Nelson is a city along the South Island part of New Zealand that is facing the South Pacific coast where nature knows no restraint. You can do all the fun things to do on top of the South Island while wishing you will never want to be anywhere else. When it comes to food and wine, Nelson has the largest fishing port that offers a bountiful harvest of scallops, clams, mussels, and other types of seafood and wonderfully prepared at the variety of seafood restaurants located at the waterfront area.
One of the exciting outdoor activities to try here is kayaking; it has golden sand beaches and the clearest water in the world. If you really want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy harbour, visit the Harwoods Hole Park. It is truly an amazing place because this is where a part of the movie “Lord Of The Rings “was filmed. And speaking about the LOTR movie, be sure to drop by the shop of Jens Hansen The Ring maker shop (located in Trafalgar Square). He was the designer and creator of the precious “One Ring” kept under Frodo’s care in the film. You can go kite surfing, fly fishing, snorkelling, diving, yachting, and other water related activities here in Nelson along with a visit to the numerous vineyard for a memorable vacation on the South Island that you will treasure with all your heart.
When To Go:
Nelson is a lovely city regardless of what time or season you plan to explore its natural beauty. The hottest months of the year are from the months of September to April. The month of December, January and February are the three most sizzling months (Summer). September – November is dedicated to spring. The Autumn season is from March – May and the cold winter season is usually felt from June – August. The weather report and latest climate updates (in case of a storm). If you don’t have any choice but to come on uncertain weather situations (if there is a storm or when monsoon rains prevail), weather updates can be easily accessed online or from their official weather station.
These are the top things to do in the city of Nelson…
Christ Church Cathedral
Since 1842, the Christ Church Cathedral has already given religious services in Nelson City. It was built by the first bishop of New Zealand on this exposed hill and started out as a tent. It was in 1857 when the first church was built, and then replaced by a wooden church built in 1887 that has already been called a cathedral. This was destroyed by an earthquake in 1925. The nave (marble) of the present cathedral was built 1925-1932 – the other components were made of reinforced concrete, which was completed in 1960.
The stained glass in the nave and lower transept comes from England, while the others came from New Zealand. The baptismal font is made in the style of early English cathedrals from Takara marble. All in all, it has a winning combination; a church where people can have a simple and dignified worship. The cathedral (or their modern church tower) is already visible from afar. Surrounded by old trees above the town / business center, you can reach it by walking for about 80 steps preferably in the morning, or when it is not so hot otherwise. The stained glass windows are eye catching, more so when the sun is shining. For those who like to visit churches, this sacred place is quite different and friendly. The gigantic body (no longer works), but it is worth the visit. The view from the hill where the city is located also helps.
Centre of New Zealand
is a nice hiking destination (not necessarily suitable for the disabled); where you will be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of Nelson, Tasman Bay, and the nearby mountains. The hike has fine trails and beautiful scenery. Wear comfortable shoes and exert a little effort on your part and you’ll be rewarded with 360° scenic sights on top of Nelson, the bay, the adjacent slopes, and the valley of shrubs. At the top, you can find the memorial and plaque indicating that it is the center of New Zealand.
You can make excellent photos about Nelson upstairs. It is a site that would go unnoticed if it were not for the curiosity of the geographical center of New Zealand. It is a small hill surrounded by a promenade park. You just have to walk up a path that is well marked and after a little less than twenty minutes you reach the top. There is a monument that indicates the location of the geographical center. There are several paths to follow, so you can spend just an hour or a little more if you like hiking. The lower park has restrooms and a small playground for children.
Happy Valley Adventures
is a beautiful site and a nice home with lots of outdoor activities to do. After having lunch, the horseback ride begins. The prepared simple meal is good and served with great kindness.
The tour involves a ride on their well maintained and cared horses that will bring you to the point where you can admire the great views of Nelson. They also offer the quad chairlift ride for a climb up the hills. You can even go swimming once you reach the midst of the sea. There are numerous adventures to try out like; the Zip Line, SkyWire, Horse Treks, Paintball, and the popular “4 Wheelin Fun’’ a thrilling adventure over a 16,000 acre farmland.
starts slowly at first, but then with about 85 km/h you whiz on a tightrope over the valley. There is no adrenalin shock, but a great feeling of release and excitement. The duration of the adrenaline ride is about 10 minutes. The goggles are useful (provided).
The ride up the mountain to the starting point is also very nice and the view from the starting point is very beautiful. It is a mixture of adrenalin with a little fear and that tingly feeling that will make you brave and want to do it again. It is super safe and you can go with 3 more friends. It is a mixture of Tyrolean with a swing. Very cool and highly recommended when in Nelson City.
Nelson Saturday Market
is a lively weekly market with lots of local produce. It is a beautiful place that is focused from crafts to art, especially the woodwork products of the local livelihood group in Nelson every Saturday. There are stalls with fresh vegetables, honey, fruits and flowers from local growers. Like all markets worldwide, the opportunity to meet small producers, artisans, good smells, colors, and food tastings are a few of the best parts of a short visit. For those who love the markets, it is not to be missed!
The Nelson Saturday Market takes place from 8:00 am to 15:00 PM in Montgomery Square and is the best fair you’ll ever see in New Zealand. It is large and also spreads and occupies an entire block in the city center, in Trafalgar Street. It has a great atmosphere and sells along with fruit and vegetables, fast food dishes, books, clothing, costume jewellery, decorative items, all at attractive prices. You can also see artists performing in every corner.
Nelson i-SITE Visitor Information Centre
A visit to the Nelson i-SITE Visitor Information Centre is a must if you are on holiday in New Zealand. It is tourism oriented and has a complete information available for every attraction here in Nelson. Most of the information and guide maps here are free. It has a nice location in central Nelson and equipped with a friendly and helpful staff. It is an i-site with high foot traffic. The staff is efficient and pleasant and there are also many brochures and books about hiking in the city.
World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum
is an interesting museum. There is an exhibition of tailored dresses for the famous and the not so famous people of New Zealand with very different styles and sometimes a little scary. The museum about the classic cars is quite large and offers a lot of diversity.
You will be amused by the variety of collections when you walk around there. The wonderful exhibits about “clothing” is nicely exposed and with appropriate background music. A stunning and beautiful celebration of textile designers, which brings this successful presentation to amaze the consciousness of every viewer. Very special and definitely worth a visit!
The Founders Park pays great attention to the detail and history of Nelson. The buildings and equipment were compiled from “ancient times” and presented as a very interesting open-air museum. A small local brewery with historic roots is also located on the premises. In 1986, the city inaugurated an open-air museum where about 30 buildings from the Nelson region were gathered, some still have the original concept and design, such as St. Peter’s Church from the late 19th century.
The other restored and furnished buildings here are built and preserved in accordance with its function in the city. By observing the buildings (with their equipment), which exists since 1880-1930, one can imagine the life of the people from as far as 100 years ago. Some are still temporarily for demonstration purposes and some are partially used. You can dine at the “Browery & Cafe” or buy pastries from the “Artisan Bakery”. In the small church, anyone can marry. Every Friday afternoon, there is a market with local products and only on Sundays; there are railway rides that are still operating on a piece of a former railway line.
Suter Gallery Nelson
Is a great little art gallery in a beautiful setting with an entrance from the park. This art gallery also features temporary exhibitions. Upon entrance (admission is free); you will find excellent exposure of the Maori art. The store has many pieces of pottery artists in the area and there is a nice cafeteria where they serve excellent food, but it is a little expensive. There are exhibit areas about Africa and the natural wonders around Nelson translated into art.
Wine Art and Wilderness
is a lovely walk and gentle ride into the mix of nature, wine, and art in Nelson City. The tour is led by Noel, a fantastic guide who gives several guidelines about the city and the South Island in general. He is super nice and friendly. The approach is very personal, knowledgeable, and knows how to deliver the information with the right time and mood.
Guests are flabbergasted with such availability and service delivery. It shows them what to anticipate in this tour. The itinerary covers five wine tours and vineyards. On top of that, it offers water, different fruits and harmonies for each place visited. You can change the plan and do as you please depending on the group and the need for each. But what counts most is the attention and affection of the guide. Congratulations to the company and indicate this tour in your travel itinerary of Nelson.
Nelson Provincial Museum
is an informative and very interesting representation of the history of this region; the different tribes and customs of Maori. You can see the first settler’s installation; presentation of furniture, and the early Victorian costumes.
This attraction helps you understand how Nelson became a town in the South Island. You can see the Cathedral, Bridge Street, catfish pond, and the development of the town as described in the video and dioramas in an interesting way. It is easy to understand and it is located in the middle of the city; a quiet museum that feels like an oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city center.
Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith
While in Nelson City, you can stop by the Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith, the famous jeweler who created the ring used in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Here you park; enter, go around, and make a couple of pictures with the ring and take pictures again before leaving. He will not mind if you do not buy anything, because the jewellery she sells have prices of disproportionate amount.
One thing there is clear, the size of the ring, the size of the hand, drives curious visitors to see this place ever since the success of the film. They have a very friendly staff and you can purchase a replica of the ring complete with the inscription used in the movie.
Miyazu Japanese Garden
should be combined with a visit to the nearby Founder’s Park. It has a beautiful Japanese garden architecture that is worth a visit. It is a little far from the center, but there is plenty to see.
The entrance is free and kids can have a great time in this quiet and colorful place. The Japanese garden is decorated with original bridges across the streams and lots of pink flowering cherry blossom trees. It is a place with incredible beauty and succeeds as a small representation of Japan in Nelson City.
Hoglund Art Glass
produces hand-blown glass pieces in a class by itself. If you’re in Nelson, visit Ola and Marie and see how their very beautiful crafts are made. It is a great pleasure to see their amazing nice gallery that included everything from dishes, vases and glass jewellery.
It is of course also possible to buy some of their beautiful creations. The exhibition inspires guests with their beautiful series of work and aesthetic presentation. For collectors, there are also exquisite works of art into the high 4-digit range. It is a paradise for fans of glass art.
is a popular zoo in Nelson and referred to as the place for “Happy Animals”, because they are well taken cared here. It is not huge, but the animals are many and interesting. Most of the visitors love the birds and the tuatara. The zookeepers are nice and the animals seem well maintained. It is not bad for a little outing with the young children and a good way to educate them about the endemic animals in this part of New Zealand. The Tahunanui beach is next, so after a visit to this zoo, you can hit the beach!
The city of Nelson is designed for lovers of trekking or those who love swimming/diving in the beautiful beaches. This is absolutely a place not to be missed and where you must spend at least a few days to enjoy all its noteworthy attractions and things to do. It looks like paradise because of its small sheltered coves (accessible only on foot or by taxi boat) that will make you feel like Robinson Crusoe. There are great accommodations for all levels, but in summer it is very crowded and there are lots of ways to discover the city of Nelson (by moped, kayak, mountain bikes, wind karting, and by boat).