Nelson top 10 things to do & see
Enjoy a day walk in one of three national parks or hike for days on end; cycle gently through the landscapes or conquer challenging mountain bike trails; take a wine tasting tour and visit boutique breweries or feed your imagination at fascinating art galleries and studios. Every day promises something unique and memorable in Nelson Tasman.
1. Explore Abel Tasman National Park
Discover the golden sand beaches, sweeping granite coastline, lush native forest and crystal clear waterways of this popular national park, one of the top Nelson Tasman experiences. You can enjoy a short walk, a multi-day hike or a kayak adventure around the coast. Water taxis and boat tours get you close to the small island sanctuaries, and provide drop-off and pick up services for walkers.
2. Experience the Nelson Market
Immerse yourself in the local creative community at this longstanding market, renowned for quality Nelson produce, arts and crafts. Held every Saturday morning at Montgomery Square in the heart of the city, it's frequently rated as one of the best things to do in Nelson Tasman. The market is a great place for a coffee, a bite to eat, gifts or a memento of your holiday.
3. Spend a day in Golden Bay
Check out the amazing Te Waikoropupū Springs near Takaka. Sacred to Māori, it’s the largest fresh spring in New Zealand and one of the clearest ever measured. Touching or swimming in the water is forbidden, but it’s wonderful to see the native fish and eels going about their life. In Golden Bay you can also walk along Wharariki Beach with its rugged coastline, fine white sand, arches, caves and sand dunes. You might even meet a seal pup or two. Or experience the vast emptiness of Farewell Spit, home to more than 90 wetland and migratory birds. This 34km sandspit can be explored on a tour if you’re keen to take it all in.
4. Explore the Nelson Lakes National Park
Only 1.5 hours by car from Nelson city, this national park offers beautiful lakeside, mountain and beech forest scenery. Walking tracks range from an easy 15 minutes to multi-day hikes. There are camp grounds at Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa, and the views from the jetties across the water to the mountains are legendary. If you're feeling brave, jump off a jetty at Lake Rotoiti and swim out to the swimmers' raft.
5. Enjoy local cider, craft beer and wine
The Nelson Tasman region is a celebrated hop growing area with numerous small breweries, so you can look forward to an impressive range of delicious local craft beers. Or follow the Nelson wine trail to visit some of the finest Nelson wineries and cellar doors. Here you can taste some of the region's award-winning wines, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir.
6. Ride Tasman’s Great Taste Trail
Essentially a multi-day loop around the Nelson Tasman region, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail is a scenic urban and coastal cycle route that takes you on a spectacular journey of discovery. Along the way you'll find vineyards, boutique breweries, eateries and art galleries in some of the most picturesque settings imaginable. Bike hire and shuttle services make it easy to explore as much or as little of the trail as you want.
7. Visit art and heritage museums
The Suter Art Gallery is one of the top Nelson attractions. It showcases local and international works from the last 200 years, including ceramics. For art in the outdoors, hire a bike or vintage scooter and explore the City Mural Trail. To learn about the region's fascinating history, head to Founders Heritage Park or the Nelson Provincial Museum. You'll also find small galleries dotted throughout the region and several historic homes that welcome visitors.
8. Indulge in culinary delights in the central City
Nelson city is a year-round destination for all-day feasts and entertainment. Enjoy walking down the cobblestone streets, admire the beautiful waterfront restaurants and take in the live entertainment for wholesome family fun. In summer, the upper Trafalgar Street dining precinct is the place to be if you’re looking for live entertainment and outdoor dining; in winter, enjoy fireside eats. Sample Nelson’s array of eateries showcasing locally sourced produce. Be wowed by the character-filled cocktail bars, diversity of cuisines, Nelson Market, fine dining and more - a foodie’s heaven.
9. Ride gold-rated mountain biking tracks
The Coppermine trail begins just 15 minutes by bike from downtown Nelson and is one of the most accessible alpine mountain bike rides in New Zealand. Located near the popular Codgers Mountain Bike Park, it climbs an old railway route to spectacular views. From there, experienced riders can follow a challenging downhill back to the city. Others can return the same way they came up. Either way, it's a truly great ride.
10. Unwind at Mapua Wharf
Once an apple store and shipping wharf, Mapua Wharf is a thriving hub of art and hospitality. Here, beside the beautiful Waimea Estuary, you'll discover cafés, restaurants, bars, small artisan shops, a microbrewery and a bike hire company. The Mapua Ferry crosses to Rabbit Island carrying day trippers and cyclists on the coastal trail to and from Nelson, but the wharf can also be reached by car via Mapua township.