Nelson is the oldest settled city on New Zealand’s South Island. The city’s Maori name means ‘build’, and Nelson certainly understands how to build something from nothing. Like your strange cousin who always gives you homemade soap or a papier mâché mask for Christmas, Nelson is also well known for its arts and crafts.
However, it’s not all crochet, incense and beading in Nelson, as the town is also surrounded by national parks, golden beaches and turquoise waters. If you visit Mount Owen, you may even recognise some of the scenery from The Lord of the Rings movies. And while in the area, pop along to Bulmer Cavern, New Zealand’s longest cave system.
Nelson is also New Zealand’s answer to hippy-esque Byron Bay, so get your tie-dyed T-shirt out, salute the sun and immerse yourself in the creative juices of this picturesque town.
NELSON’S TOP 10
10. Nelson Saturday Market Come and buy some arts and crafts directly from the artists.
5. Founders Heritage Park There are a few historic buildings here, but the real reason to visit is for the only organic brewery south of the equator.
9. Suter Gallery A large collection of art gives you an insight into the artistic blood running through this city.
4. Centre of New Zealand While it is not the exact centre it is pretty darn close, so keep your mouth shut and enjoy the view.
8. World of Wearable Art Showcases the weird and wonderful creations from the annual World of Wearable Arts Awards Show.
3. Abel Tasman National Park With swing bridges and pristine beaches, a trek through this spectacular park is a must.
7. Jens Hansen Goldsmiths They designed ‘The One Ring’ for The Lord of the Rings.
2. Nelson Lakes National Park Walk around the lakes, ski on the lakes or catch trout in the lakes.
6. Natureland Zoological Park Everybody loves monkeys, those mini hairy humans, but this park also offers meerkats and otters.
1. Kahurangi National Park Many scenes from The Lord of the Rings films were filmed here; see if you can catch yourself a hobbit.
With around 20 wineries represented at the Brightwater Wine and Food Festival in February, you’ll likely feel like joining in with the dancing by evening.
If you love a cold beer – and who doesn’t? – you’ll want to visit Nelson for the unique craft beers showcased at Marchfest. Which is a bit like Germany’s Oktoberfest only seven months earlier and a lot less German.
Travel back to the ’60s for March’s Festival of Opportunities, man.
If you’re feeling energetic in September, join in the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic, which will see you running on roads, trails and beach sand.
In October, the Nelson Arts Festival will keep even the fussiest cultural snob entertained with music, theatre, comedy and dance.
WHEN TO GO
• With over 2,000 hours of sunshine every year, Nelson has a reputation for having some of the best weather in NZ.
• It rains a little year-round, but the wettest time is spring.
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• The best way to explore the area is to hire a car. This will give you the freedom to visit the surrounding national parks – just watch out for hobbits!
• With only four bus routes, it would be difficult to get lost.
• Take to the sea with one of the many water taxis operating in and around the Tasman Bay.
Attractions & Activities in Nelson
The close to 60,000 residents of Nelson, New Zealand are a fortunate bunch indeed. Their town and region of the South Island benefits from perhaps the best and most consistent weather in the country. Toss in spectacular scenery courtesy of Tasman Bay and you have one terrific little city. Known as the “Centre of New Zealand”, Nelson is a vital economic and cultural hub, with a surfeit of recreation, events and festivals throughout the year for visitors to enjoy.
With heritage Victorian architecture and a wide variety of public parks and green space, Nelson is a joy to explore on foot. Must-see landmarks include Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson Provincial Museum and the brilliant World of Wearable Art. The Suter International Film Festival, Taste Nelson Festival and Winter Music Festival are just three of the best annual events in the city. No visit to Nelson however, would be complete without a trip to Abel Tasman National Park, a mere 50 km away.
AttractionsChrist Church Cathedral Abel Tasman National Park Nelson Provincial Museum Nelson Lakes National Park World of Wearable Art
ActivitiesSaturday Market Winter Music Festival Jazz Festival Taste Nelson Festival Suter International Film Festival
Restaurants & Nightlife
RestaurantsRiverside Café Sticky Fingerz Akbabas Turkish Kebab House Oceano The Grape Escape
NightlifeThe Oyster Bar 623 On the Rocks Harry's Bar Rock Bar & Night Club El Taverna
Nelson has a temperate climate, with mild conditions throughout the year.
- Summer (December to February) 11-23°C
- Fall (March to May) 5-21°C
- Winter (June to September) 3-17°C
- Spring (October to November) 6-20°C
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