Kayaking + Sailing, Abel Tasman National Park
Concierge.com's insider take:
The clear, jade-green waters of Abel Tasman National Park, near Nelson on the island's northern coast, are so gorgeous that Tourism New Zealand built a major advertising campaign around them (if you ever saw those giant "100% New Zealand" billboards, with kayakers seemingly suspended above pale-green shallows, you've seen Abel Tasman). If you're going to choose one part of the South Island to get waterborne, this is it. The park, which occupies a roughly 30-mile protected stretch of Tasman Bay, is chockablock with pristine golden-sand coves, dramatic rock formations, and seals, dolphins, and seabirds. Abel Tasman Kayaks, based in the seaside community of Marahau, runs guided day and multi-day trips with all gear provided; you can also rent kayaks and head off on your own (64-3-527-8022; www.abeltasmankayaks.co.nz). Sailors may prefer to hop a catamaran and take a full- or half-day cruise with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures, based in Kaiteriteri; bareboat charters are also available (64-3-527-8375; www.sailingadventures.co.nz).