Nelson is the creative centre of the South Island and has been dubbed the sunniest city in New Zealand, so as well as a fantastic base for exploring the vast forests, valleys and coastal paradise, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson has a completely individual culture of its own to be explored; art galleries, wineries, and local delicacies are waiting to be discovered as well as a host of beautiful beaches – it’s little wonder Nelson has been named one of New Zealand’s most liveable cities.
Nelson Central Highlights
With a whole host of galleries and artist’s studios to explore, the arts make up a huge part of Nelson’s culture. The elegant Woollaston Estates is an award-winning collection of significant sculptures and artwork. Whatever time of year you visit, The Gallery hosts an ever changing programme of year-round exhibitions from national and international artists.
The World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars museum will suit a more eclectic taste with its quirky collection of wearable art (and classic cars).
Nelson is known for its prestigious wineries around Moutere Hills and Waimea Plains. Its most famous produce is the pinot noir, but the chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are also popular. Beer lovers can try the delicious craft beer also brewed in the area. You’ll find plenty of artisan food producers selling unique chutneys, breads and chocolates, but taking pride of place on Nelson’s foodie scene is its world renowned Golden Bay scallops, which can be enjoyed in one of the city’s many waterfront restaurants. Cooked in a variety of ways, a local favourite is in garlic and butter.
Tahunanui, ‘The Beach of Nelson’, is a popular spot and a great choice for families with a playground, a hydroslide, bumper boats, and Natureland zoo. It’s a safe, swimmable beach with a variety of restaurants to choose from.
Rabbit Island is a 20 minute drive from Nelson City and provides a quiet and relaxing spot, perfect for sunbathing, picnics and barbeques with readily available equipment and picnic tables.
Slightly further out, you’ll find Kaiteriteri 60km from Nelson central. This is a golden sandy beach at the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. You can arrange to go kayaking, seal swimming or get a water taxi into the park itself.
Explore Abel Tasman National Park
Despite being New Zealand’s smallest national park, the beautiful Abel Tasman is perfectly apt at catering for both relaxation and adventure. The park features inviting beaches, crystal clear streams and vast forest to be explored, and the native wildlife includes plenty of birds singing from the trees, blue penguins by the water’s edge, and fur seals lounging on the rocks. To get the most from the park, you can follow the coastal walks, which will take you to sites such as Pitt Head on Te Pukatea Bay, an ancient fort site. Then, explore further via the water in a kayak tour around the area.