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Nelson (New Zealand)

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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 tenth most populous city and is 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. Nelson is usually New Zealand's sunniest city with over 2,500 sunshine hours a year.

Nelson i-SITE at Millers Acre Centre

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 named after British admiral Viscount Nelson and many streets and features such as Trafalgar Park and Hardy, Collingwood and Nile Streets, are named after his naval battles and comrades.

The Nelson economy is based on the ‘big four’ industries of 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 an i-SITE Visitor Information Centre in Nelson.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

InterCity operates daily services into Nelson from around the South Island.

By plane[edit]

Nelson Airport. Air New Zealand offer regular flights to and from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Sounds Air offers flights from Wellington.

By car[edit]

Two hours driving from Picton, 1.5h from Blenheim and 6h from Christchurch.

Get around[edit]

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 for $4.

Pick up a rental car from New Zealand Rent a Car, which you can deposit back at locations throughout the country.

See[edit][add listing]

  • WOW The World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars is a museum dedicated to the fashion show that was held in Nelson each year until 2004. (The shows are now held in Wellington, but the museum remains in Nelson.)
  • Suter Art Gallery, has a large collection with emphasis on works by such 19th century artists as Gully, Lindauer and Van der Velden. Free admission on Saturdays.
  • 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.
  • [10], Natureland is Nelson's Zoo and Wildlife center located in the Tahunanui Beach Reserve. It's a cool little place that has a strong focus on conservation of native wildlife but also has a range of interesting exotic and domestic species Their breed for release project is particularly good to see. The facility operated as a charitable trust and those running it clearly care a lot about what they are doing to ensure both visitors and the animals are well taken care of. Probably best for families with younger children but their 'up close and personal' approach will appeal to a wide age range if animals are your thing. If you are in a hurry you can get around in an hour but you could also choose to bring a picnic and enjoy the lovely grounds while the kids check out the sandpit and trampoline in between visits to their favorite animals.
  • Tahunanui Beach, one of the safest and finest family beaches in NZ. Bus transport to and from Nelson city available 06:45-18:30 - see timetable number 2.
  • 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 café 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.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Nelson Wineries, visit and taste 23 wineries located around the district
  • Nelson Walkways, over 22 walks around and in the surrounding district.
  • Visit the Nelson Market. It operates all year round in the Montgomery Square carpark in the centre of Nelson on Saturday mornings 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 pristine and unique.
  • Queens Gardens, Bridge Street. Attractive well established gardens, Consider taking a picnic. Free.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

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.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Nelson has a wide variety of excellent cafes and restaurants using fresh local produce. Nelson is the largest fishing port in Australasia, so the fresh seafood is always great!

For the best Fish and Chips within 10,000 miles (according to the Wikimapia author), right next to Guytons Fisheries Ltd on Wakefield Quay.

  • Akbabas Turkish Kebab House, 130 Bridge St, ☎ +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, [1]. every day. Reviewed in the Sunday Star Times as the place to go - enjoy this all year round beach location with finest home made food and drink on offer. Coffee and right on the beach. Kids friendly with highchairs. Parking, zoo, tennis and parklands. $8 plus.  edit
  • The Hot Rock Gourmet Pizza Pasta Bar, 8-10 Tahunanui Dr, ☎ +64 3 546-4421. 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 $15.50+.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Nelson is not only the craft brewing capital of New Zealand, it also regularly wins international competitions for the vintages produced by its pretty, boutique wineries. All that sunshine gives you a thirst!

With the combination of rich soil and sunny region, Nelson produces bold and aromatic wines. Those that are seeking for crisp and zesty white wines, Nelson is a perfect place for those that enjoy a tangy sauv blanc or a juicy pinot gris or fruity riesling. If you are not a fan of wine than do not fret, Nelson's craft breweries are wildly famous.

Many bars are located in the Central Business District (CBD) on Bridge Street between Collingwood and Trafalgar Streets.

  • The Free House, 95 Collingwood St (Opposite the Indian cafe), [2]. 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

A brightly painted public street piano is available outside the

  • Sprig & Fern, 280 Hardy St, ☎ +64 3 548-1154. Traditional pub without TV screens or one-armed bandits and featuring award-winning real craft beers brewed locally.

The piano is rolled back inside at closing time or when it rains. If it's too early on a Sunday morning and the pub hasn't opened yet, you can still tinkle the ivories on the other public street piano outside the provincial museum (Pupuri Taonga o Te Tai Ao) further down the road at 270 Hardy Street from 10:00 to 16:30. No wonder Nelson had the first School of Music in Godzone, eh?

Sleep[edit][add listing]

1897 Amber House with the Centre of New Zealand visible above the roof line.

Nelson offers an excellent range of quality accommodation including Backpackers, Bed and Breakfasts (B&B's), Holiday Homes, Hotels, Lodges, Motels, Resorts and Serviced Apartments.

  • New World Supermarket, 73 Vanguard St. There is a big sign on the notice board inside stating that you are allowed to camp in the car park overnight! Free.  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), ([email protected]), 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.
  • Meadowbank Homestead - Awaroa, Postal address ''only'': PO Box 351, Motueka 7143, New Zealand ("Wilsons’), +64 3 528-2027 (toll free: New Zealand Only: 0800 223 582 (0800 ABEL TASMAN), Australia Only: 1800-139 341, ), [3]. 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
  • 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 (), [4]. checkin: 14:30; checkout: 10:00. Exclusive B&B set in a park on a 70 acre property 17km 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


  • The Prince Albert Backpackers and Bar, 113 Nile Street, +64 3 548-8477 (), [5]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. Situated in a Victorian pub this hostel is close to both the centre of town and also a variety of the activities that Nelson has to offer. Free hot breakfast every morning and free bikes to explore the surrounding areas during the day. Owned and run by an energetic young couple. Restaurant and bar on site with discounts for guests. $27-30 per person shared & $70-80 private rooms.  edit
  • YHA Nelson Central, 59 Rutherford Street, +64 3 545-9988, [6]. 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, cafés 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
  • The Palace Backpackers, 114 Rutherford Street, +64 3 548-4691, [7]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 10:00. Check in as a traveler and leave as a friend. Help yourself to free tea and real coffee all day. Tuck into a complimentary breakfast each morning and enjoy fresh baked goods in the afternoon. Sit on the balcony and gaze at the sea or Centre of New Zealand whilst strumming one of the hostel guitars. The Palace feels like home away from home and is a great base to explore one of New Zealand's most interesting cities, rich in art and culture. Explore the Abel Tasman, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks. Dorm Bed $27, Double Room $66, Weekly Rate $140/pw $20 -$66.  edit

Mid range[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.]
  • Cedar Grove Motor Lodge Nelson, +64 3 545 1133, [email protected], 59 Trafalgar Street. Modern motel accommodation in heart of Nelson city. Spacious studio, 1 and 2 bedroom units with full kitchen facilities and outdoor patio / balcony. Two accessible studio units with wet floor bathroom. Free WiFi, Sky TV, onsite parking.
  • 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 restaurants/cafes and less than 5min drive to the City centre or Tahunanui Beach. Both short and long term enquiries welcomed. Up to 8 guests. +64 4 899-0548.
  • Trailways Hotel Nelson ([email protected]), 66 Trafalgar St (Down town on the river), +64 3 548-7049, [8]. 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 bar  edit
  • Bella Vista Nelson, 178 Tahunanui Dr (Close to Tahunanui Beach), +64 3 548 6948, [9]. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 10am. Four star quality motel located close to Tahuna Beach and a 10 minute drive from Nelson CBD.  edit



A free Wi-Fi service is provided by Nelson City Council on Trafalgar Street between Halifax Street and the Cathedral Steps together with some nearby streets. Find and connect to the network named "NelsonCityFreeWifi" on your smart phone or other device. The service is limited to 50MB per day. ☎ +64 3 546-0200


  • Nelson Baptist Church at 193 Bridge Street, (☎ +64 3 548-7026) is the oldest Baptist church in New Zealand with services on Sundays at 10:00, together with Senior Services at 14:00 on the second Sunday of Feb, Apr, Jun, Aug, Oct & Dec. Family Time is at 16:30 on the first Sunday of each month.
    Although the foundation stone for this wooden building was laid on 20 October 1852, the first services were not held until December 1854 because of ‘the more necessary business of building a Brewery.' The river Maitai to the rear of the church was used for full-immersion baptisms.

Get out[edit]

  • Nelson is close (110min drive, 50min by fast boat) to the Abel Tasman National Park which offers sea kayaking and the 51km 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.
  • 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.
  • En route to Murchison and the West Coast take a picture at what is probably New Zealand's prettiest police station (complete with flowers in the window box) on the south side of SH6 just as you leave Wakefield. Before you reach there, take advantage of an automatic (no pump attendant and only accepts plastic cards) fuel filling station on the north side of SH6 just as you leave Richmond that typically charges 18 cents a litre less than anywhere else in the area. After filling your vehicle, you can fill up a few kilometres further on (lat=-41.3515 | long=172.1583) with Steak, Salad and Chips for $12 at the Bedford Tavern, 149 Main Rd, Hope ☎ +64 3 544-9995 open daily 12:00-23:59. Ask for their special Speedway Sauce only available here on the south side of SH6.

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