Mary – delish!
If you want more of an upscale dining experience, head to The Jellyfish for dinner. They have everything from seafood and pork belly to flavorful vegetarian dishes.
The Jellyfish is located right on the wharf and is open Sunday/Monday from 9 am – 3 pm, Tuesday/Thursday from 9 am – 8:30 pm, and Friday/Saturday from 9 am – 9 pm. If you’re coming here on a busy weekend or for dinner, I suggest making a reservation online in advance.
5. Go boutique shopping
A great way to experience a small town’s charm is to check out some locally-owned stores! There are a ton of boutiques in Mapua, especially along the wharf. You could easily spend an entire afternoon wandering through the stores and galleries and maybe even take home a unique souvenir.
While here, be sure to check out Coolchange Gallery. There is so much to look at, you’ll get lost in this eclectic art gallery! I saw some of the most unique pieces here. It’s open every day from 10 am – 5 pm, giving you plenty of time to explore!
There are many other stores right next to Coolchange, such as the Forest Fusion Functional Art Gallery. The artwork here really embraces the local landscape with beautiful pieces made from metal and wood designs. They’re also open every day from 10 am – 5 pm, so you could go on a little art crawl if you wanted!
Darby & Joan Homegoods sells tasteful and creative home goods like pillows, tableware, and decor. So if you want a very useful souvenir for your house, don’t hesitate to stop by! It’s open every day from 10 am – 4:30 pm, but closes 30 minutes earlier on Sundays.
Boutique shopping is a great activity for a cold and rainy day when you don’t want to be outside! It also gives you a chance to support locally-owned businesses in Mapua. And if you like shopping (like me!), the wharf is the place to go!
6. Have Appleby Farms Ice Cream from Hamish’s Mapua
Appleby Farms Ice Cream is a staple in New Zealand and a must-try when you’re in Mapua! Appleby’s is known for using high-quality ingredients, and because New Zealand has an abundant farming community, they have access to great milk … meaning great ice cream! I highly recommend getting a scoop of this classic NZ treat.
Hamish’s Mapua serves this iconic ice cream and is the place I go to satisfy my sweet tooth. I kept it classic with a scoop of chocolate ice cream – which was incredible. However, they’re also famous for their large and tasty burgers. So visiting Hamish’s is a must whether you’re there for ice cream, an entire burger, or both!
Hamish’s sits right on the wharf and is open Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm and Friday/Saturday from 10 am – 7 pm. You can stop by after perusing local boutiques or taking a stroll along the water.
7. Go wine tasting
There are so many incredible wine regions in New Zealand. And this region has a small but mighty fleet of wineries – about 40 in the area! The climate here makes growing grapes a thriving industry, and vineyards have been in this area since the 1800s.
While there are a ton of wineries and cellars you could visit, I have my top two recommendations I stop by whenever I can!
The first is Gravity Winery, Cellar Door & Art Gallery, which is only a 5-minute drive from downtown Mapua. Not only does it have fantastic wine, but is also a gorgeous vineyard! This winery sits on rolling hills and is known as the “Pinot Noir hub”.
The vineyard is impressive to see, but you can also partake in tastings at the cellar door. When I went, I also explored the unique art gallery that’s attached. It was the perfect combination of scenery, wine, and art. Tastings are $12 NZD per person, and they are open from 11 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. However, it’s always best to make a reservation in advance – especially if you have a large group
Another one of my favorite wineries in the area is Heaphy Cellar Door & North Eatery. Heaphy is a family-owned winery and eatery. I love that Heaphy is so connected in the community through wine and food!
The attached restaurant, North Eatery, is well known for having delicious pizzas using locally grown and fresh ingredients. Trust me, the pizza pairs perfectly with the wine. It’s all just so good! You can visit their location for a tasting Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. It costs $10 NZD per person for 4 wines.
8. Visit Nelson
The city of Nelson is one of the top destinations in New Zealand for travelers – and for good reason! It’s full of outdoor activities, stunning landscapes, and many things to do! While Mapua has that small beach town charm, Nelson is a larger city with lots of arts and culture to explore. They balance each other perfectly!
Nelson is just a 20-minute drive from Mapua, so you can easily access any of these activities during your stay. There is seriously so much to do here, but one of my favorite ways to get to know the city is simply exploring the downtown! The city is rich in art galleries, quirky shops, and unique boutiques.
Nelson’s Farmers Market is extremely popular and happens every Wednesday from 8 am – 1 pm. You can find handmade goods such as pottery, food, woodworking, and crafts! It’s located on Halifax Street near the river.
There are plenty of amazing restaurants and bars in Nelson, including one-of-a-kind craft cocktail bars and distilleries! Some of my favorites are Kismet Cocktail & Whiskey Bar and Bamboo Tiger Jazz Club. Both are open from Wednesday to Sunday and are only a 5-minute walk from each other.
I recommend starting at Kismet for a tasty cocktail. It’s also open from 4 pm but closes around 10 or 11 pm (12:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights). Bamboo Tiger Jazz Club is open from 5 pm – 2:45 am and usually has jazz shows Friday and Saturday around 9 pm.
During the day, enjoy the sunshine at the Queen’s Garden or Founders Park, two staples of Nelson’s history and truly beautiful areas! Queen’s Garden is located just a short walk from downtown Nelson and offers a relaxing refuge from the bustling city.
Founder’s Park is actually more of a small village depicting life at the turn of the 20th century, with cute architecture, crafts, a beer museum, and a train ride. It’s located just outside downtown and is open every day from 10 am – 4:30 pm.
You could easily make Nelson a day trip from Mapua. However, you might want to stay here for a night or two to really take advantage of the city!
9. Ride to Nelson or vice versa
Another one of the biggest attractions in the area is cycling from Mapua to Nelson. So if you’re an avid cycler – or even just want to dabble – this is a great place to do it! There are tons of different riding trails that take you by great wineries, breweries, and other attractions. You’ll experience far more than just cycling!
Getting from Mapua to Nelson will take you along the coastal route, which includes cycling across the beautiful Rabbit Island. From there, you’ll head to Richmond, then connect with the old rail route to reach Nelson! In total, this route is 32 km (19.8 mi).
There are many places to rent bicycles for this journey, but I love Kiwi Journeys. It’s located near the Mapua Wharf and rents all types of bikes, from your standard mountain bike to tandem E-bikes. Prices range from $50-$150 NZD for 3 hours.
Cycling makes it easy to catch the ferry to Rabbit Island – and this island is perfect for exploring by bike! In winter (May 1st – September 22nd), the ferry operates on weekends only, from 10 am – 4 pm on the hour. In the summertime (September 23rd – April 30th), it keeps the same schedule but operates daily.
Kiwi Journeys also has a location in Nelson, so you can start or end your journey there. There is a bus that will return you to your city of origin. You can spend all day cycling and enjoying the stops along the way (without worrying about getting back by a certain time). You can contact Kiwi Journeys online to learn more about their transport option.
Another excellent way to experience the route from Mapua to Nelson is by booking this self-guided cycling tour! You can move at your own pace but still have the convenience of a guided map with suggested stops.
I love that this self-guided tour includes all of your biking equipment and transportation to the starting point. You’ll just need to head to Kiwi Journeys, where you’ll get fitted with a helmet, bike, repair kit, and carrier bag. Tours begin as early as 9 am and last about 4- 7 hours, depending on your stops.
One of my top choices for stopping along the way is McCashin’s Brewery, which has incredible food and offers tours. And if you’re a peanut butter fan, you have to visit Pic’s Peanut Butter World! They also have tours plus the best peanut butter-inspired snacks!
This tour also includes a discount voucher for one of the restaurants along the route and your ferry ticket! You’ll need at least two people to join this tour. Standard bikes cost $119 NZD per person, and E-bikes cost $179 NZD per person. I love these options because you can choose to get loads of exercise or take it easy and enjoy the sights!
For a day of cycling and fun, book this self-guided cycling tour online here!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
10. Visit the oldest pub in New Zealand, the Moutere Inn
A trip to the South Island isn’t complete without visiting some historic sights. New Zealand’s oldest pub is right outside of Mapua, the Moutere Inn. This pub was established in 1850 and is still running today!
The inn boasts an awesome craft beer selection (which I loved, of course!). Plus, all of its wine is sourced within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius. To top it off, the pub food is made from scratch (and locally sourced ingredients) – and let me tell you, it is all delicious! They’re famous for their rump steak and wine special, as well as their pork belly.
While the accommodations at the inn are closed, there is space to park campervans for one night! So if you’re traveling by campervan, add this to your itinerary! How fun would it be to camp at the oldest pub in the country?
Visiting the Moutere Inn is a unique experience, whether you love history, good food, or both!
Related Read: Moutere Inn also makes a great road trip stop! If that sounds like your jam, check out all the best South Island road trips here.
11. Rare Creations, Interactive Wooden Art Gallery
Rare Creations is a fitting name for such an interesting art gallery. Let’s just say it’s not your typical art! It’s something of a furniture store, art gallery, and workshop all in one. Overall, it feels like an interactive wooden exhibit with so many things to look at, play with, or even buy.
Located in the heart of Mapua, the owner was a German cabinet maker who moved to New Zealand and has a passion for making high-quality furniture. But what he’s created isn’t just furniture … he’s created a whole experience.
It is fascinating to explore the gallery and see the amazing pieces he has created. It makes you feel connected to his craft and appreciate each piece.
The interactive experience is a series of quirky inventions that move, so you can push buttons, pull knobs, and watch these wooden pieces at work. It is actually really fun and impressive to see the engineering!
You won’t find anywhere else quite like Rare Creations. Plus, you’re guaranteed to have fun. So, believe me, it should definitely be added to your list of things to do in Mapua!
12. Check out Motueka
When in Mapua, I highly recommend visiting the coastal town of Motueka. It’s slightly larger than Mapua and even closer to Abel Tasman National Park. It has some great restaurants, hikes, and thrilling skydiving experiences!
Plus, Motueka is just a 20-minute drive north. It isn’t quite as touristy as Mapua, but it is certainly on the rise!
I highly recommend stopping at The Smoking Barrel for lunch or coffee on your way to Abel Tasman National Park. This unique cafe specializes in coffee, donuts, and smoked meats, making for a combination like no other! I had their Vietnamese iced coffee creme brulee donuts – and I often reminisce about how delicious it was. You can stop by Thursday to Sunday from 9 am – 8 pm.
From Motueka, there are great outdoor activities. When I visited, I witnessed the Riuwaka Resurgence, a natural spring that flows out of a cave. It’s a super easy walk that only takes 20 minutes roundtrip. Just park at the trailhead and bring your camera!
You can also check out the Ngarua Caves, an impressive limestone cave system that you can actually walk through! They are conveniently located just 25 minutes north of Motueka. When you arrive, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to explore this vast cave system. There are facilities set up to offer cave tours that leave every hour and last about 45 minutes.
During the summer months, they are open 10 am – 4 pm, and you don’t even have to make a reservation. Simply show up to catch the next tour at the top of the hour. During the winter (June – September), you’ll have to make reservations in advance. It is $30 NZD per adult and $10 NZD per child (ages 5-15).
Related Read: If you love exploring caves, read about the best places to see glow worms in New Zealand!
Where to stay in Mapua, NZ
When traveling through New Zealand, it’s nice to stay in a few small towns along the way. You get a feel for the local life and scenery and a chance to really relax. Plus, Mapua has its own special charm, and you might need a few days to soak it all up.
In Mapua, you won’t find large hotel chains. Instead, you’ll get beautiful B&Bs and private apartments. And below, I’ve written about my favorite ones. Bear in mind, as a small upscale town, you’ll find prices are higher here than in other parts of New Zealand. But, as usual, you’ll find the best deals when you book in advance!
Mapua Accent House Luxury Boutique Bed & Breakfast – $$$
Mapua Accent House is a gorgeous B&B surrounded by well-maintained gardens. The rooms are elegantly designed with garden views, and some even have patios. Your stay comes with complimentary breakfast, which can be served on the terrace, lounge, or delivered to your room. You can also take advantage of their spa and wellness center, with a hot tub overlooking a private lagoon. The property is just a 10-minute walk to the Mapua Wharf, with loads of restaurants and boutiques.
Room prices start at $341 NZD per night. For a luxurious stay and a convenient location, reserve your room online here.
Mapua Studio Quality Accommodation – $$
Mapua Studio Quality Accommodation is just as it sounds! It’s really a quality stay, and the host has thought of all the details. The stylish fully-equipped studio is just a 6-minute walk to the wharf. It has a small kitchen with a stovetop, a wood fireplace, a comfy double bed, and a private bathroom. There is also a terrace where you may get a visit from the resident hedgehog! Your stay also comes with free bikes to explore the town and visit Rabbit Island.
Prices start at $171 NZD when booked ahead. To snag this great deal in Mapua, reserve your dates online here!
Laughing Fish Studio – $
Laughing Fish Studio is located in the heart of town, just minutes from the wharf and vineyards. This studio apartment comes with a fridge, microwave, outdoor BBQ, and a terrace. It’s comfortable, clean, and can fit up to 4 people. Plus, the hosts are super welcoming and have even been known to gift homemade chocolates (fingers crossed!).
Prices for the Laughing Fish Studio start at $155 NZD. So check availability and book your stay here!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Mapua is the perfect place for those who enjoy small coastal towns. It has so much culture and outdoor experiences and makes a great base for exploring Abel Tasman National Park. If you’re planning a visit, I hope this list has helped you find fun things to do – and fall in love with this cute little town (just like I did!).
If you’re traveling through other parts of the country, check out my blog about New Zealand. I cover everything from the best road trips to comprehensive destination guides. To give you an idea, I’ve linked to some articles below. Thanks for reading!