Nelson art, music and events

Creative people have been drawn to Nelson for decades, so your visits to galleries, artists' studios, markets and festivals will reveal extraordinary originality.

Nelson is a city of ideas, talent and energy. Together they add up to a creative scene that can be enjoyed in lots of different ways. You can book your trip to Nelson to coincide with an event or festival, you can follow an art trail map to meet artists at their place of work or you can visit one of the region's acclaimed galleries. Even the museums are creative in Nelson, as you'll see when you call into the National WOW (World of Wearable Arts) Museum.

Find a Nelson art gallery that captures your imagination

How do you like your art galleries? Do you crave something different and challenging? If so, the Refinery Artspace in Halifax is the beating heart of contemporary art in Nelson. Work is displayed in two galleries and the foyer, often involving both local and international artists.

Nelson is a super-creative area offering multiple opportunities to meet artists and watch art being created. Some are in the city; others are in countryside areas.

If you're an art purist, The Suter Art Gallery (Te Aratoi o Whakatū) is a must-visit. This Nelson gallery sprang from an Anglican bishop's love of art and painting; today it's one of New Zealand's leading exhibition spaces for both traditional and modern art. Admission is free.

Galleries can also be museums in Nelson. A perfect example is the National WOW Museum & Nelson Classic Car Collection, where vintage cars and wearable art collide. On one hand, this space invites you to admire more than 60 outrageous wearable art creations. On the other hand, it tempts you to drool over more than 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars. It's all about design, but the two disciplines couldn't be more different.


Follow a Nelson art trail and meet the creatives

Nelson is a super-creative area offering multiple opportunities to meet artists and watch art being created.  Some are in the city; others are in countryside areas.

An exciting place to witness creativity in motion is the Höglund glass blowing studio, which has been a visitor attraction in Appleby for nearly four decades. The Höglund family do their magic with simple wooden tools and stainless steel blow pipes to produce awe-inspiring glass art creations. Their studio is an easy 20-minute drive from Nelson city and it's accompanied by a large gallery of completed works.

The Ruby Coast Arts Trail encompasses the Mapua and Ruby Bay area. It includes glass sculptors, painters, potters, ceramicists, furniture makers and weavers. You'll also find some excellent art and craft galleries at Mapua Wharf.

At the northern end of Trafalgar Square in Nelson city is the Jens Hansen studio, where the 'one ring' was made for the Lord of the Rings movies. The display cabinets are full of intricate works that look like they've come from another world. If you're looking for your own personal ring of power, this is the place to have it designed and made.

What's on? Nelson events that are full of flavour, fizz and fun

Nelson's love of art, good food, fine wine and craft beer feeds into an appealing events menu.  Here are some of the biggies:

  • Bay Dreams is an annual music festival in January that brings over 20,000 people to the Nelson Tasman region. A must-do for festival-goers!
  • Every two years at the beginning of February, Nelson hosts the Adam Chamber Music Festival, a collection of concerts featuring small orchestras from near and far.
  • Street performers are the centre of attention at the Nelson Buskers Festival, held in February. There's a huge variety of shows, from trapeze and acrobatics to stand-up comedy and magic.
  • March is when craft beer connoisseurs flock to Nelson for MarchFest, an event that combines exceptional beer with great live music. All the beers available at MarchFest are especially made for the event and have never previously been tasted by the public.
  • The K2M run, walk and cycle event in May takes place on the Great Taste Trail from Kaiteriteri to Mapua wharf. A great reason to come and explore Nelson Tasman's finest scenery, cuisine and trails.
  • The Nelson Fringe Festival embraces all things hilarious, strange and unexpected. As well as shows, it offers workshops that let you develop your own on-stage skills.
  • The Light Nelson Festival happens in winter bi-annually. It's an outdoor exhibition of light installations, clustered around the lily bond and trees of Queens Gardens, Albion Square and the NMIT campus.
  • If you have Irish ancestry, you'll love the Ceol Aneas Irish Music Festival held on Queen's Birthday Weekend. This event focuses on lute, fiddle, free reed, banjo/mandolin, guitar and whistle music. There's a ceili dance too.
  • In September, the Trafalgar Centre hosts Art Expo Nelson. It's an opportunity for concentrated art appreciation and buying featuring affordable art from all over New Zealand, including works from local Nelson artists. You can shop for paintings, pottery, ceramics, sculpture and much more.
  • The annual Nelson Arts Festival, held in October, involves a multitude of art and performance events. A special highlight is the street parade, famous for its fun, colour and creativity.
  • The NZ Cider Festival takes place in November, and with Nelson Tasman being the largest cider region in New Zealand producing over 60% of the country's cider it's a must-see for cider seekers!

Keep exploring Nelson Tasman