There are a number of great spots within easy driving distance of Nelson. They range from safe, enclosed locations to hardcore wave spots, so please do ensure that you are sensible about where you choose to sail! The descriptions below correspond to the locations shown on the map and are in order from east to west.
A short drive north of Nelson, you turn off near Hira on the Cable Bay Road. There are public toilets and ample car parking spaces close to the steeply shelving shingle beach.
A NW wind funnels into the bay, resulting in stronger conditions than elsewhere in the region. It can sometimes be a couple of Beaufort forces stronger, so make sure you take your small sails too! There is often windswell associated with NW winds and there can be some good wave-riding on the point break, whilst the bay provides excellent jumping. For this reason, it is more of an intermediate to advanced spot.
Best avoided at high tide, when there is a mean shore-break, and the bay can be full of flotsam and jetsam.
Accessed by road off SH60, the Rabbit Island recreation reserve is a popular tourist spot and has plenty of parking, toilets and picnic tables. The huge sandy beach means that you can always find your own space.
A NW groundswell can deliver some excellent waves, particularly good for paddleboarding, but more commonly the sea breeze just whips up a large chop.
A great place for families messing about on the beach and in the water, but I have not actually sailed there. I can imagine that it might be a spot to head to when strong winds from the east rules out everything else!
Ruby Bay & Mapua
Another location that I haven’t sailed personally. The wide beach can mean a large area of shallow water at the right state of tide (mid-tide), or a long walk to the water at low tide! The NNE sea breeze is onshore. A NW breeze will be disrupted by the headland, but might work further east near Mapua. Anything from the easterly quadrant could have potential here too. I’ll try and check it out soon!
The fantastic (cheap and basic) council run campground at McKee’s Domain, just past Ruby Bay on the old highway (Stafford Drive) is almost worth a trip in itself. The point break here can be epic for longboards/paddleboards when a strong NW swell wraps round the headland. People have been known to ride waves so far that they hitch a lift back!
Driving past, it looks like the Motueka estuary has great potential as a high tide location in the NE sea breeze. I’m planning to check it out soon, and launch from somewhere along Motueka Quay. Saiing upwind towards the bank will keep the water nice and flat. I’ll add more details once I’ve sailed there.
Where so many New Zealanders spend their summer holidays! Kaiteriteri is a super busy little cove, with Aqua Taxis, boat trips and kayakers all heading for the Able Tasman National Park. Even if you don’t go there to windsurf, it should be on your planned route.
Just round the corner from Kaiteriteri and right on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park, Marahau can be a great spot to kite or windsurf. Stay south of the jetty and make sure you steer well clear of the Water Taxis that are constantly buzzing in and out. Check them out at low tide, when they drive onto trailers and are towed up and along the road with their passengers still aboard!
I’ve not sailed there, but I believe that the NE sea breeze can get up nicely. Ooooh, another place to go and check out!
A few locals sail from Pohara, which can get a decent windswell in a strong sea breeze or NW. It will generally involve launching through small waves into bump and jump conditions.
This is another Golden Bay spot that I have yet to sail. From the map it looks like there could be options either side of the headland.
There are a number of beaches you can sail from at Pakawau. We’ve used the lagoon that forms at low tide to the north of the settlement as a spot for teaching beginners and getting some flat water. The sea breeze from the NE works well and often veers more easterly.
I also believe you can sail here in anything from W to N. Launching from the Pakawau Motor Camp, you have a 4km long speed strip in the offshore winds. Make sure you check your gear and don’t sail alone!
Well worth the drive! Patarau is a charming spot on the West Coast. There is a designated camping area, which locals are happy for people to use as long as they follow the rules – I.e. bring a spade!
The predominant conditions are SW with large windblown swell. The rips and currents can be ferocious on the West Coast, so sail here very much at your own risk! The side-shore current that flows up the West Coast is responsible for transporting vast quantities of sand and gravel, resulting in the formation of Farewell Spit.
Here, I scored some good wave-riding conditions in a NE wind with a nice NW swell, but the wind was very light and fickle. We’ve also had some fun sessions surfing and paddleboarding. Load up with provisions and head out there for a few days of fun!
A very long way from anywhere… Anatori can provide fantastic, but challenging conditions. SW winds blow consistently up the coast, building swell. In these photos, the wind was forecast to be 15knots, but it must have blown through at 30+ in the afternoon. The Anatori campsite is tucked away to the left of this photo and you can launch from there. It is a rocky, tricky launch but you can see the flatter area where the river’s sand bar takes some of the sting out of the waves!