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Our Nelson travel tips:

  • Nelson region - Split Apple RockOne of the best beach experiences in the world: the Abel Tasman National Park
  • Nelson's vibrant art scene and lots of sunshine are major drawcards for visitors and artists - the art scene in Nelson and between Collingwood and Takaka is especially vibrant and galleries or artist's open homes are abundant
  • Golden Bay, Farewell Spit and Kahurangi National Park are fantastic destinations for those with a bit more time
  • Enjoy the forest and lake landscapes of the Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Nelson travel tips - Cable Bay

Inspiring landscapes and all kinds of creativity

A pocket of paradise in the top northwest corner of the South Island, Nelson has a positive, creative attitude to life - and it’s easy to see why.

The region, which is the sunniest in New Zealand, has for many years attracted residents who love to use their imaginations. There are more than 350 working artists and craftspeople living in Nelson, including traditional and contemporary Maori artists.

Their work is often inspired by the region’s exceptionally beautiful geography - coastal, forest and valley landscapes provide places to wander and dream.

The Nelson area is known by the Maori as Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui (the tip of the nose of the canoe of Maui). From his waka, the demi-god Maui used his magic fish hook to catch and land the North Island (Te Ika a Maui - the fish of Maui).

Nelson travel tips - art muralsNelson's creative community provides many opportunities for travellers to experiment with art. Workshops include glassblowing, pottery, bone carving, sculpture, authentic Maori flax weaving and cooking.

Pack your sense of adventure and explore three distinctly different national parks. Try the skywire, sea kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, sailing, horse trekking or seal swimming.

Indulge your passion for exceptional eating experiences. Nelson will tempt you with alfresco cafés, fine dining restaurants, premium vineyards, boutique breweries and locally made gourmet foods.

See here for hotels in the Nelson region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the Nelson region

  • Nelson travel tips - city centreNelson: This little popular city is just within reach of the Abel Tasman National Park and can be a great base to explore the coast and the wineries further inland. The sunny climate seems to be a drawcard for artists, the whole region is dotted with galleries and workshops. As an addition to the interesting Nelson Provincial Museum you can now adore the bizarre 'World of Wearable Arts', which originated here and then moved its annual event to Wellington. Check for current markets before you arrive, especially the Nelson Saturday market in Montgomery carpark with German delicacies! The city centre is compact and dotted with nice old houses, leading to the old cathedral on a hill with its bizarre modern spire. For a short rest walk through the Queens Gardens around the Suter Gallery, complete with a Chinese garden. There are some beautiful old Nelson mansions at the upper end of Trafalgar Street south (like Melrose house with cafe, also see the Fairfield, Isel and Broadgreen homes). Nelson travel tips - Rabbit Island beachTahunanui Beach is the closest beach, wide and good for walks at low tide. Nelson has a predator free mainland island close by, the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary.
  • To Abel Tasman National Park: On the way you can stop at the sandy beach of Rabbit Island, accessible by car, or explore the cute waterfront shops and restaurants of Mapua. In Motueka you can see the eerie Jaynee Seddon shipwreck on the Motueka Quay, or go for beach walks among the driftwood. The Motueka market on Sunday offers similar stalls to Nelson. There is also a historic German settlement in Upper Moutere.
  • Nelson travel tips - golden Abel Tasman beachAbel Tasman National Park: In Kaiteriteri you can organise your kayak, walking or water taxi trip into the national park, or decide on a combination of all three! The park offers one of the most beautiful beach/bush experiences in the country, gorgeous bays and remote huts, excursions only as strenuous as you are willing to make them. Most visitors plan to see Split Apple Rock in Towers Bay and walk at least a segment of the 51 kilometre coastal track. Due to the popularity of the park there are dozens of other activities which make it worthwhile to hang around in this region.
  • Golden Bay: You'll drive over the interesting Takaka Hill to start with, the landscape here is carved into limestone which created some spectacular spots on the way, such as caves, springs, or the incredible Harwoods Hole, the 176 metre deep entrance into a cave system (accessible by walkway, but best leave the hole itself to the professionals...). Nelson travel tips - Farewell Spit tourAfter Takaka, the Abel Tasman Drive leads to more geological wonders. Now Golden Bay opens up through another artist hot zone until Collingwood, from where you can organise a tour to Farewell Spit, the 25 kilometre long sandspit with its gannet colony and lighthouse. It's a shorebird paradise in general, but sadly often appears in the news because of mass Pilot Whale strandings on its shallow southern beach. The road continues towards the Kahurangi National Park and the northern end of the 82 kilometre Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand's greatest.

The best Nelson walks

  • Nelson travel tips - Abel Tasman National Park walksAbel Tasman Coast Track - 3-5 days coastal walk, one of New Zealand's 'great walks', sections can be walked separately, from Marahau to Wainui Inlet
  • Farewell Spit & Puponga Farm Park - a range of walks, for example the Wharariki Beach Walking Track (40 min return), Cape Farewell or Pillar Point Lighthouse, access from State Highway 60
  • Harwoods Hole Track (1,5 h return), from Canaan car park, 11 kms of unsealed road from Takaka Hill
  • Wainui Falls Track - waterfall and suspension bridge, Wainui Bay, near Wainui River Bridge, 20 km east of Takaka
  • Nelson travel tips - Tahunanui beachLabyrinth Rocks Walkway (1 h return), Scott Road, 2 kms east of Takaka
  • Te Waikoropupu Springs - one of New Zealand's biggest springs with just about the clearest water in the world, Pupu Springs Road, Takaka Valley, west of Takaka
  • Heaphy Track - 78 kms (4-6 days), one of New Zealand's 'great walks' in the Kahurangi National Park, from Brown Hut to Kohaihai
  • Nelson Lakes National Park - a range of walks at Lake Rotoroa and Lake Rotoiti, like for example the Bellbird Walk (15 min return, access from Kerr Bay, Mt Robert car park and Rotoiti Lodge, St Arnaud) or the Rotoroa Nature Walk (25 min return, at the Lake Rotoroa campsite)
  • Nelson travel tips - Waikoropupu Springs - or Pupu SpringsMaruia Falls Track - waterfall generated by an earthquake (10 min return), access from State Highway 65, 23 kms south of Murchison
  • Miyazu Japanese Gardens, Atawhai Drive, Nelson
  • Grampians Walkway - a range of walks and viewpoints, access from Collingwood Street and Market Road, Nelson
  • Walk to the 'centre of New Zealand' - access points in Milton street, Hardy street east, Maitai road, further from Atawhai drive

The best Nelson lookouts

  • Hawkes Lookout - views of the Riwaka Resurgence, a river reappearing from the rocks (20 min return), Takaka Hill, 10 kms from Riwaka, State Highway 60
  • Kaiteriteri Bayview Lookout - at the northern end of Kaiteriteri beach, with views to Breaker Bay and Honeymoon Bay
  • Bird’s Eye Brooklyn View (15 min one way), Brooklyn Valley Road, Motueka
  • Nelson travel tips - Cape Farewell Lighthouse lookoutMount Robert (1,5 h one way), Mt Robert car park, Mt Robert Road, St Arnaud
  • Lake Rotoroa Lookouts - viewpoints along the Porika 4WD Track (1 h return), access from the Lake Rotoroa campsite
  • Hope Saddle Lookout - 467 m high viewpoint on State Highway 6, before the turnoff to St Arnaud
  • Pillar Point Lighthouse, the Cape Farewell lighthouse lookout - views towards Farewell Spit and Golden Bay (45 min one way), off Wharariki Road

The best Nelson museums

  • Nelson travel tips - Melrose Mansion in NelsonThe Nelson Provincial Museum, Town Acre, Nelson
  • The Suter Gallery - Te Aratoi O Whakatu, Bridge Street, Nelson
  • World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum, Cadillac Way, Nelson
  • Motueka District Museum, High Street, Motueka
  • Golden Bay Museum & Gallery, Commercial Street, Takaka

Map of the Nelson region

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Nelson travel tips - Saturday market in Nelson

Nelson travel tips - German delicacies

Nelson travel tips - typical Nelson house

Nelson travel tips - Nelson cathedral in the background

Nelson travel tips - Mapua yachts

Nelson travel tips - Motueka shipwreck

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