Located at the top of the North-West of the South Island, Nelson is the sunniest place in New Zealand. Here, you can enjoy arts and crafts, plenty of shopping, great creative culture and beautiful beaches. Nelson is also a great gateway to the Tasman Bay, where you can arrange a hike on the beautiful Abel Tasman Track. I really loved my time in Nelson, more than in any other city in New Zealand. The only downside was that I didn't spend enough time in the area! If you haven't considered it yet, Nelson should make it to your travel bucket list.
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Things to do in Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson has a lot to offer, from its famous art galleries to local winery tours. If you are interested in local produce, spend some time mingling around at the Saturday market. You can interact with a lot of friendly kiwis, keen to tell you more about their arts and crafts.
If you're in Nelson because of its art scene, spend some time visiting historic buildings, art galleries such as the Suter, Te Aratoi o Whakatu, and chill in the hipster cafes scattered all around the city. You can even watch glassblowers in action and buy yourself a first class souvenir.
Learn about the local culture and take a natural medicine and bush walk on the Rongoa Maori. Spend some time shopping around the small independent boutiques which can be found on countless streets right in the heart of Nelson.
If you fancy something different, rent a bike and pedal around wineries in this sunny region famed for its amazingly delicious wines.
What to eat in Nelson, New Zealand
There are plenty of eateries in Nelson, with both international and local cuisine. Make sure to pair your meal with the perfect locally sourced wines which are known to be aromatic and delicious. If wine is not your thing, Nelson has you covered: it is New Zealand's capital of craft beers, so you will be spoiled for choice. I very much enjoyed the seafood in Nelson and although I'm not much of a wine drinker, their red wine was spot on.
Since you are in Nelson, you should arrange a tour around a local winery where you can learn about the history of this region whilst indulging yourself in tasting several types of wine.
Where to stay in Nelson, New Zealand
There is an abundance of accommodation available in Nelson. From luxury lodges to bed and breakfasts and cheap hostels, you are sure to find something that suits your budget. I picked a nice serviced apartment right on the top of the hill, so I can enjoy my morning with a view.
I strongly recommend trying to find an apartment with a terrace or a porch, as it's the most wonderful way to spend a relaxing evening with a glass of wine, overlooking the Tasman Sea.
For some great options, you can check the booking.com website.
Best experience in Nelson, New Zealand
My highlight of Nelson was a late afternoon walk on the beach. I drove to Bisley Walk where I left my car in the free parking area, right next to the beach. Got my flip flops and started my walk on the white sands. The sea tides were out, hence I could see this endless sea of wet sand, perfect for an evening stroll.
When the sunset, the red and orange colours were reflecting in the wet sand, which transformed the views into the most picturesque landscape. Although I loved many of New Zealand's beaches, including the ones along the Abel Tasman Track and the beautiful Wharariki, I think Nelson's shores managed to capture my soul and steal my heart. Even today, when I think of New Zealand, I imagine walking on this beach. It most certainly made an impression.
Side trips from Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson is a great base, especially if you plan to take side trips to the Abel Tasman Track. You can stop here on your way to Takaka if you wish to see New Zealand's Golden Coast. Alternatively, you can retrace my footsteps and stop in Nelson on your way back from Takaka and towards Hokitika. You can also take day trips to the Farewell Spit (although it's quite a drive), Nelson Lakes National Park or Kahurangi National Park. Whatever you pick, you will be dazzled by raw nature, beautiful flora and fauna and incredibly friendly locals.
Nelson was my favourite city in New Zealand and if I would move to the South Island, Nelson would be my number one choice. What is your favourite city in New Zealand?