Nelson is a gorgeous city on the north coast of the South Island. It is renowned for its beaches and surfing, and is packed with cool little cafes, hopping pubs, and great restaurants. Along with all of this, Nelson is also the gateway to the amazing Abel Tasman National Park- an indescribable reserve full of pristine beaches, awesome hiking trails, camping, kayaking, seals, and sea turtles. Even if you’ve only got a couple of days, a stop in Nelson and a visit to Abel Tasman Nat’l Park are well worth the time.
Nelson is a frequent destination on domestic airlines, and is on every hop-on/hop-off route in the South Island. It is easily reached by bus from Picton and other South Island cities, and finding a ride-share shouldn’t be a problem.
Things to do in Nelson
- Hang Ten- Nelson is well-known in New Zealand for its incredible surfing. Hire a board from a local shop, get some advice as to where to go to suit your ability/experience, and have a go.
- Hang out in town- Nelson is packed with cool little cafes and kitschy shops- an afternoon wandering around, meandering through the alleys and streets is an afternoon well spent.
- Hit the trails- Nelson is surrounded by hills and mountains, all criss-crossed by innumerable hiking trails that wind in, over, and through. Ask your accommodation for some tips on where to go, grab a map, pack a lunch, and fill up your water bottle- great views and heart-pounding climbs await.
- Do some sipping- Nelson is located in the Marlborough region of New Zealand- an area world-renowned for its wine. Local wineries abound, and there are several ways to go about doing a wine-tasting tour.
- Visit Abel Tasman National Park- Abel Tasman is one of the most beautiful spots in all of New Zealand. Stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, tropical forests, and rolling hills- it’s a little slice of paradise. Hiking, kayaking, camping, biking- you can do it all in Abel Tasman. Book a 2-3 day sea kayaking trip to explore the coastline and coves with a knowledgeable guide, or get a map, hire a kayak, and do it on your own. However you do it, make sure you spend some time in Abel Tasman- it is incredible.
- Pack for the elements when you venture out into Abel Tasman- the weather can change in a matter of minutes, and you’ll want keep yourself and your gear as dry as possible.
- If you’re doing Abel Tasman on your own, make sure you look into booking a spot at one of the campgrounds or overnight lodgings- they can fill up during peak season.
- Nelson, similar to many other Kiwi towns, pretty much shuts down on Sundays. This is a perfect opportunity to get out of the city and do some hiking.
- As always, ask your accommodation about discounts and deals at local eateries, activity centers, and bars. You’ll always find a few gems that will save you some $$$.