The epicentre of the bustling mix of the region lies in the heart of New Zealand’s second-oldest city, Nelson. Perched on the eastern shoes of Tasman Bay, it’s a vibrant and colourful city with a soft spot for alternative lifestyles. Here, natural health therapists, multicultural cafés and art galleries sit nestled among studios, Buddhist centres and gorgeous old Victorian houses. The arts scene is alive and kicking, from traditional to contemporary and Maori art, thanks to more than 350 working artists and craftspeople who call this city home. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the fresh local seafood while you’re here, or the Nelson Saturday Outdoor Market, a one stop shop for food, jewellery and local crafts.
But a trip to Nelson isn’t complete without exploring the wider region. Beyond the urban sprawl of the city, the coast and hills are packed with both relaxing and adrenalin-pumping adventures. For some fun in the water, head to the sandy beaches of Cable Bay, Golden Bay or Tahunanui. Sprawl out along a beach towel after a dip in the salty waters, and always keep your eyes peeled for seal colonies and little blue penguins bobbing in the water or hiding behind rocks along the shoreline. For something completely unique, head inland to Takaka to check out the impeccably clear waters of New Zealand’s largest freshwater springs.
For more land action, indulge in the local vineyards in the hills. With award-winning wines and tonnes of fresh local produce, as well as a number of boutique breweries, gourmet travellers will not be disappointed. Continue heading inland and watch the landscape transform into the craggy peaks, forested valleys and stunning glacial lakes of the Nelson Lakes National Park. An outdoor paradise in the northernmost part of the Southern Alps, you can ski the slopes in winter, hike the trails in summer and paddle the waters of the lakes all year round. You may prefer the (equally impressive) lush forests, sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons of Abel Tasman National Park, or the spectacular marble and karst land forms, alpine meadows, craggy ranges and rugged coastline of Kahurangi National Park. Both sidle up against the coastline and are home to one of the ‘Great Walks’ of New Zealand.
From the bustling city centre of Nelson, with its artsy culture, relaxed attitude and vibrant community life, to the sun-drenched beaches, alpine peaks and glacial lakes on its doorstep, the Nelson region is fun, relaxing and beautiful all at once. Five hours from Christchurch and an hour-and-a-half from Blenheim, be sure to add this stop to your New Zealand South Island holiday itinerary. Check out our Nelson hotels below!