Top of the South

Riding the top of the South

The inside line

If you like stunning scenery, exceptional roads and plenty of sunshine you’re going to love riding the Top of the South.

Between them, the Nelson, Tasman, and Marlborough regions really do have it all: winding hill roads with endless corners, cruises across vast plains filled with vineyards, jaw-dropping coastal runs and plenty to enjoy along the way.

Check out the routes – you’ll find tips on attractions, scenic landmarks and essential roadside amenities.

Have a great time riding the Top of the South.

Things to know

Riding to Collingwood & beyond

The area beyond Collingwood encompassing Tuhuroa or Farewell Spit is remote and scenic.

Collingwood is at least two hours from Nelson. The road is twisty, especially over the Takaka Hill, and narrow in places, so allow more time for scenic stops or if you are heading further north.

During the summer months in particular, the road gets busy with tourists and campervans, so expect some delays through Motueka and beyond.

There are no fuel stops north of Collingwood, so make sure you fill up there or in Takaka.

Riding to the Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds are a sumptuous visual feast of land, sea and nature.

Most roads are twisty and some unsealed, with unexpected sharp corners, which makes the ride a lot of fun. Watch out for parked campervans and for the many tourists pulling in and out of camp sites.

Ride with a full tank. The last fuel stop is at Linkwater near the beginning of Kenepuru Road.

Riding safely

Here are a few hazards to watch out for in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions.



While Nelson and Marlborough are known for their sunny weather, the landscape varies a lot across the region. And so can the weather. Even in the sunniest spots, the weather can be changeable, especially outside peak summer months. If you’re riding the Sounds or up in the Nelson Ranges, particularly, be prepared by taking wet-weather gear and an extra warm layer. Always be alert to glare in bright sun.

One-way bridges

There are plenty of them, especially towards Takaka, St Arnaud and Westport. Before crossing, make sure you have right of way, the bridge is clear and you’re confident anyone approaching has seen you. Bridges are often slippery in wet weather.

scenic lookout

Sightseeing stops

Many tourists crashes happen at or near sightseeing stops. Be very wary approaching them and, when rejoining the road yourself, take a thorough look around. Then ease slowly back into your riding rhythm.


Livestock can wander into the road and increased dairying means there are more cattle than ever. Slow down and let animals find their way off the highway. Don’t do anything to spook them and look for instructions posted by farmers. Watch out for roadkill, too.

Report highway hazards by dialing *555 from your mobile.

To check highway conditions dial 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).

You know the drill

Never forget the essentials that help keep you alive.

Remember, the right speed means having sufficient margin in hand to avoid skids, running wide or any loss of control.

On the longer rides, watch for fatigue, especially in cold weather.

Keep a watch on road surfaces and adjust speed accordingly, but don’t become ‘target fixated’ on the tarmac ahead of your front tyre.

Carry waterproofs, a spare warm layer and water, especially on higher or more remote and exposed routes.

Be patient overtaking. On a motorcycle, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to pass.

When taking bends, remember: in slow and wide, follow the vanishing point and only ‘apex’ when you have a clear view of the exit (especially on double bends).

Right speed, right gear, right position, always.

Other people make mistakes

Stay alert and focused so you can deal with the (inevitable) unexpected. Take breaks when you want to enjoy the scenery.


Assume other road users haven’t seen you and can make mistakes. Ride defensively.

Be aware of blind spots on vans, trucks and buses.

Improve your chances of being seen: dipped beam on; wear bright, contrasting clothing; position yourself conspicuously on the road.

Consider professional training.

It will boost your skills and your enjoyment of riding – check out