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Visiting Nelson and the Abel Tasman


Updated 11 January 2017

We love spending time down in the South Island and one of our favourite places to visit is Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park. Nelson is often fighting it out for the title of New Zealand’s sunniest city which makes it a pretty awesome place to visit all year round. Summer is definitely one of our favourites though and as we make our way north from the colder climates of Queenstown and Wanaka there is so much to look forward to on our arrival to Nelson.

With so much to see, do and explore we wanted to give you a run down of some of the best things to do in Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.

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Nelson’s Warm Climate

The city of Nelson is not only the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, it’s also a pretty awesome place! Although Nelson recently lost its title as sunshine capital of New Zealand (this honour now belongs to Blenheim), it’s still a pretty sunny place to visit any time of the year. Although it is well known for being the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson actually has 3 national parks on its doorstep, all within a 90 minute drive which is pretty cool.

Walkers’ paradise

Nelson is a great place to base yourself if you are a keen walker. With two of New Zealand’s Great Walks on the doorstep and a wealth of other stunning walking tracks for people of all abilities, it’s a cracking place to set up camp and head out to explore the beautiful and diverse landscapes.

Image looking down over Nelson on one of the stunning walks

The Abel Tasman National Park is perhaps the most well-known of the national parks and the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a wonderful 3-5 day walk taking you around the coastline of the national park. In the nearby Kahurangi National Park, you can take on the challenge of the Heaphy Track, another of New Zealand’s Great Walks and the longest at just shy of 75kms. There are of course lots of walking tracking in both of these national parks and they are wonderful places to explore.

The third of the National Parks within close proximity to Nelson is the Nelson Lakes National Park. This offers up some real diverse landscape from the majestic mountains to the lakeside walks. The whole area really is a walker’s paradise and is one of our favourite places to go and get lost (not literally) for a few days.

Outdoor adventures

It’s not just the walkers who have lots of fun in Nelson. There are heaps of outdoor activities which you can get involved with from sea kayaking to cycling. As well as being home to two Great Walks, Nelson is also home to two Great Rides (Tasman’s Great Taste Trail and Dun Mountain Trail) and is a bit of a mecca for cyclists in New Zealand. The International Mountain Bicycling Association recently voted Nelson as a Gold Ride Centre – one of only 6 in the world so it’s easy to see why cyclists flock here in their droves.

Image of people kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

Craft beer capital

Although they may have lost their sunniest place in New Zealand title, there is no doubting the fact that Nelson is definitely the craft beer capital of New Zealand as well as having some great vineyards too. With more craft breweries per head (11) than anywhere else in New Zealand, it’s easy to see why beer-lovers head to Nelson for their fix of ‘real ale’.  The annual Marchfest event sees every brewery showcase a brand new beer for the first time at the event, making it a pretty unique experience for festival-goers.

Image of the beer taps at Marchfest, Nelson

The city itself is rich in culinary delights with many of the restaurants serving local beer and wine as well as locally sourced produce. They’re very proud and passionate about their wonderful food and drink in the region and you should definitely embrace it whilst you are down in these parts.

Hobbit fans

If all this outdoor adventure is a bit much, then there are plenty of more sedate activities. One of our favourites is to hunt out the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming destinations and do a bit of re-enactment! There are heaps of scenes that were filmed in these parts from Takaka Hill to the Pelorus River. You can also track down the One Ring Jeweller, Jens Hansen who still has a shop in Nelson where you can go and ‘forge’ your own piece of LOTR history.

You can find out more about the filming locations in one of our previous blogs.

Nelson on Instagram

Nelson is definitely a place to take your camera as you can see by some of our images above. You can also follow some pretty cool people on Instagram if you want to get a feel for things to do in and around Nelson and just how beautiful this place really is.

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GO Play activities in this area

  • 10% Off

    Kayak & Cruises

    They are the only company to offer the full range of options: walking, sea kayaking, boat cruise, water taxi and the only lodge accommodation right on the beach within the boundaries of the National Park. See The Best of Abel Tasman National Park with them!

    2 Inlet Road, Kaiteriteri. Tel : 03 528 2027

  • 10% Off

    Aqua Taxi*

    "Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi provides water taxi trips, sea shuttle services, pack/luggage transport and scenic cruises in the Abel Tasman National Park. Commitment to customer satisfaction combined with experienced drivers who have awesome local knowledge give you the ultimate journey into the park! * Not applicable on kayak rental, accommodation and shop"

    275 Sandy Bay, Marahau. Tel : 03 527 8083