Our Story

We're just the right size! Big enough to give you the best choices in Abel Tasman National Park; small enough to show you real New Zealand hospitality.

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Our Heritage:

The story of our company is the story of the Nelson region and the development of responsible, sustainable tourism in New Zealand.

Descended from farmers, sailors, and builders, John and Lynette Wilson ventured into tourism in 1977 with a single launch service into Abel Tasman National Park. Today, they are assisted by their children and grandchildren, operating our award-winning business that offers the widest range of services for visitors to our favourite part of the world.

Lynette Wilson's great-great grandparents, the Newths and the Snows, sailed from England in 1841 with the first official British settlement fleet to Nelson. One of the Newth's daughters, Amelia, waded ashore ahead of the official landing party. From that time, our family's stories document determined women, dedicated men and inspired children through the tragedies and triumphs of the emerging nation of New Zealand. For the full story, read Awaroa Legacy co-authored by Lynette Wilson.

Our family history is the family business:

  • 1841 - The Newth and Snow families arrive with the first fleet of European settlers to Nelson

  • 1858 - George Snow marries Martha Newth. Adele is their eldest (surviving) child

  • 1844 - Lynette Wilson's great-grandparents William and Adele (nee Snow) Hadfield build a grand home on the "finest site in the bay" on their farm, Meadowbank, at Awaroa, now within the boundaries of Abel Tasman National Park

  • Early 1900's - William and Adele Hadfield's eldest son Fred lives with his wife Jessie (nee Winter) on their farm on the Awaroa River. (This land was returned to the national estate in 2006.)

  • 1931 - Awaroa school closes. Lynette's mother, Mavis Hadfield, is the last school teacher in Awaroa

  • 1940/50s - Visiting her grandparents, Fred and Jessie at Awaroa, Lynette witnesses the old house at Meadowbank fall into ruins

  • 1942 - The coastal region between Marahau and Wainui is gazetted as a National Park to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman's visit to the coast.
  • Mid 1960s  - John Wilson (Lynette's husband) builds a launch, Matangi, at their home in Riwaka for family holidays in Abel Tasman National Park. 
  • 1968 - Lynette purchases a family holiday cottage in the Park at Torrent Bay
  • 1977 - After the only boat available to take visitors to the National Park is wrecked in a storm, our family starts a commercial boat service along the Abel Tasman coast, using the Matangi, surveyed to operate as a commercial 18 - passenger vessel. We operate as Abel Tasman National Park Enterprises.
  • 1978-82 - Lynette serves refreshments and art work from a tent pitched in the garden of the Torrent Bay Cottage. Her children start to show visitors around the area.
  • 1982 - We are granted a concession to conduct Guided Walks in the National Park. We rebuild the family holiday cottage to enable guided walkers to stay overnight in the Park. The historic launch, Ponui, is purchased and restored to join our fleet.
  • 1984 - Third launch, Waingaro, purchased and coach service introduced from Nelson to Kaiteriteri.
  • 1988 - Abel Tasman Explorer, 145-seat passenger launch, purpose-built in Nelson to provide the most comfortable way to see the National Park.
  • 1994 - After Lynette inherits land from her great-grandparents, our family rebuilds our ancestral home as Meadowbank Homestead - Awaroa, to be included in the our guided trips.
  • 1995 - We introduce Sea Kayaking with professional Guides.
  • 1999 - Family history published by Lynette in a hard cover book, Awaroa Legacy.
  • 2000 - As Abel Tasman National Park Experiences, we win NZ Tourism Award for Best Outdoor Activity.
  • 2001 - Torrent Bay Lodge undergoes its third rebuild and refurbishment to include 13 double rooms with ensuite bathrooms.
  • 2003 - Winners of Tasman District Council Heritage Award.
  • 2004 - Our Sea Fern brand is exclusively designed for us to represent the family's connection to the land and the sea, in the eye-catching colours of black and white; New Zealand's unofficial national colours.
  • 2005-7 - Changing our name to Wilson's Abel Tasman Experiences Ltd, we form a business alliance with sea kayak companies owned by local Maori Iwi of Wakatu Incorporation to assist them with their entry into the tourism industry. We set up a cadet training scheme to help members of local Iwi present their stories.
  • 2006 - A large part of the Hadfield estate (the largest single piece of privately owned land within the boundaries of Abel Tasman National Park) is bought by the Heritage Fund to be returned to the National Park.
  • 2006 Winners:
    • Qualmark Mark of Quality at NZ Tourism Awards.
    • Business of the Year and Tourism Excellence at the Nelson Business Awards.

  • 2007 - Trading name changed to Wilsons Abel Tasman National Park Ltd to make our family name dominant in the branding and help distinguish our company from other operators in the region.

  • 2008
    • John Wilson awarded the Queen's Service Medal for his role in developing Abel Tasman National Park as a quality international destination.
    • Guest accommodation upgraded and two holiday cottages built at Meadowbank Homestead - Awaroa.
    • State-of-the-art solar power installed at both Lodge.
    • Finalists Inbound Tourism Operators Council Operator of the Year Award.
  • 2009 - State-of-the-art catamaran, Abel Tasman Voyager, designed and built in New Zealand, introduced to operate our Vista Cruise services in the National Park.
  • 2010 -
    • Abel Tasman Voyager hull extended for even better fuel efficiency and reduced wake at speed.
    • Judged best Visitor Attraction and Experience (small and medium) at the 2010 NZ Tourism Awards, Innovating for Success.
  • 2011 - 12
    • Social Media reviews reflect our focus on team building, safety and service standards.
    • Develop new-look website and design purpose-built booking software with upgraded computer servers to prepare for on-line booking.
  • 2013
    • First company operating in Abel Tasman National Park to be awarded the Qualmark Enviro Gold standard.
    • Online, real-time booking introduced.
  • 2014
    New Hyundai L500 marine engines installed in the Abel Tasman Voyager to increase comfort, reliability and fuel efficiency.
  • 2015
    • Torrent Bay Lodge upgrade
    • Move to new base premises, purpose built at 409 High St, Motueka, to improve staff and visitor experience at our operational hub.
  • 2017
    • Vista II cruising catamaran joins the Vista Cruise fleet, 28 January.
    • Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce Large Business Winner

We look forward to an enjoyable and safe future with you - our guests!

Our Vision:

To promote an appreciation of the National Park and its unique features by providing for visitors a responsible, informative and caring service. The Nelson region has been our home for 8 generations. Wilsons Abel Tasman involves three generations of our family, assisted by a team of dedicated professionals who love this region as much as we do.

Listen to the fascinating story of the Wilson family's involvement with European settlement of the Nelson region. Click the 'play' button below to hear an interview Darryl Wilson did with Jim Mora on Radio NZ Afternoons, 17 November 2011.