Nelson is the second oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island. Nelson is situated in a region often known as Nelson Tasman or the "Top of the South." It is actually slightly north of the capital city of Wellington. Together with Richmond, it has a population of around 50,000 ranking it as New Zealand’s 10th most populous city and the geographical centre of the nation.
Nelson is a compact coastal city set amongst some of New Zealand's most stunning scenery.
The city is the economic and cultural centre for the Nelson-Tasman region and offers an excellent range of shopping, eating and cultural experiences with an abundance of parks, rivers, beaches and nature trails to explore. It is the place that most kiwis would like to retire to - if they could afford to, since Nelson has some of the most unaffordable housing and lowest "sunshine" wages in New Zealand.
Nelson i-SITE at Millers Acre Centre
Nelson is named after British admiral Viscount Nelson (Britannica article) and many streets and features such as Trafalgar Park and Hardy, Collingwood and Nile Streets, are named after his naval battles and comrades.
Nelson is New Zealand's oldest city since, although it was proclaimed a Bishop's See and city under letters patent by Queen Victoria on 27 September 1858 and after Christchurch's city charter, Pakeha settlement had started in earnest in Nelson in 1841, 9 years before the good ship Charlotte-Jane arrived in Christchurch on 16 December 1850.
Nelson is usually New Zealand's sunniest city with over 2,500 sunshine hours per year.
The Nelson region covers five distinct geographic areas:
The Nelson economy is based on the ‘big four’ industries; seafood, horticulture, tourism and forestry. Port Nelson is the biggest fishing port in Australasia. There are also a range of growth industries, including art and craft, aviation, engineering technology, and information technology.
The region's official tourism organisation is Nelson Tasman Tourism , which operates i-SITE Visitor Information Centres in Nelson City, Takaka in Golden Bay and in Murchison.
Air New Zealand offer regular flights to and from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and other provincial cities. Sounds Air offers flights around the north area of the south island and on to Wellington.
Nelson City is small enough to walk around, but for access from the surrounding suburbs and around the sites and attractions of the city and region you'll likely want to rent a car, take a taxi, or have a fresh set of legs and a bicycle.
The City is serviced by a bus service which runs Monday to Saturday on four main routes: 1) Toitoi/Hospital, 2) Atawhai, 3) Brook/Maitai and 4) Washington Valley/Port Hills. Please see Nelson Bus Information.
For late night party revellers there is also an excellent bus service which runs hourly until 03:15 from Trafalgar Street (next to Westpac Bank) to Richmond.
WOW The World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars, is a museum dedicated to the fashion show that was held in Trafalgar Centre over seven nights in September each year until 2004. (The shows are now held in Wellington, but the museum remains in Nelson.) Thousands of people come from all over the world to see the most amazing (and sometimes bizarre) fashions made out of all kinds of materials. There is literally no limit to the exhibiting designer's imaginations
Suter Art Gallery, has a large collection with emphasis on works by such 19th century artists as Gully, Lindauer and Van der Velden
There is a terrific new Museum on the corner of Trafalgar and Hardy Streets that offers free admission to locals and by donation to outsiders that is open 7 days a week until 17:00. (Closed 25 Dec).
Miyazu Japanese Garden, inspired by Nelson's sister city Miyazu in Japan, is a traditional Japanese stroll garden creating a tranquil environment. Look out for the cherry blossoms in spring
Natureland, a relatively small and amateurish zoo. Good for children due to low fences and short walking distance around the zoo. Contains wallabies, monkeys, meerkats, otters, llamas, a small aviary and more.
Tahunanui Beach, one of the safest and finest family beaches in NZ. The ever popular and reported Beach Cafe lies adjacent to it for great food and drinks. Bus transport to and from Nelson available - see timetable.
The Centre of New Zealand - a short walk up a hill close to the city centre and reachable from the Botanic Garden (where the first game of Rugby was played in New Zealand). Good view from the top and an interesting walk through exotic and native vegetation to get to the Trigonometrical Point and Marker at the top.
Founders Park- a collection of historic buildings located in Nelson, some with museums or historical displays attached. There is also an organic brewery (the only one in the Southern Hemisphere) with an attached cafe that serves good meals. There is also a craft bakery, and a chocolate shop, and a railway that runs on weekends.A great place to spend a half day or more.
Christ Church Cathedral Nelson - a historic and often photographed Nelson landmark. Features iconic granite steps from Trafalgar Street to the Cathedral. Sunday Eucharist and Evensong services, usually with Choir.
Visit the Nelson Market. It operates all year round in the Montgomery Square carpark in the centre of Nelson on Saturday mornings from 08:00-13:00. Stalls overflow with local products - fresh organic vegetables, fruit and flowers, locally farmed organic salmon and many kinds of crafts including silk painting, jewellery, pottery, weaving and wood turning. There are also food stalls and many Nelsonians meet for a late leisurely breakfast at one of the many coffee stalls.
Skydive Abel Tasman: this is one of the best places in the world to sky dive because the jump is on the border of the Alps and Abel Tasman. When you jump, you soar over snow capped mountains, and then hover over a marshy beach. It's so pristine and unique.
Jens Hansen contemporary Gold and Silversmith is the jeweller that designed the eponymous "Ring" in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy and is just down the road from the Cathedral Steps and next door to the Flame Daisy glass blowing workshop and store.
Akbabas Turkish Kebab House (130 Bridge St, Tel +64 3 548-8825) is one of Nelsons most popular take-away restaurants. They offer wicked veggie and meat kebabs that come wrapped in flat tortilla-like bread. $7-12.
The Beach Cafe and Bar, Tahunanui Reserve, Tahuna, ☎ +64 3 546-4617, . every day. Reviewed in the Sunday Star Times as the place to go - enjoy this all year round beach location with finest homemade food and drink on offer. Always the warmest of welcomes. Coffee and right on the beach. Kids friendly. Highchairs. Parking. Zoo. Tennis and Parklands.$8 plus. edit
Gianni Pizza, 24 Alton S (just off Nile St), ☎ 548 8884. Delicious, authentic Italian vegetarian pizzas, and friendly service. Tiny (cosy) sit-in area, or takeaway.edit
The Hot Rock Gourmet Pizza Pasta Bar (8-10 Tahunanui Dr, Tel 03 546-4421) By the beach this award winning restaurant serves the region's only wood-fired gourmet pizza as well as delicious pasta, healthy salads, hearty ribs, mussels and wicked desserts. Casual and friendly - a must visit in Nelson. $15.50+.
Sticky Fingerz (135 Bridge St) opens late (after c. 22:00) and stays open until the bars close. They offer fried chicken and chips and the hamburgers that are worth the price. $5-10.
Many bars are located in the Central Business District on Bridge Street between Collingwood and Trafalgar Streets:
The Free House, 95 Collingwood St (Opposite the Indian cafe), . is a fine pub that serves brews from mostly local micro breweries (Mussel Inn, Moa, Founders, Twisted Hop, Emersons etc.) The beer menu changes regularly. Wine, soft drinks and light food also available.edit
The Oyster Bar (115 Hardy St) has fancy drinks and a small menu of seafood items. Fresh oysters are available most of the time while the bar is open Th-Su.
Maitai Camp & Cabins, (7 km (4 mi) up the Maitai river valley.), . Cabins, camp sites and a bunk house are available for travellers. Park your car on one bank of the river and walk across the foot bridge across the Maitai river which forms the boundary. An industrial kitchen and a huge hall with a small stage and a competition size billiard table is available for group gatherings.edit
Accents on the Park, 335 Trafalgar Square, ☎ +64 3 548-4335. checkin: 14:30; checkout: 10:00. Beautifully decorated, clean, safe and friendly hostel, with one of the best locations in the city of Nelson. Internet, lounge, kitchen, laundry, helpful staff and an adjoining bar that makes fantastic burgers. $27 - $33 per person, shared. edit
YHA Nelson Central, 59 Rutherford Street, ☎ +64 3 545-9988, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 10:00. In the heart of the city this 5 star hostel is ideally situated for exploring the city of Nelson and the surrounding area. The friendly and helpful staff can assist with anything from advising on local shops, cafes and restaurants to activities and tours. This Hostel has excellent kitchen facilities with all you could need, as well as large dining and relaxing areas. The garden is great for summer BBQ’s and relaxing in the afternoon. They offer a selection of accommodation from shared rooms to double en-suite's. Great for people travelling on a budget. Dorm Bed $34, Double en suite Room from $98$27 -$99. edit
AMBER HOUSE - at the centre!™, 46 Weka Street (When entering the city of Nelson from the SH6 roundabout, turn first right opposite Rugby Ground and then Wainui St becomes Weka St after 300 m), ☎ +64 3 539-0605, Mobile:+64 21 202 4961 fax: +44 7005 963437 (fax server in Northern Ireland), (wikitravel@AmberHouse.info), checkin: by arrangement, usually after 14:00; checkout: usually before 10:35. Open all year, clean Bed and Breakfast in a lovely 1897 Villa that used to be a School for Girls and little boys. Traditional Rose Garden with the oldest walnut tree in the South Island hidden away at the back of the plot. One of the few that still offers a full cooked breakfast. Full board and room service available. Now has satellite HD TV, Wi-Fi, double glazing and air-conditioning. Bedrooms have en-suite showers. Quiet fringe of CBD location. Smoking or Smokers not allowed(!) $79 single, $89 double (party of 4 from $37 each) The Amber family first came to Nelson in 1842 but can understand some French, Fukien Chinese, German, Malay and Spanish. $79 - $249.
Retiro Park Lodge, 152 Teal Valley, RD1 Nelson 7071 (Coming From Nelson City: Take SH6 direction Blenheim. When you arrive in Hira (13 km from Nelson), pass the school (on your right hand side) and then take the second turn off the main road (approx 1.5 km from the school) on the right side (Teal Valley). Retiro Park Lodge is 1.5 km from the main road. Coming From Blenheim Towards Nelson on SH6: At the bottom of the Whangamoa Saddle after you cross the Teal River Bridge, turn left sharply into Teal Valley. Retiro Park Lodge is 1.5 km up the road. If you miss the turn off and you arrive in Hira you’ve passed the junction. Turn back at the petrol station and take the second turn off the main road to the right into Teal Valley.), ☎ +64 3 545-0118 (email@example.com), . checkin: 14:30; checkout: 10:00. Exclusive B&B set in a park on a 70 acre property 17 km from Nelson CBD and has its own vineyard, olive and almond groves and a swimming pool. Dinners, featuring the best of the local Nelson and New Zealand’s seasonal produce and wines, are made by arrangement. Smokers welcome. Hosts speak native French and Spanish. $235 -$345. edit
Meadowbank Homestead - Awaroa, Postal address ''only'': PO Box 351, Motueka 7143, New Zealand, ☎ +64 3 528-2027 (toll free: New Zealand Only: 0800 223 582 (0800 ABEL TASMAN), Australia Only: 1800-139 341, info@AbelTasman.co.nz), . checkin: 14:30; checkout: 10:00. Awaroa or Torrent Bay Lodge are both on the beach frontage in Abel Tasman National Park. Hosted by the Wilson family, direct descendants of the first European settlers to the area. All rooms twin/double with en suite bathrooms; all bedding and towels provided; drying room; central heating and open fire for winter comforts. Meals are freshly prepared by your Hosts at the Lodge and there is a bar serving hand-picked local specialities.$935 - $2035 includes all transfers into the National Park.. edit
Awaroa Lodge & Cafe is a beautiful lodge inside the Abel Tasman National Park. It offers amazing food in a very beautiful place, accessible via the Abel Tasman NP track system, or by water taxi from Nelson or Takaka. [There is also now a cheaper summer time service direct from Nelson Port (Freephone 0508 488 066). The previous service went bust so might be a good idea to ring first.]
Blackwoods Retreat, a fantastic place to kick back in a private cottage in the countryside, relax and enjoy getting away from it all without getting too far away! Something for everyone and more, short and long-term bookings taken.
Harbourside Motor Lodge, in Nelson Port with marina views from most of the units. Continental or cooked breakfast available. Close to restaurants, cafes, galleries, shopping.
Haulashore Views - Port Hills Holiday Home, Stunning sea views from one of Nelson City's finest locations. A comfortable and modern home offering peace, space and true convenience with all the comforts of home. A short stroll from the waterfronts award winning restaurant-cafes and less than 5 min. drive to the City centre or Tahunanui Beach. Both short and long term enquiries welcomed. Up to 8 guests. +64-4-899-0548.
Rutherford Hotel Nelson, +64 3 548-2299, firstname.lastname@example.org, Trafalgar Square. Four star plus hotel with suites available. Oceano Restaurant, Miyazu Japanese Restaurant and The Rutherford Cafe on-site.
Te Puna Wai Lodge, (7 km (4 mi) up the Maitai river valley.), ☎ +64 3 548-7621, Txt: +64 21 679 795 (email@example.com), . has island, sea, bay & mountain views. The house is an intricately detailed, 3-floor, mid-Victorian wooden villa: the combination - of view & house - led to the property being included in National Business Review magazine's inaugural list of NZ's Top 100 Houses. Having only three rooms (including 1 apartment with kitchen) means you get a personalized experience from hosts - Richard and James. All rooms have antique furnishings, en suite marble-tiled bathrooms and tea/coffee/fridge. Other guest areas include a comfortable lounge, boat-deck-like veranda & verdant terrace-garden. Beverages & full breakfasts are provided.edit
Trailways Hotel Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org), 66 Trafalgar St (Down town on the river), ☎ +64 3 548-7049, . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 10:00. Central located down town on the River, a minutes walk from the visitor information centre. 47 air conditioned rooms, award winning restaurant and baredit
Nelson is close (110 min drive, 50 min by fast boat) to the Abel Tasman National Park which offers sea kayaking  and the 51 km Abel Tasman Coast Track (one of NZ's Great Walks). Also see Tramping in New Zealand.
Visit the district museums in Collingwood, Motueka, Takaka and Murchison.
There is a terrific new Museum on the corner of Trafalgar and Hardy Streets that offers free admission to locals and by donation to outsiders that is open 7 days a week until 5PM. (Closed 25 Dec).
Go swimming in the river up the Maitai Valley or Lee River Valley! You can hitch hike up there if you don't have a car. Bring a sandwich and some water.