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Nelson art, heritage & culture trail

Nelson Tasman & Golden Bay a treasure of heritage buildings, explorers who left their mark and Victorian era cemeteries. Combined with copious hours of sunshine, one of New Zealand’s food bowls and a rural lifestyle; it’s no wonder Nelson is a place where creative talent thrives.

4 - 7 days
3 - 6 nights

Trip Overview

Nelson to Collingwood places to go

Start Nelson city
Finish Nelson city


Year round however check opening hours of small regional museums in winter

Start Nelson city
Finish Nelson city

Route map

Nelson City

Historic Nelson viewed from Cathedral steps

Art galleries, fascinating heritage sites from the Victorian ornate decorative street chain on Wakefield Quay to the charming South Street heritage precinct cottages Nelson has plenty to offer visitors.


  • The Theatre Royal, the oldest operational wooden theatre in New Zealand and in the Southern hemisphere continues as the premier indoor venue for events, shows and stage performances.
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Wakefield Main Street, New Zealand @Mattinbgn
Wakefield Main Street @Mattinbgn

The small settlement is home to Higgins Heritage Park, agricultural machinery doing stuff you’ve never seen done or thought about such as an enormous steam powered monster for chugging through bush with logs. What’s so great about Wakefield describes one of New Zealand’s oldest wooden churches, St Johns. And the building was designed by a woman.

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Mapua Wharf

Wharf on inlet know as Waimea Estuary in small coastal township on Tasman Bay in South Island New Zealand, Mapua New Zealand

A quirky museum describing the origins of the wharf, its growth as a transport hub for apples with a massive fruit coolstore. The museum looks at the seafood industry. There is a smokehouse with a cafe worth a look. Enjoy delicious pates on the wharf overlooking the estuary and enjoy the historic photos lining the walls. Nearby Port Mapua Maritime Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area. Today the wharf is primarily a visitor destination with galleries, cycle hire operators supporting the Great Taste trail, Hamish’s ice cream parlour and cafes. Mapua, with its proximity to Nelson city is a great place for a day trip.

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Tasman Village (Ruby Bay)

Ruby Bay, New Zealand @NelsonTasmanNZ
Ruby Bay @NelsonTasmanNZ

An art and cultural highlight. Ruby Bay is a well known artist haven with the entrance to the bay heralded with a striking steel sculpture. Well known potter Steve Fuller has his studio in the village. 9 reasons to visit Tasman Village describes,

  • Daryl Frost and his wood fired ceramics, quirky garden and welcoming gallery is a place to linger while taking in the imaginative circles of life framing the expansive ocean views.
  • Frost & Fire Art Gallery Tasman.
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Moutere Valley (Inland route to Motueka)

Neudorf Vineyard, Nelson, New Zealand @lifestyleasia
Neudorf Vineyard @lifestyleasia

A treasure trove of artist studios, galleries and interesting museums awaits visitors to Upper and Lower Moutere villages. The inland route is picturesque with rolling hills, welcome flags fluttering from roadside fruit stalls and studios. While undoubtedly Moutere Valley is a foodie nirvana it is also the home of artists drawn to its lifestyle. Moutere is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest pubs (Moutere Inn) and plenty of weathered timbered buildings. Old rustic buildings are a photographer’s delight. Buildings such as the Old Post Office are now a treasure hunter’s joy with home made jams next to one of a kind woven textiles and indoor plants in earth fired pots.

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Motueka Wharf, New Zealand @schnitzel. kiwi
Motueka Wharf @schnitzel. kiwi

A busy hub for Tasman Bay is home to an interesting local museum managed by volunteers. For history and heritage trail enthusiasts Motueka Museum is an ideal spot to start the journey exploring Tasman Bay’s past and present. The Museum is housed in a category II heritage brick building (1919) originally the district school now a museum. Here are photographs and memorabilia of the original wharf, the story of the Jane Seddon wreck and story of human occupation reaching back hundreds of years.

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Golden Bay

Wainui Inlet Golden Bay Nelson New Zealand

As you depart Motueka you ascend the limestone Takaka Hills into Golden Bay. There are several lookout points to pull into. Absorb the sweeping views over the Tasman Bay to Nelson and beyond and, from the summit (791 metres) the phenomenal beauty of Golden Bay appears. From Harwood Lookout the narrow winding road indicates the course of the Takaka River running north towards the distant sea, while beyond the valley rise the dramatic Tasman Mountains, home to the country’s most spectacular alpine meadows. Take a break and explore walks at Hawkes lookout. There are short signposted walks at the lookouts.

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Takaka, New Zealand @Mattinbgn
Takaka @Mattinbgn

The busy visitor hub for Golden Bay has a number of heritage buildings. Buildings on Commercial Street are marked with a plaque describing their original purpose and a history of the occupants.

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Historic Clifton Cemetery – Takaka to Pohara

Bulls (Clifton) Cemetery, New Zealand @NZWarGraves
Bulls (Clifton) Cemetery @NZWarGraves

Historic Clifton Cemetery, now a reserve, is the final resting place for a number of historical figures. The land originally for a hospital cemetery was set aside when Clifton, then known as Waiwera, was surveyed in 1842. Amble through the heritage cemetery and read tombstones telling the story of epidemics, shipwrecks and accidents.

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Old Collingwood Cemetery

Collingwood cemetery, New Zealand @cwgc
Collingwood cemetery @cwgc

Tamati Pirimona Marino was a chief at Aorere when the New Zealand Company first visited. He signed the Treaty of Waitangi and is buried at the Old Collingwood Cemetery. Fred Tyree was a pioneer photographer who recorded the early days of European settlement. His exceptional black and white images are on display at Aorere Centre, Collingwood. This is a cemetery where crumbling graves, forgotten tombstones and ornate Victorian / Edwardian cemetery architecture creates an evocative feel to the site.

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The Courthouse Cafe, Collingwood, New Zealand

The bustling town in summer is a hive of activity for visitors to Farewell Spit, the Kahurangi National Park Heaphy track and beach lovers. The town has a number of heritage buildings from St Cuthbert’s Church (1873), Courthouse (1901) and Post Office (1906). From the fire station, follow the trail of heritage plaques along Tasman Street, then turn right to the War Memorials and uphill to the Church.

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