Nelson may be small, but it’s really a cool town filled with excellent cafes, restaurants, and pubs. While the town itself is super small, the area is enveloped by wonderful mountains and beaches, plus it also serves as the gateway for Abel Tasman National Park. There’s not much to do here but it makes for a great base to explore the area from. This guide will help you plan your stay.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Nelson
1. Explore Abel Tasman National Park
2. Visit Founders Heritage Park
3. Take a wine tour
4. Go hiking
5. Wander the Nelson Market
Other Things to See and Do
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1. 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, so if you’re an art fan then be sure to stop by. Admission is free.
2. See the Miyazu Japanese Garden
Inspired by Nelson’s sister city Miyazu in Japan, this is a traditional Japanese garden that’s perfect for a quiet and contemplative stroll. During the spring, cherry blossoms bloom, which is a beautiful sight to see. Entry is free.
3. 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. Admission is 5 NZD for adults and 3 NZD for children.
4. Play Pool at the Shark 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.
5. Visit WOW
WOW (The World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars) is a unique museum, showcasing work from a local artist. It also hosts an annual fashion show that draws thousands of people. There is an array of unique designs and creations from tons of designers. Admission is 24 NZD for adults. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and children.
6. 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.
7. Visit Farewell Spit
At the northernmost point on the South Island, Farewell Spit 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. Various tours are available so prices will vary, however, you can expect to pay around 150 NZD.
8. 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.