Life is meant to be enjoyed, and there’s no place that proves it better than Nelson.
The city at the top of the South Island has everything going for it: more sunshine than anywhere else in the country; beautiful beaches, mountains and rivers on its doorstep; a sophisticated arts scene and palate-tingling cuisine, wines and craft beers.
That makes it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
Whether it’s a food and wine indulgence, soaking in a creative community of artists, a feelgood escape to the outdoors, pampering at a spa or browsing boutiques, Nelson is the place for you to do as much or as little of what you love.
From chic bed-and-breakfasts to luxury lodges, Nelson’s accommodation caters for all tastes and budgets.
Stay at one of the three properties within The Munro Hotel Group – Trailways Hotel, DeLorenzo’s Studio Apartments or The Hotel Nelson, all located in the city.
Eat & Drink
Nelson’s restaurants have an unfair advantage: the region is a foodie’s paradise. Small wonder, then, that Michelin-starred chefs man the stoves at the city’s best eateries.
Kevin and Jane Hopgood consistently win national honours – including Best Restaurant and Best Chef at our 2018 Silver Fern Farms awards – for the modern, seasonally-based bistro-style dishes at Hopgood’s.
Urban Eatery is a more laidback venue but Matt Bouterey’s menu is no less stylish – locally sourced, seasonal and based on “what we are into at the moment, whether it’s an ingredient, band, chef or current event”.
At the Boat Shed Café, expect rich, varied flavours from locally sourced ingredients. At breakfast or lunchtime check out DeVille, a family business with a focus on cafe classics made from the region’s freshest produce.
For a taste of old-time Nelson, Melrose House Café is established in the city’s grandest historic home surrounded by enchanted native forest and an heirloom rose garden: its elegant high tea is an event.
For a late-night tipple, Kismet claims Nelson’s largest whisky selection and original cocktails while Cod & Lobster is all about fresh seafood and cocktails.
See & Do – Around Town
Nelson’s World of Wearable Art Awards might have moved on but current and past entries feature in its museum, including a glow-in-the-dark room and the ‘Bizarre Bras’. Under the same roof are more than 100 mint-condition classic cars and motorbikes.
The Founders Heritage Park is a replica historic village with museum, gallery and artisan products. The renowned Suter Gallery, fabulously refurbished in 2016, is a highlight of the cultural scene; dig deeper into the arts by following the city’s Gallery Walk.
Botanical Hill has two claims to fame: it’s the centre of New Zealand and where our first rugby match was played on 14 May 1870. Celebrating the region’s produce and arts, the Nelson Market is famous for its longevity – almost 40 years – and high quality. The market is enhanced with a wide variety of food carts, making a great spot to brunch or lunch while wandering the stalls.
Just out of the city centre, The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary is a community-based, pest-free wildlife oasis where weka, kakapo and even the elusive kiwi live in native bush beside a bubbling stream.
See & Do – On the Outskirts
Often voted New Zealand’s best beach, Tahunanui is Nelson’s primo playground: an epic sandy beach backed by dunes, grassy parkland, hydroslide, bumper boats, skating rink and more. More includes plenty of space to paddleboard, windsurf, walk the dog, drink coffee or snooze.
Just a little further out of the city, Mapua Wharf is home to a vibrant collection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, stores and attractions. It’s the place to eat fish’n’chips, browse unique stores showcasing local artisans and quality goods, enjoy a sunset meal or even throw out a fishing line.
There’s a ferry to nearby Moturoa / Rabbit Island, a great day trip to picnic on its vast beach or enjoy its wildlife.
You’ll meet many winemakers at their vineyard cellar doors, and taste great pinot noir, chardonnay and fine aromatics at acclaimed wineries.
The Great Taste Cycle Trail loops through the city and nearby towns of Wakefield, Richmond, Motueka and Kaiteriteri, a terrific way to drop in on galleries and boutiques, fruit stalls, cafes, craft beer pubs and winery restaurants.
It can be enjoyed in full over several days or dipped into on short hops or day rides.
Nelson is well known for stores specialising in designer fashions and arts and crafts. Karen Jordan Style stocks New Zealand’s best-known labels and also operates a pre-loved store.
Palm Boutique brings together the collections of our finest designers and selected pieces from international labels while The Rock Box Store leans towards the funkier.
For over 70 years, family-owned Taylors, we love shoes has pampered Nelson feet, while Stella Chrysostomos and Thomas Koed’s Volume has been voted the country’s best independent bookshop.
Unique is an over-used word; not at Jens Hansen’s jewellery studio. The gold and silversmith designed the world’s most famous ring – yes, the Lord of the Rings original. Take home a replica or artisans can create an original design for you.
Take some me-time, or some us-time: Erban Spa is an eastern-themed oasis of calm where therapists use organic skin and body products. Treatments can be paired with restaurant meals for special occasions.
Despite the name, Women Day Spa welcomes all genders to a relaxing, stress-free and luxurious experience.
You’ll need a vehicle to experience the best of the Nelson region. Book before you go with Air New Zealand or choose from the options when you land at Nelson Airport.
For more on the incredible Nelson Tasman region, visit nelsontasman.nz.
Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Nelson from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with connections available from all Air New Zealand serviced domestic airports.