Nelson top 10 things to do & see
Dip your toe into the 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 museums. Every day promises something unique and memorable.
1. Explore Abel Tasman National Park
Discover the golden sand beaches, rocky outcrops and beautiful estuaries 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. The market is a great place for a coffee, a bite to eat, gifts or a memento of your holiday.
3. Walk the Heaphy Track
One of New Zealand's nine Great Walks, this 82km wilderness track through the Kaurangi National Park comes with ever-changing landscapes. You can enjoy the entire four to six day hike between Golden Bay and the West Coast, with bookable huts along the way, or simply walk in and walk out some of the way.
4. Explore the Nelson Lakes National Park
Only 1.5 hours by car from Nelson, 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. Here you can taste some of the region's award-winning wines, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir.
6. Ride the Nelson cycle trail
Essentially a multi-day loop around the Nelson Tasman region, the Great Taste Trail includes off-road and country road cycling through spectacular scenery and attractive towns. Along the way you'll discover vineyards, boutique breweries, eateries, art galleries and more. Bike hire and shuttle services make it easy to explore as much 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. 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. See the WOW Museum & Nelson Classic Car Museum
See more than 60 garments from the iconic World of WearableArt awards shows, which began their life in Nelson in the late 1980s. Then explore more than 140 beautiful cars from the last 100 years. Together these exhibitions showcase creativity, design and the changing influences of society’s beliefs and needs.
9. Ride gold-rated mountain biking tracks
The Dun Mountain trail begins just 15 minutes by bike from downtown Nelson, 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.