Nelson is considered the sunniest place in the country. It’s filled with excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs. The area is surrounded by great mountains that have good hiking. There are beautiful beaches in the area and Nelson serves as the gateway for Abel Tasman National Park. The place often gets looked over as people just use it as a base into the park but it deserves two or three days as there are a lot of activities to do and the locals are very outgoing and friendly.
- Hostel Prices: Hostel dorms in New Zealand cost between $19-23 USD per night while private rooms begin at $60 USD.
- Budget Hotel Prices: Budget hotels begin around $58 USD per night.
- Average Cost of Food: A restaurant meal with table service can cost about $20. If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend about $35-50 per week. You can find sandwiches for $5 and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King will cost between $6-10. Drinks at the bar will cost around $5.
- Transportation Costs: The main bus terminal is located in Wakatu Square between Ajax Avenue and Bridge Street. Many hostels offer free bike rentals to get around.
Money Saving Tips
- Hike for free - The park has great hiking trails set out which may be the best attraction in and around Nelson. Those are always free. Plus, not a budget tip, but a good one none the less: – take good insect repellent, or the sand flies will eat you alive!
Top Things to Do
- Visit Abel Tasman National Park – The beautiful beaches and azure blue water feel like they belong in the tropics rather than New Zealand. The hiking is beautiful, with giant ferns, trees and a great climate. There are a lot of one to three-day hikes here. But if you really want to see this park, kayak around. This lets you explore the tiny little coves and beaches which make the area so special.
- Stop by the Suter Art Gallery – New Zealand’s third largest art museum has an impressive collection with works by many Kiwi artists. There are quite a few good paintings here.
- Go hiking – The mountains around Nelson provide many opportunities for great hiking. The trails are well-marked and many start right from the city.
- Explore the Nelson Market – Operating all year round in the Montgomery Square carpark on Saturdays, stalls overflow with local fresh organic vegetables, fruit and flowers, locally-farmed organic salmon and many kinds of crafts including silk painting, jewelry, pottery, weaving and wood turning.
- See the Miyazu Japanese Garden – Inspired by Nelson’s sister city Miyazu in Japan, this is a traditional Japanese garden and perfect for a quiet and contemplative stroll. During the spring, cherry blossoms bloom.
- Take a Wine Tour - There are over 23 wineries around Nelson. After all the hiking, trekking, and kayaking, go do a nice relaxing tour of the wineries. They make great white wine in this area of New Zealand.
- Visit Founders Heritage Park – Located near the city center, this park is host to a replica historical village, complete with museums, a brewery, a bakery, a chocolate shop, and plenty more. There is lots to tour through, a ton of tasty, organic beer to try, and some pretty good food to eat.
- Go to Nelson Provincial Museum – This is the crowning museum in Nelson. An unusually modern spot, this space is home to an array of cultural heritage exhibits and natural history displays. There is usually a rotating main exhibit, featuring major works from across the world.
- Play Pool at Shark’s Club – This is a great little pub where locals tend to hang out. The food is pretty cheap, there are several pool tables, and games are free during happy hour.
- Visit WOW, The World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars – This is a unique museum, showcasing work from a local, annual fashion show that draws thousands of people. There is an array of unique designs and creations from tons of designers.
- Swim in Mapua Leisure Park – Just outside of Nelson, this is a clothing-optional outdoor park open in February and March. There are some great swimming spots (in addition to a pool), sporting areas, a café, and a sauna/spa set up.
- Visit Farewell Split – At the northernmost point on the South Island, Farewell split is a strip of natural land that runs into the sea. It’s a large bird sanctuary, with over 90 species that you can view by arranging a 4WD tour from one of the operators in Collingwood.
- Learn about Glassblowing - For something different, consider stopping by Hoglund Art Glass Studio. The owners have been mastering the art of glassblowing for over a decade and have garnered an international reputation for their work. They have set up a gallery and small museum to showcase their art and give visitors a glimpse at the glassblowing process with daily demonstrations.