Nelson Travel Guide

On the east coastline of Tasman Bay, at the top north-west corner of the South Island, is Nelson city. The region around it is known in New Zealand and abroad for its fine weather, excellent food and wine, artistic culture and beautiful coastline. Nelson also has what was once believed to be the geographical centre of the country, as well as Abel Tasman, which is one of the country’s smallest national parks.

A splendid way to explore Nelson’s stunning coastline is the Abel Tasman Track, a 51-kilometre walk taking in much of the above-mentioned national park. It takes between three and five days to be walked, and features golden sanded beaches along the Tasman Bay, abundant sunshine, and campsites and privately owned lodges along the way. Of particular note is the campsite at Onetahuti Beach, which has nearby glowworm caves. Along the coast hikers can also spot fur seals, little penguins and dolphins, with some tremendous snorkelling spots as well.

The region has several galleries, including The World of Wearable Art, a museum themed around wearable art and classic cars and established in 2001, and the Suter Art Gallery, dating back to 1899.

Nelson is the eighth-largest wine region in the country, and is highly respected for varietals that are suited to cooler conditions, such as chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. It is also a major seafood producer, with what’s sometimes called the biggest fishing port in Australasia. The local specialty is scallops.

Food and wine and more come together each year in March at the Taste Nelson Festival, combining festival, fair and expo aspects, with the city’s famous arts and craft scene highlighted along with its food producers.

Another annual showcase is the Winter Music Festival, held every July since 1994. The festival was launched on the 100th anniversary of the Nelson School of Music and always features an eclectic line-up of performers.

Nelson receives more hours of sunshine than any other region, averaging over 2,400 hours a year. Its climate is temperate oceanic. The average high and low temperatures are 22.4 and 13 degrees Celsius for January, and 12.4 and 1.6 for July.

Nelson Airport, NZ’s fourth-busiest, is served by Air New Zealand Link, which flies in from Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North.