A long narrow plain, broken by several mountainous areas, stretches from the Marlborough Sounds down the eastern coast of the upper South Island; State Highway 1 runs along this plain, going through Blenheim and Kaikoura on its way south through Canterbury. To the west, a series of high ranges separates Blenheim and Nelson. The side roads up into the Marlborough Sounds are slow and winding and often unpaved, so the best way to explore is often by boat from either Picton or Havelock. South and west of Nelson, and along the West Coast, the country becomes extremely mountainous. The series of high passes and long river gorges is broken only by small settlements. Much of this area is scenic parkland, a great buildup to the glaciers and mountains in the South Westland World Heritage Area. Nelson is the largest city in the area; Blenheim, Motueka, and Greymouth are the largest towns.
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