Lying in the heart of an adventure-seeker's paradise and surrounded on all sides by geographic splendour, the South Island's Nelson-Tasman region should occupy a place on every eager traveller'' bucket list. This is a place of breathtaking natural landscapes – lakes, mountains, rivers, native bush and pristine beaches are all easily within reach, while the city of Nelson itself is home to a flourishing artistic community - you'll find an array of craftspeople living in the area; traditional, contemporary and Māori. Visit their studios, explore the weekend craft markets, taste delicious local artisan products and find something unique to take home with you and remind you of your experience in Nelson.
Nelson (Māori: Whakatū) is located on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. Nelson is the oldest city in the South Island and the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand – it was established in 1841 and was proclaimed a city by royal charter in 1858.
From Nelson city centre it is an easy walk to the geographical centre of New Zealand, where you can take in amazing views of the city, port, Tasman Bay and surrounding mountains.
Each year, Nelson hosts events popular with locals and tourists alike, such as the Nelson Arts Festival and, in winter, Light Nelson, when the Queens Gardens, Albion Square and NMIT campus host an outdoor gallery of brilliant art installations. This night-time event combines a garden walk in the clear dark night with illumination, illusion, beauty, interaction and fun.
Photo Credit: Scott Venning
Abel Tasman National Park is located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay and is easily accessed from Nelson. Weaving its way along the coast within the park is the famous Coast Track. The park is famed for its natural coastal beauty; rocky streams cascade to the ocean, stunning marble and rock formations decorate the sandy beaches and headlands, and dense native forest border the track. Walkers can also see and hear an array of native wildlife along the track unique to this part of New Zealand, including Tui and bellbirds, shags (cormorants), gannets and small blue penguins can be spotted while fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.
Spread over 55 km the track will take most walkers four days end to end, however smaller sections of the track can be accessed by one of the frequent ferries delivering day trippers to the park. Itineraries combining cycling and kayaking with hiking the track are also available. ONLYLUXE Abel Tasman tours will collect guests from Nelson Airport or a nearby hotel and transfer to the starting point of the walk. Comfortable lodge accommodation are positioned along the length of the track in picturesque positions, taking advantage of unforgettable views across calm waters to the Marlborough Sounds.
Cycling is an integral part of Nelson Tasman's culture, and touring on two wheels can offer the most flexible sightseeing. Explore boutique vineyards, take in the sights along the scenic coastal roads or undertake one of the region's famous trails - graded Gold Ride status by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The 174 km loop of the Great Taste Trail connects Nelson with the towns of Wakefield, Richmond, Motueka and Kaiteriteri. Experience an exhilarating combination of rural, urban, coastal and riverside scenery while discovering the vast array of gastronomic and cultural attractions on offer – from art galleries and boutique shopping, to fruit stalls, cafes, craft beer pubs and winery restaurants. The trail can be enjoyed in full over several days or broken into sections on a self-guided basis. A three-day, two-night self-guided or guided itinerary taking in the highlights of the trail combines adventure with relaxation, staying in comfort at the prestigious Edenhouse in a serene valley in the heart of rural Nelson.
Edenhouse Luxury Lodge
On the water, paddle-boarding and kayaking are popular Nelson pastimes. The beautiful waters of Tasman Bay off Nelson are so inviting and are just waiting to be explored. A variety of cruise operators escort visitors to discover the crystal clear and vibrant waters while spotting some of the local wildlife such as seals and dolphins. A cruise through the Nelson region and Abel Tasman National Park is a must for any visitor looking to marvel at its natural beauty while also learning from expert tour guides.
Adrenaline junkies have long been drawn to New Zealand's adventurous outdoor culture. Year-round activities promise unforgettable experiences on snow, sea, river, mountain or from the sky. The region is home to the Murchison township, which sits on the Four Rivers Plain — the meeting point for the Mangles, Matiri, Matakitaki, and Buller rivers. Together they form the largest free-flowing catchment of water in New Zealand. This is where to find the best white water rafting, white water kayaking, and jet boating all year round.
This is also the only place in New Zealand where you can take in awe-inspiring views of both the North and South Islands, all the way up to Mt Taranaki from the sky. Skydiving over three national parks: Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman, marvel at turquoise water, golden beaches, mountain peaks, orchards and vineyards.
On the outskirts of Nelson, Cable Bay Adventure Park offers the longest Skywire in the world, horse riding, quad biking, paintballing and archery or, during winter, a visit to Rainbow Ski Area provides wide slopes and well-maintained trails for beginners, while advanced skiers and snowboarders can challenge themselves on the high powder runs and chutes.
Nelson is also highly regarded for its boutique wineries in the region, located among the hills and plains crafting elegant New Zealand wines. Benefiting from a sunny, maritime climate, the picturesque valley vineyards of Nelson Tasman yield some of New Zealand's most freshly scented, intensely flavoured Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as vibrant Pinot Noir. Journey into the countryside and meet the winemakers at their cellar doors, enjoy lunch at one of the vineyard cafes, or simply sample wine to take home for your cellar. Here, you can admire the craftsmanship of local artisans, peruse art exhibitions and stay in luxurious vineyard accommodation overlooking breathtaking views in the picturesque countryside of Nelson.