TOP 5 MUST-DO ATTRACTIONS FOR FAMILIES
Adventurous kids will jump into Nelson’s myriad attractions from the world’s longest flying fox with its multiple entry points, go-karting, hydroslides and beaches. For nature lovers kids will relish encounters with meerkats, llamas and Aotearoa New Zealand’s native animals. You will be spoilt for choice for family friendly things to do in the Nelson region.
Water sports galore from numerous family friendly beaches to coastal exploration kayaking around the bays of the Abel Tasman National Park. Enjoy exploring lagoons and estuaries where rock pools, intertidal marine life fascinate kids of all ages. Find your creative spirit and build sand castles and relax into a New Zealand summer holiday at the beach
For kids interested in discovering how things tick and work there are open air exhibits. Delve into the world of machinery at Higgins Heritage Park. Discover Founders Heritage Park with its historic main street and interactive exhibits including a Bristol Freighter plane to climb into the cockpit.
1. DISCOVER WILDLIFE
- NatureLand sanctuary with cheeky meerkats, llamas and native parrots vie for attention. Hand feed the goats and heritage domesticated animals in a keeper kids school holiday programme (bookings are required). Enjoy keeper talks (check beforehand whether the talks are scheduled due to health and safety requirements) where small visitors get to meet wildlife up close and personally.
- Explore Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, largest fenced sanctuary in the South Island. Navigate streams and ford creeks on walks through native forest and listen for bird song. Peer into weta hotels where insects flourish and meet Gordon, the green geeko who meets and greets visitors at the Visitor Centre.
- Hop on board a scenic cruise out to one of the sheltered Abel Tasman bays observing the Tonga Island Marine Reserve for some wildlife-spotting, Consider the option of snorkelling for older kids.
@The Brook Waimārama Sanctuary
2. WATER SPORTS FOR KIDS
Beaches, rivers and saltwater pools there are plenty of choices for kids and their families. From kayaking to a lighthouse, paddling a waka (canoe) to Split Apple Rock or enjoying the historic saltwater baths of Motueka there are plenty of options to get wet in the summer.
@Waka Abel Tasman
- MOANA PADDLE NELSON. Based in Tahunanui beach offers an amazing guided sea kayak to the historic Nelson lighthouse on the natural boulder spit. If you’ve never tried SUP (stand up paddle boarding) Tahananui beach is a great place to start.
- Paddle a MAORI WAKA (canoe) in the Abel Tasman National Park with Waka Tours Kaiteriteri to Split Apple Rock, Wharariki beach. Hear stories about the coastline as family members paddle in unison along the coast to Split Apple Rock –Toka Ngawha. The two hour return trip is a great highlight for the holiday as kids enjoy being part of a waka team.
- Enjoy the historic MOTUEKA SALTWATER BATHS. The ideal scenic spot nestled in Tasman Bay with D’urville Island and sand spits in the distance. The wooden decks enjoy swimmers to relax while kids have a playground, picnic area and BBQ facilities to keep everyone happy. For more ideas check What’s so great about Motueka with tips where to grab a bite to eat and places to visit.
- Richmond Aquatic Centre and Fitness Centre is a modern water park with a 25m lane swimming pool, a wave pool, lazy river, spa pools, hydrotherapy, sauna, tots pool and a learn to swim pool. The water park has an onsite cafe.
- WATER BOMBING AT MAPUA WHARF is a rite of passage for local kids. Families can check out the attractions of Mapua with its cafes, galleries, repurposed apple coolstores and a well known seafood smokehouse.
3. DISCOVER THE PAST
Nelson City has plenty of attractions for kids wishing to find out more about what happened. A family favourite is riding the train at Founders Heritage Park.
Nelson Volunteer Fire Brigade Engine House built in 1867 at the Founders Park
- FOUNDERS HERITAGE PARK is the location for events and festivals, check beforehand to avoid disappointment. The park is extensive and it’s recommended you plan at least a half day enjoying the main street shops, the Bristol Freighter airplane, the train rides and exhibits. There is a cafe within the grounds as well as extensive gardens for impromptu picnics.
- HIGGINS HERITAGE PARK where there are machines the kids and possibly the family has not seen before. Enormous iron wheels attached to steam bletching engines, vintage tractors and collectables to look at. Nearby Wakefield has a paintball attraction.
4. OBSERVE WILDLIFE
Wildlife Nelson includes eels, glowworms, gannets, fur seals and gannets. Shorebirds habitat the estuaries and sand spits where New Zealand fur seals rest.
TOP WILDLIFE SIGHTS
- Glowworms at Brook Waimarama sanctuary
- Find eels in Lake Rotoiti and hand feed eels at Anatoki Salmon, Takaka
- Gannets, ocean going birds at Farewell Spit
- Tonga Marine Reserve and offshore islands, home to NZ fur seals
- Nature Land sanctuary exotic and native animals with Llamas and meerkats favorites
- Shorebirds in estuary reserves, Rabbit Island and Motueka
Read more Wildlife encounters in Nelson.
5. ADVENTURE CALLS
Cable Bay adventure park
Cable Bay Park is stupendous and the kid in all of us will enjoy challenging ourselves. The park caters for all age groups with clearly designated areas for fitness levels and age groups. The well known flying fox is a thrilling ride high across the forest canopy setting the sights high for the rest of the day. For wheeled enthusiasts from mountain bikes to quad bikes there are trails for everyone to get out and get muddy. Entry fees and activity fees apply at Book now — Cable Bay Adventure Park.
ADVENTURES: Kaiteriteri Visitor Centre encourages visitors to grab a map and enjoy orientating. Test your navigation ability and discover quiet bays and walks while discovering the history of the area. Explore Motueka and discover the wreck Janie Seddon on the historic road into town where the wharf was once located. For more ideas check out What’s so great about Motueka.
WHERE TO EAT WITH THE KIDS
Grab a healthy snack from the numerous roadside stalls, enjoy a day picking berries or apples in the orchards, sample peanuts at Pics World and grab deli treats from the various stores and supermarkets throughout the region.
- JESTER HOUSE is a whimsical world of giant chess boards, eel feeding, mazes and mosaic animals will keep the kids amused while family members enjoy lunch outdoors. There are 9 reasons to visit the Tasman Village, Nelson, activities: Best Bits with a great selfie location for older kids, check out the stainless steel sculpture that has been installed near the Tasman Village turnoff on Aporo Road. It is 9 metre high, constructed of recycled stainless steel with silhouette cutouts of birds found in the Moutere Inlet.
- Visit Pics Peanut World. A factory tour is a must with peanuts tumbling out of the roaster and into the massive grinding machines. Watch the conveyor belts and sample peanut butter hot off the press. Kids are invited to make their own spreads and the best bit, the tours are free. There is a shop packed with peanut goodies.
- Takaka has The Woolshed Cafe. The cafe is located in a repurposed woolshed with plenty of objects for kids to look at. The contemporary menu has plenty on offer for kids. The cafe also has a very tempting craft shop nestled within its premises.
- Motueka Riverside Cafe with its gardens and sustainability practices will appeal to older kids interested in farm to plate practices. This is a must-go destination for lovers of organic foods. There is a grocery store attached to the cafe.
- Kaiteriteri The Mermaid’s Beach House is open in summer only. The beachside shack specialises in plant based food with plenty of outdoor seating.
- Old School Cafe, Bar and Restaurant – Collingwood is fun. Kids and family members get to eat brunch / lunch in a former school. The location is on route to Collingwood and Farewell Spit.
- The KIOSK in Isel Homestead & Gardens. Located in the rear section of Isel House, Stoke, Nelson is a cafe with a sandpit, slide and blackboard area for children. The area is semi-enclosed adding a sense of safety in the extensive public gardens of Isel Homestead. Check out the Gardens section, in Nelson City Guide things to do.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
The park is New Zealand’s pocket handkerchief park, A tiny (for national parks) sized national treasure that punches above its size with its global appeal. The park is where ordinary becomes extraordinary, a beach is a swath of fine gold sand with crystal blue water lapping at the edges. The views are spectacular and the coastal walks embrace nature in all its glory.
Recommended is a minimum of two days to explore the park’s attractions and scenery. Use water taxis to avoid duplicating effort getting around. The bonus is views of the coastal scenery from the water adding another stunning aspect to the landscape. Your possibilities are endless from overnight stays in Department of Conservation huts to luxurious guided walks.
Adventurous Beach with a cave at Tinline Bay in Abel Tasman
WALKS IN ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
It is a park after all and walking is the main activity. The park has a well maintained and very well signposted track network for visitors as befitting New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk. The outstanding scenery is the attraction and plan accordingly. Do not rush as you will definitely want to stop, soak in the views and take time absorbing nature.
Walks include beach treks where the tide plays a great part influencing accessibility. The tidal range is an astonishing 6 metres however it is generally below knee height for the average adult wading beach tracks at high tide. Tide tables are posted along tracks by DOC as well as on the regional website.
TOP SIGHTS IN THE PARK
- Tonga Island Marine Reserve with shags, gannets, little blue penguins and seals.
- Short walks that encompass both the coast and dip into the coastal forests
- Kayaking the coast and viewing the scenery from the water
- The sheer choice of activities available that suit all fitness levels
- Glorious beaches within and on the fringes of the park’s boundary
- The variety of scenery packed into a very small space
- Proximity to towns and villages with a wealth of attractions from wineries, Great Taste trails and artisan galleries
@Abel Tasman Kayaks
ONLY GOT A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK?
It is recommended that you use a water taxi to whisk you round with a personalised mix of top sights and sightseeing interspersed with short walks. Forward bookings would be essential. The best places for the start of the day are Motueka, Marahau or Kaiteriteri.
If you are short on time, the water taxi is a great option …. READ MORE … Abel Tasman National Park trip guide & tips, things to do
GETTING AROUND ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Tour operators generally offer free pick up and drop off in either Motueka or Kaiteriteri. Pick up and drop off from Nelson city is generally an additional cost. The well regarded Wilsons Abel Tasman is a local family owned company with a wealth of guided and self-guided options getting you around from self-guided kayaking, kayaking + walking, water taxis or a combination of cruises and walks and kayaking.
Decide on your must-do list and contact Wilson’s to organize transport. Evaluate package deals as the budget is usually better than tailored deals.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK GUIDED TOURS
A favourite for those who are not interested in tramping is the Wilsons civilized adventure. Wilsons takes care of the details so you can escape, revive and reconnect with what’s important in life. Expert guides introduce a landscape full of stories. You choose how active or relaxed you want to be. Take the Vista Cruise to the lodge, or enjoy a guided or self-guided walk. For the ultimate Abel Tasman experience, combine walking with guided kayaking.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK – BEST TIME TO VISIT
Between November to early April is best with consistent warm weather. Yet winter is surprisingly comfortable with considerably less people. The downside is some operators are seasonal therefore check beforehand to avoid disappointment.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK LOCATION
Abel Tasman National Park is a New Zealand national park located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere at the north end of the South Island. It is named after Abel Tasman, who in 1642 became the first European explorer to sight New Zealand and who anchored nearby in Golden Bay. source Abel Tasman National Park – Wikipedia.
GREAT TASTE CYCLING TRAIL
Sunshine is a metaphor for Nelson and even if there is a nip in the air it is not bone chilling. The Great Taste cycling trail is a great introduction to the passionate food and produce vendors. Pass over boardwalks along the edge of the Waimea Estuary, where birds are plentiful, including the white heron. Enjoy the delights of the Mapua Ferry with your bikes on board and explore Mapua Wharf precinct. Routes meander through award winning wineries to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.The 174 km cycling trail stretches from Nelson to Kaiteriteri. The trail passes the mountain bikers dream trails, KAITERITERI MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK.
Consider a one way journey for the trail with a pick up in Kaiteriteri.
The trail is perhaps one of the most popular cycling trails in New Zealand due to the variety of the route, the frequent stops to explore food / wine / cider / craft beer providers and the art galleries offering a pleasing diversion. For tips and a shorter version of the trail check a weekend cycling itinerary to get up and away.
TIP: PICK UP POINT
Mapua is a favourite place to pick up the trail with nearby Rabbit Island a fun day at the beach.
WALKS IN NELSON TASMAN
Undoubtedly the star of the show is ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK walks. While the national parks have stupendously beautiful scenery it does not stop at the park boundaries. Nelson is a walker’s dream with contrasting scenery, short walks to great lookout points and extraordinary natural sights from mossy gorges and waterfalls to limestone cliffs and wind-sculptured rocks.
Check out TOP-10 Nelson short walks, trip guide, things to see & do for ideas. There are easy walks exploring a natural boulder spit or the memorizing freshwater springs of Te Waikoropupu Pupu. Murchison is a great place for walking fans. Unearth one of New Zealand’s oldest hydroelectricity plants on a short walk. The generator looks as though a throw of the switch starts the ball rolling. Murchison walks showcase the devastation of the early 20th century earthquake. Walk over one of New Zealand’s longest suspension bridges crossing the surging white water Buller River.
For waterfall buffs Nelson Tasman delivers two spectacular cascading waterfalls, Wainui falls and Whisky falls. Both falls are best visited in spring. For more details about short walks in the area check out Nelson walks and waterfalls.
Te Waikoropupu Springs (pupu Springs), near Takaka, Golden Bay, Nelson
Finding a beach in Nelson is easy. Within a stone’s throw of the regional airport is one of New Zealand’s top family beaches, Tahunanui. The region is coast to coast fringed with long stretches of gold perfection, shallow safe waters for children and plenty of campgrounds adjacent to the perfect summer holiday spot.
- TAHUNANUI Nelson city with its proximity to Nelson and major transport links. There is almost 2 km of fine white sand beach, with rock pools at one end and cafes, playgrounds and public facilities at the other end.
- KAITERITERI beach is the perfect poster beach with the glinting gold sand, shallow clear blue water and native bush providing a beautiful contrast to the curve of the beach. It is one of the most popular camping grounds in Nelson due to its beachfront position
- MOTUROA, RABBIT ISLAND is another favourite. The beach is easily accessible by bike / vehicle from Nelson or via ferry from the Mapua wharf. The beach is part of an estuary system with prolific bird life evident. The sweep of fine white sand and shallow water, public BBQ and facilities creates a family friendly destination
- TATA BEACH. Fine gold sand, azure tinted shallow water, native bush brushing the rocks and coastline are the ingredients for a stunning beach location. The beach is accessible by water taxi or a gravel road (approximately 30 minutes) from Takaka. The two islands of Motu and Ngawhiti, also known as the ‘Tata Islands’ add to the picturesque scenic beach.
Read more about Top 5 beaches and beyond in Nelson.
THINGS TO DO FOR FREE
OUTDOORS: Enjoy spectacular contrasts from gold sandy beaches to pristine native forests framed by mountain peaks. There are no fees to complete a day walk on walking tracks or for entry into the Abel Tasman National Park. Pay your fees to book overnight stays in DOC huts and/or campsites before you start the track.
- Boulder walks is a fascinating stark rocky landscape with the ocean on one side and the inner sea on the other.
- Maitai River paths and walks (8 km) have swimming holes named Black Hole, Dennes Hole and Sunday Hole for a swim in freshwater. The leafy walks pass the city of Nelson suburban backyards, paddocks with sheep and horses grazing, dogs walking on a leash and plenty of cafes to linger in.
- Rabbit Island is a great day trip from Nelson or bike ride (via ferry) from Mapua Wharf. The beach has safe swimming in the estuary, bird life galore and public facilities for picnics and lazing on the beautiful sandy foreshore.
- In Motueka, find a shipwreck named Jamie Seddon and discover the story of a boat that was part of World War I and World War II and how it ended up on a beach rusting as the sun sets. Explore Motuka art trail, delve into the local shops where art and craft offers opportunities for kids to tap into their creative side.
GARDENS & PARKS
Public gardens and parks in New Zealand are mostly free entry. Nelson parks are venues for outdoor summer concerts and markets. There is always enough space for families and couples to picnic under a shady tree.
@Isel House and Park
- Play frisbee golf in the woodlands of Isel Park with the Thursday twilight market a great place to grab cheap eats. There is a small entrance fee to the heritage Isel House. The exquisite furnishings and Marsden ceramic collections; displays relating to the history of the house and grounds are a must-go for heritage lovers. Entrance to the park grounds is free.
- Queens Gardens, with their Victorian planting style are a rambling joy. The garden rooms include the Huangshi Gardens acknowledging the relationship between Nelson and Huangshi, China. There are duck ponds, bridges, sculptures and fountains and entry is free
- Richmond’s Washbourne hidden garden is a short walk from the busy shopping centre. Enjoy over 200 potted begonias and hanging baskets and a fuschia house packed with nodding colour. There is a fernery and duck pond. Entry is free.
ART, CULTURE TRAILS
It’s no surprise artists are attracted to a Nelson lifestyle. Nelson is a creative hub for painters, sculptures and glass artists from the world-renowned Hoglund Art Glass to emerging artists. Follow a 4 day art trail throughout Nelson and discover where ordinary becomes other people’s extraordinary. The trail can either be cycled or driven with the temptation of vineyards and artisan stores ensuring you will not be hungry.
Start your art exploration in the city of Nelson art trail with its street murals. Sculptures by the sea and river are a glorious homage to Nelson’s art scene. Enjoy the free walk.
TIP: You will have plenty of tempting cafes to check out. For ideas where to grab a reviving coffee while exploring check out Where To Eat in Nelson – Best Bits. Key highlights in the city’s art scene include:
- The Suter Art Gallery is the largest art gallery in Nelson. Entry is free
- Theatre Royal
- Refinery Gallery
Nelson Provincial Museum @NelsonMuseumNZ
NELSON CITY offers heritage buffs a surprise with a stash of historic buildings (pre-1860) lived in and functioning today in the city of Nelson. The buildings include Bishop Suter Art Gallery; Nelson School of Music; Bishop’s School, Fairfield House, Melrose House, and Warwick House.
- Botanics Reserve and the Centre of New Zealand
- Isel Homestead and Park
- Broadgreen Historic House and Samuels Rose Garden
- Queens Gardens (heritage Victorian planting style)
- Christ Church Cathedral and gardens
- Nelson Provincial Museum
- South Street heritage precinct.
From Mapua with its repurposed wharf to Tasman Village and beyond follow the thread of galleries. Check out Ruby Bay is a great spot to pop into with its galleries and nearby beach. Mapua Wharf is an arty / crafty destination combined with an outdoors experience. Enjoy the interesting museum, the local galleries and grab an ice cream to eat watching kids of all ages water bomb from the wharf. For more ideas check Day trip to Mapua Wharf. Small towns such as Collingwood, Motueka and Takaka are home to small quirky museums from historic shops that are continuing to trade to collections of photographs, documents and memorabilia documenting the area’s history.
For art lovers the city of Nelson is the natural place to base yourself with several well regarded galleries to start your exploration of all Nelson Tasman has to offer. Check out the section ART & CULTURE, in the Nelson city guide for details.
Wharf on inlet know as Waimea Estuary in small coastal township on Tasman Bay in South Island New Zealand, Mapua
TOASTY CLIMATE, LAID DOWN ATMOSPHERE WHO WOULD NOT WANT TO BE AN ARTIST IN NELSON?
Nelson attracts visitors from around the world to its festivals. Due to the pandemic festivals have been the victims of postponement or cancellation. Check festival online resources for up to date opening dates.
Plan your holiday around the summer festive season with the annual Art Expo and Arts Festival in spring or the Fringe Festival in autumn with its pop up street artists.
- Nelson Heritage Festival (private historic homes open to the public, public talks and events)
- TAHUNA SUMMER SOUNDS. Tahuna Summer Sounds getting the beach vibe rocking with two pop up venues one month apart. A varied entertainment programme suitable for all ages groups and tastes at the well known beach, Tahuna.
- NELSON SUMMER MOVIES AL FRESCO. Another visitor favourite is the Summer Movies Al Fresco with outdoor movies with over 14 screenings throughout the region. The giant screens have English subtitles for the deaf, hard of hearing and second language viewers. Temporary screens are positioned in parks with plenty of flat grassy surfaces and accessible toilets. With Nelson’s balmy warm summer evenings a perfect visitor free experience to watch a movie, savour the sunset and picnic with friends.
- NELSON ARTS FESTIVAL. The arts festival is a visitor must with open studios and galleries joining the fun of art and artisan talent in full party mode
- MARCHFEST (Founders Park) is where a weekend market meets festival vibe. The atmosphere rocks with entertainment, music, street performers and stalls showcasing local creative talent.
- CIDER FESTIVAL celebrating the liquid joy of apples and berries
MARKETS (NELSON & beyond)
- Ferret among jewelry stalls, clothing outlets, art displays next door to freshly baked pastries. There is plenty of variety for family members to find the bargain, the special object or a holiday memento. The market is focused on the visitor showcasing artisan goods and Nelson creative talent. Kids will love the puzzles, the hand crafted confectionery, the stuffed animals and cushion covers with their favourite cartoon character. Perhaps the parents do not so much.
EAT & DRINK
Relish foodie treats and farm to plate culture. Taste is part and parcel of the Nelson experience. Food & Wine Places in Nelson – Pacific is the icing on the cake for visitors. It’s hard to beat irresistible melt in the mouth moments and Nelson will not disappoint. The weekend markets are a joy for foodie lovers with pop up stalls and emerging food providers viewing the market as an opportunity to test their wares before launching onto the wider New Zealand food scene.
Pics Peanut Butter started its commercial journey at the iconic Nelson weekend market.
- Summer berries, PYO or picking your berries is a rewarding experience. Juice will run down the kid’s T shirt as the berries in the pail match the berries in the tummy. And there is the promise of fresh pulped fruit folded into vanilla ice cream afterwards. Berry lands is a well known local hot spot for berry picking. Berries are usually available from mid-December until the end of January. Check the Berry lands Facebook page as opening hours and availability varies.
- Freshly picked fruit and vegetables are an authentic farm to plate offering from roadside stalls. The prices are reasonable and it’s a great way to support the local orchardists.
CRAFT BREWERY TRAIL
Nelson is home to the oldest breweries in the country with a history of hops and beer production reaching back over 150 years. Spoil yourself and hop onto the craft brewery trail. Find out what’s so great about Nelson’s climate for planting hops and apples while visiting the Hop and Beer Museum.
Savour and sample various offerings at the Free House. Hit the road and discover the secrets of the perfect brew at McCashins and onwards to Riwaka boutique cideries. Pass roadside stalls as you meander Upper Moutere towards Golden Bay and Mussel Inn. Discover one of New Zealand’s oldest pubs. Savour the taste of craft beer brewed locally, by locals. Finish your journey checking out the MUSSEL INN. There is a boutique brewery attached to the pub crafting beer, ale and cider.
Nelson city is your arrival point then make time to check out the various cafes and delis in the city. There are 14 cafes, counter food & quick bites to eat in Nelson for you to top up your backpack supplies with snacks and treats for the road. And that is before you’ve started on the Great Taste Trail.
SHOPPING & RETAIL THERAPY
Nelson’s sophisticated hospitality sector supports a flourishing shopping experience for visitors with unique one of a kind gifts and souvenirs marketing Nelson and New Zealand memorabilia. Check Nelson city guide section, Shopping tips on where to go. Note the major galleries representing groups of artists are often based in Nelson city.
- Weekend markets online updates for pop up stalls. This is a great way to find a special object.
- Follow the art trails throughout the region and visit artist’s galleries and plan your visit around art festivals and fairs.
- Follow the inland route through Moutere valley and check for roadside art flags inviting you to pull over.
Indulge in birds eye views of one of the world’s great parks, golden beaches and lush bush covered hills where vineyards chase the sun. A helicopter ride sweeps you up and away. Cruise on your private sailing vessel stopping where the heart takes you. Hire a private charter and enjoy the good life at your pace savouring Nelson’s Great Taste Trail. Join a small boutique guided tour where you get to enter places normally off limits. Check out Nelson luxury escapes where to stay and wrap yourself in a cloud of soft luxury. Enjoy the privacy of a private villa complete with massage and spa treatments on tap.
For a touch of romance Nelson does not disappoint with plenty of activities and attractions to create special memories. FIND A SLICE OF PARADISE and visit the people’s beach in Abel Tasman National Park. The maze of waterways recedes at low tide exposing ribbons of gold sandy bars. Dip into the romance funds and helicopter to Awaroa. The scenic flight is amazing. For an additional treat stay overnight Awaroa Lodge with its pizzeria and restaurant creating a truly memorable experience.
The beach was purchased for all of us in a crowdfunding campaign.
Read more about romantic places for couples.
PLACES & TOWNS IN NELSON
Nelson is the gateway to the region. Nelson is a walkable city with flourishing art & cultural attractions. Visitors are drawn to the urban vibe of a small city nestled among the foothills and surrounded by ocean.
@Helicopters Nelson, Nelson, NZ
The nearby attractions of Abel Tasman National Park is reflected in one of the top 5 beaches Tahunanui being located next door to the airport. There is plenty to do and see in Nelson from exploring Queens Gardens, walking to the Centre of New Zealand to admire the lookout views or simply relaxing. Enjoy the retail stores, cafes and restaurants and in the summer there is alfresco dining on cobblestone streets.
Nelson is a seasoned host with an extensive range of food / craft markets, cafes and award winning restaurants for visitors to sample. This mix is stirred and mixed in food and wine where the taste buds are tantalized by the bounty of the sea and land. No wonder Nelson is a perennial favourite place for a holiday.
TOP SIGHTS IN NELSON
- Art scene, from world class Suter Gallery to artisan pop up stalls in weekend markets. Nelson city has an absorbing art trail from riverside walks to the coast.
- Foodie joy in restaurants and cafes capturing a contemporary Pacifica fusion cuisine
- City beaches with sweeps of gold dusted sandy foreshores with cafes and facilities at your fingertips
- Vibrant festival season nestled in heritage Founders Park, Isel Park and public spaces
- Well established theatre and arts culture with live entertainment, nightlife and attractions
- A gateway city to the iconic Abel Tasman National Park with its attractions from beaches, walks, waterfalls and water sports
@Theatre Royal Nelson
@Mapua Wharfside Apartments
- Day trips to Moutere Valley vineyards and artisan stores, Tasman Village galleries and Mapua Wharf attractions
- Nelson city is a hub for the region’s Great Taste Trail, a shared cycling / walk experience exploring the best the region has to offer
- Heritage Nelson has Founders Park village, Isel Homestead brings the past back to life with exhibits, displays and 19th century main street atmosphere.
Richmond and Stoke, Nelson suburbs are home to foodie treats from Pics Peanut World to vineyards only minutes from the city centre. Nearby Appleby tempts visitors to PYO or pick your own berries and finish the experience with a delicious, very large fresh fruit ice cream.
Appleby area holds the title for the largest boysenberry crop in the world.
KIWI TOWNS – NELSON TASMAN
Nelson is home to kiwi towns where visitors can outnumber locals by the thousands in the busy summer season. There are towns where the wild meets the west coast in Murchison and towns where the historic apple industry is reflected in the name, Appleby. Nelson Tasman, New Zealand is a place of small settlements and towns worthy of time spent exploring the region.
Close to the outer Nelson city district of Richmond is Ruby Bay. The sheltered red pebbled is located between Mapua and the Kina Peninsula. While a popular beach with locals it is not as well known. Ruby Bay is situated on the mouth of the Waimea Inlet and originally supported workers in the horticultural industry (in particular apples). The wharf of Mapu is repurposed as a bustling tourist centre.
Kaiteriteri and in the background are the towns of Mapua, Motueka and Nelson
MAPUA RUBY COAST, NELSON
Lounge on the sun warmed wharf watching the kids water bomb off the jetty. Check out the local ferry between Mapua and Rabbit Island. And Rabbit Island is a perfect place for a picnic, for details check out Nelson top 5 beaches. Mapua Wharf is a pedestrian area where original cool-store buildings have been repurposed into galleries, restaurants and ice cream shops. Consider a day trip to Mapua and plan to catch the sunset from the wharf as you enjoy fish n chips straight from the packet.
MOUTERE INLAND NELSON
Inland Nelson, New Zealand showcases the earth’s bounty, vineyards, roadside fruit stalls, artisan stores brimming with locally made foodie treats and locals ready to welcome visitors. Nelson Tasman is more than golden sand beaches. The Moutere Hills were formed from the weathered gravels of an ancient river system and are renowned for producing aromatic and fragrant wines. The small villages of Upper and Lower Moutere offer stunning views of the area and Upper Moutere is home to the oldest New Zealand pub still operating in its original building. Creative talent is drawn to an area of natural beauty, rural lifestyle and farm to plate culture. Enjoy the open studios for sculptors, ceramic artists, woodworkers and artisan food producers who have made their home in the valleys. The area is known for its artisan food producers creating a mini version of the Great Taste Trail. Get inspired on the Moutere food trail.
The town is a hub for one of New Zealand largest seafood producers yet the town retains its charm with a stretched out main street where galleries sit next to the local supermarket.
The supermarket in Motueka is a great place for campers to stop with its extensive range of ready to eat meals, snacks for camping and bits and pieces you’ve realised didn’t make it into the suitcase. Motueka is an ideal location for a family holiday with ready access to the Abel Tasman National Park, a main street with galleries, shops and cafes and a salt water pool for families and friends to enjoy.
Godwits in flight at Motueka Sandspit
@Marahau Beach Camp
Marahau is a visitor focused settlement for the Abel Tasman National Park. Several water taxi companies are based in Marahau. The place hums in summer with visitors.
For people who wish a quieter paced holiday the area is worth visiting off-season to enjoy uncrowded places.
Unearth a village close to Nelson (24 km) yet a world away in its quiet rural setting. Mountain bike parks, rivers, vineyards, beaches and walking trails galore… READ MORE WAKEFIELD.
GOLDEN BAY TOWNS
TAKAKA is where you explore the longest sandspit in New Zealand, the arches and dunes of Wharariki beach. The Abel Tasman National Park area is less frequented in this area. Spend time in the intriguing town of Collingwood. Your journey to the top of the South Island starts with a drive over Takaka Hill and it’s fascinating marble landscape. The vibrant summer town is home to cafes, restaurants and two distilleries flourishing in the summer visitor season.
Collingwood is a gem. Historical fans delight with two museums and plenty to do and see. It is a two hour drive over the Takaka limestone hills from Nelson with many visitors using Collingwood as a way station on their way to Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park and day tours to Farewell Spit. Don’t just drive through, stop and wander a town where locals know everyone by their first name. For heritage fans a rich legacy of buildings, from government post offices, police stations and courthouses await further exploration.
TIP: Discover the Aorere Valley (leads to the iconic Heaphy Track) and the heritage grocery store Longford. The remains of nineteenth century gold mining make for an interesting day trip from Collingwood. For details about where to go check Historic Golden Bay, Collingwood and surrounding district.
The Courthouse Cafe, Collingwood
Pupu hydro walkway canal, Takaka
The service hub of Golden Bay is a holiday destination where time slows down. Explore the longest sandspit in New Zealand, the arches and dunes of Wharariki beach, parts of the Abel Tasman National Park where visitors are few and far between and the intriguing town of Collingwood. Your journey to the top of the South Island starts with a drive over Takaka Hill and it’s fascinating marble landscape. The vibrant summer town is home to cafes, restaurants and two distilleries flourishing in the summer visitor season… READ MORE TAKAKA.
The town is the beach and the beach is the reason for the settlement. It is a hub for Abel Tasman National Park attractions and has one of the best beaches in New Zealand. Kaiteriteri’s natural charms are phenomenal and the scenery will not disappoint.
@kaiteriteri recreation reserve
KAHURANGI NATIONAL PARK
Kahurangi’ is ‘treasured possession’, the perfect way to describe New Zealand’s second-largest national park, covering over 450,000 hectares from Golden Bay in the North, to Murchison in the South, right across to the wild meets west, West Coast. Kahurangi National Park has 570km of tramping tracks passing fascinating scenery such as marble and karst landforms. The rugged well known Heaphy Track, is designated an official “Great Walk” by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. The 82 km Heaphy Track traverses a diverse landscape from rugged mountains and descends into valleys of native palms then ascends through alpine grasses with coastlines sketching the horizon. It is a tramp for the experienced and best undertaken in summer.
Kahurangi is In places an untracked wilderness, elsewhere a wonderful network of tracks lets you explore wild rivers, high plateaux and alpine herb fields, and coastal forests.
- Birdlife and wildlife watching, Mangarakau Swamp is a great place to see wetland birds.
- Some of the deepest caves in the world have been found in Kahurangi but they are not for the inexperienced.
- Fishing the Karamea River is prized internationally for its trout fishing.
- Kayaking and canoeing / Rafting remote, wild rivers are a feature of Kahurangi. Most are suitable for experienced kayakers only. Commercial rafting tours are available. At Mangarakau Swamp you can kayak up Muddy Creek or the Wairoa River at high tide for an enchanting experience.
Mount Owen in Kahurangi National Park
NELSON NATIONAL PARK
The park is off the beaten path for many visitors, especially in the summer months. Lake Rotoiti is a glorious alpine lake with deep still waters reflecting the beauty of snow tipped peaks in its inky water. The lake is known for its fishing. There are scenic cruises around the lake to various walks. Check the travel pack section for information about walking tracks in the park.
Look beneath the wharf for long-tailed native eels
In summer sand flies are a hazard and insect repellant is strongly recommended.
ST ARNAUD VILLAGE SKI MECCA
Rainbow Ski Area reaches a height of over 1760 metres resulting in the skifield capturing regular winter snow. There is extensive snow making machinery and superbly groomed trails creating a stunning winter playground. The ski area is supported by St Arnaud Village, which is on the edge of the Nelson Lakes National Park.
The gateway to the West Coast from Nelson is often overlooked by visitors. State Highway six is the driving route from Nelson, via Wakefield and Clearwater through to Murchison and the coast. Murchison’s story and the Buller River and its tributaries are inextricably entwined. The Buller is 177 km in length originating in the Nelson Lakes National Park. The Buller meets the sea at Westport. Near Murchison the Buller River becomes a force to be reckoned with. The Matakitaki, Mangles and Matiri Rivers flow into the Buller forming a major confluence. Flowing through narrow granite gorges the river boils and roars its way past Murchison.
Nelson to Murchison abandoned home Spring Grove
Murchison is part of the Nelson Regional District yet you are in an area where it is wild meets the west coast. Gold prospecting, the ability to forge a living in a sparsely populated mountainous area and the scenery all contribute to the beginnings of your West Coast, South Island journey. You have opened the door to the West Coast with Murchison as an excellent introduction to a way of life governed by its mining legacy and the current relative isolation due to the Southern Alps.
Murchison feels a world away from the golden beaches of Nelson, the vineyards and Abel Tasman National Park yet the area is part of the Nelson Tasman, New Zealand administrative district. For visitors Murchison is often underrated as backwater in the Nelson area. For exciting walks and things to do in Murchison check out Murchison travel guide, trip activities, what to do & see: Best Bits and get inspired to explore route six beyond the foothills of Wakefield and Brightwater townships.
Murchison and state highway six, the route from Nelson to Murchison and onwards to Westport is perhaps the best driving route in New Zealand for wild, imaginative scenery. It is an extraordinary drive and Murchison is a great stop to absorb the difference between Nelson and the West Coast as it emerges into the light in Murchison. For details about State Highway six route, check out Great West Coast road trip, route 6 – Best Bits and the iconic American route 66, eat your heart out with New Zealand’s version of a wild untamed country road trip. For details about the route between Nelson to Murchison check State Highway 6: Nelson, through mountain passes to Westport – Best Bits.
Quirky original junk is someone's treasure shop Murchison
In a luxurious eco-retreat. Lancewood Villa, a 12.5ha permaculture farm set in the picturesque hills of the Moutere Valley, offers guests a beautifully unique countryside experience – natural, vibrant and nurturing. You will start the day with an organic farm to plate breakfast served on request. Rooms range from a romantic suite next to a freshwater pool to a self catering family cottage. LANCEWOOD VILLA is in the hub of the foodie district of Nelson.
STAY AWHILE, MASSAGE THE SOUL
Kaiteriteri Accommodation – Abel Tasman – Spa Resort Hotel Nelson is nestled in the grounds of a wilderness lodge. Surrounded by native flora and fauna and with décor which instantly sets the mood for relaxation and rejuvenation. Tucked away amongst the bush with panoramic views of Kaiteriteri beach and estuary and close to the Abel Tasman National Park, Kimi Ora chalets offer peace, seclusion and all the modern comforts. Each chalet is different so whether you are looking for a honeymoon retreat in the bush, artists’ attic room high on a hill or group accommodation with plenty of communal space, we have options to suit. From vegetarian offerings to seafood and local pantry treats the menu reflects the guest’s preferences.
KIMI ORA offers day spa treatments, the perfect day escape to pamper the soul and mind.
SPLIT APPLE ROCK LODGE
Luxury Lodge and Wellness Spa in an immersive environment. The Lodge is fusion Asian / Pacific with original art and antiques flowing from indoor, outdoor spaces into the native forest setting. There are private paths to beaches with a private easement to the 120 million year old Split Apple Rock on Wharariki beach. For once in the lifetime pampering of the soul check into Split Apple Retreat. Bespoke picnics, helicopter rides to quiet remote beaches, horse riding and guided walks through the Abel Tasman park are part of the Lodge’s offerings. Cuisine is a blend of cultures and catered with your tastes in mind. There are massages, spas and therapies that promote wellness and longevity while maintaining the highest standards.
@Golden Bay Hideaway
GOLDEN BAY HIDEAWAY – ECO LIVING + LUXURY
Golden Bay Hideaway – Luxury Eco Living – Abel Tasman National Park
Kiwi Greenie, a house truck and several low energy passive luxurious tiny homes offer spectacular views over Wainui Bay are ready to be enjoyed from the outdoor bath, master bedroom and open plan living and dining area. The house truck is such a unique and fantastic stay. It’s cosy, private and with stunning views. Enjoy the outdoor bath and shower in absolute privacy.
Just five minutes walk from Hideaway is Wainui falls walk
FARMSTAY WITH A TOUCH OF COMFORT
Kaihoka Farmstay, Kaihoka Lakes, Golden Bay, New Zealand
Kaihoka Farm is a 3000-acre, working beef and sheep farm in the beautiful Westhaven (Wanganui) Inlet region of New Zealand’s West Coast. It is owned and farmed by Jock and Joyce and their family John and Mary. Gently rolling hills, wetlands and karst outcrops all make up the landscape that we work in here in the beautiful South Island. The cottages range from 2 bedrooms (for 4 people) to 6 bedrooms (sleeping up to 16 people), ideal for school groups, tramping clubs, and family get-togethers.
STAY – CAMPING
Air New Zealand operates daily non-stop flights to Nelson from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with connections across the New Zealand domestic network.
As part of the Upper South Island road trip the journey travels from Marlborough through Havelock and Pelorus gorge. The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to relax and enjoy forest and river scenery, in one of the last stands of river flat forest in Marlborough.The scenic route is approximately 2 hours.
Nelson has a daily bus connection to major South Island, New Zealand cities.
A vehicle / bike is needed otherwise during peak season (summer) there are public bus services linking beach and inland communities. Previously it was advisable to forward book transport during the peak season. In 2019 approximately 1.3 million guest nights in Nelson.
The Heaphy Bus: Heaphy Track Bus Service specialising in access to the Heaphy Tramping Trails.
Nelson | Nelson Airport | Spooners Tunnel | Mapua Wharf | Motueka | Kaiteriteri, specialising in the transportation of bikes and the Great Taste trail
Heaphy Track Shuttle Bus Transport, Nelson. Trek Express… the longest operating tramper transport service in the Nelson Region. With many years experience we can advise and accommodate your tramping needs.
Golden Bay Coachlines | Nelson Bus & Coach Services | New Zealand Leading local bus operator offers an extensive transport service throughout Nelson.
Marahau Water Taxis Transport in Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand
Located right Abel Tasman Village, we provide water taxi and scenic tours. Daily departures from Marahau into the Abel Tasman National Park. Operating year round, we have options for short walks, scenic trips, day walks and hiker transport.Free off-street car parking available. We also offer accommodation, kayaking, fantastic waterfront dining & a general store.
Kaiteriteri boat charter
Kaiteriteri Boat Charter is owned and operated by Abel Tasman Kayaks. We offer a range of half, full day and overnight charters in the Abel Tasman National Park, Marlborough Sounds and D’urville Island.
Mapua Ferry – Nelson.
Mapua to Rabbit Island Ferry.
Ferry Crossing in NZ’s Cycle Trail. Built to accommodate cyclists and foot passengers, the ferry is only a ten minute trip from Rabbit Island to Mapua wharf and back again. There are also plenty of cruising options available and the ferry can be hired for private functions.
@Kaiteriteri Boat Charter
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
@Grand Arden Monaco Nelson
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN NELSON TASMAN?
- For art and culture buffs the city of Nelson
- Nature and outdoor activities there are a thread of small towns from Tasman Bay to Golden Bay. Pick your bucket list walks and activities and base yourself nearby. Check if a tour operator will pick up and drop up from your location BEFORE booking
- Festival and events the city of Nelson and its vicinity minimizes travelling times
HOW LONG SHOULD I PLAN TO SPEND IN NELSON TASMAN REGION, NEW ZEALAND?
- Three to five days is the average length of time visitors spend in the area. Key attractions such as Abel Tasman National Park and the Great Taste Trail can be completed in two day. Visitors are wowed by the incredible scenery, exciting arts and artisan activities and galleries and the extraordinary events and festival calendar focused in the city of Nelson. It is frequently overheard that we did not plan enough time to fully appreciate all the area has to offer.
Sand dunes, Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay, Nelson
HOW BAD ARE THE SANDFLIES?
- Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, they can vary from non-existent to quite prolific. It is strongly recommended you carry insect repellent and have it handy throughout your journey. Sandflies will not bother you while you are walking and go into hiding at night. The best solution is to have some long-sleeved clothes to wear in the evening.
When is the best time to Visit Nelson?
- Sun lovers are in for a treat with one of New Zealand’s sunniest regions. Nelson Tasman, New Zealand can be visited year round. Winter (May to early September) is cool but often sunny with average temperatures of 12ºC versus mid 20c in summer. The snow on the distant peaks is a beautiful surprise when you are enjoying a crisp winter day in Nelson.
HOW DO I GET TO FAREWELL SPIT?
- From Takaka, follow State Highway 60 north to Farewell Spit. Public transport. There is no public transport to Puponga. Two DOC-approved operators run nature tours to Farewell Spit Lighthouse. You can freely enjoy Puponga Farm Park and can walk a short distance along the base of Farewell Spit. Independent travel to Farewell Spit is limited to a small area at its base, around the Puponga Farm Park and Cape Farewell. To venture further along the spit, travelers must join a guided tour.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WALK TO FAREWELL SPIT?
- You can freely enjoy Puponga Farm Park and can walk a short distance along the base of Farewell Spit. There is no public access elsewhere on the Spit except by DOC permit or with a licensed tour operator… Farewell Spit and Puponga Farm Park
Travel Pack Information
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE.