TOP 9 Must-See in Nelson, New Zealand

We have reached Nelson! Nelson is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, and it is also the geographical centre of New Zealand with the highest number of sunny days among all the cities in this country! At first Nelson was inhabited by Maori, and Nelson’s Maori name, Whakatū, means “build”, “raise”, or “establish”. Nelson`s economy is based on the “big five” industries, which are seafood, horticulture, forestry, farming and tourism. Port Nelson is actually the biggest fishing port in New Zealand! Moreover, tourism is a big thing as there is so much to see here! And now it`s time for the TOP 9 Must-See places in Nelson!

1. Nelson Sunday Market

In Nelson Sunday Market you will find many local goods. This weekly market provides an opportunity to purchase many interesting things, including arts and crafts directly from the locals who have created them. Also, here you will be able to see painters, sculptors, ceramicists and others at work. Find locally-made cheese and bread, locally grown vegetables and gourmet foods!

2. Nelson Museum and Art Gallery

Nelson is home to amazing museums and art galleries, and here are two that we really recommend you to visit. One is The Nelson Provincial Museum that showcases Nelson and Tasman regions’ history. It is New Zealand`s oldest museum with a huge collection of historic artefacts like photography, Maori art and archives that will tell you the story. Here you will get to know the natural and human history of Nelson.

Bishop Suter Memorial Art Gallery is the public art gallery that also includes a theatre, cafe and store. It`s said that this gallery at the moment is the oldest continuously used gallery in all the country! It is also registered as a historic place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and no wonder – the exhibition there is amazing! Moreover, volunteer tour guides will introduce you to the history of the gallery as well as reveal some secrets about the artworks and artists! This is definitely a place to visit!

3. Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is the city`s icon, located on Church Hill or Piki Mai. The church has been constantly enlarged, and the last construction finished in 1965. At first the church was made of marble sourced from the Pakikiruna Range, but after the Murchison earthquake this was claimed to be too risky and too expensive, so the marble was ground down and mixed with plaster to give the church its unusual appearance and colour. And the steps that lead to the church up the hill are constructed from granite that was obtained from Tonga Beach, which is now part of Abel Tasman National Park.

4. Parks and Gardens

Nelson is sunny and green, therefore it`s just a perfect place where to enjoy the parks and gardens!

The Miyazu Garden represents Nelson’s relationships with its Japanese sister city. Decorated bridges between the bamboo spouts over reflective ponds – that is a nice scenery! Here you will find a stone basin that historically was used for ritual cleansing before the tea ceremony and a kinetic fountain – originally used in gardens to keep the wild animals out. The park is not that big, but a beautiful one!

Queen’s Garden is an example of a classical Victorian ornamental park. Queen’s Gardens formally opened in 1892 to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and were designed around a food gathering place for the Maori. There are information plates all around which will show you the garden`s history. Also, enjoy the diverse plant and tree collection, and the park’s sculptures, which include The Cupid Fountain, the Water Wheel, the Boer War memorial and Sentinel.

Founders Heritage Park is a museum that houses a mix of donated original buildings and historic replicas. This is a replica historic village of colonial days, dating from 1880-1930. Founders Heritage Park can be called as a miniature township, filled with character streets and serene gardens. There are also different shows organized, markets and festivals.

5. Beaches

Tahunanui Beach is the main beach in Nelson. It`s a perfect beach to enjoy the gentle waves and long white-sand shores.

Kaiteriteri Beach is 60 km from Nelson, also with clean golden sand and calm blue waters.

In a 15-minute-drive from Richmond, you will find this beautiful 13-km stretch of beach – Rabbit Island. Rabbit Island is the largest group of sandy islands lying in the Waimea Estuary at the head of Tasman Bay.

You will find a list of other beaches around the area – Grossi Point, Tahi Street, Mapua; Kina Recreation Reserve, Cliff Road, Tasman; Tapu Bay Reserve, Tapu Place, Stephens Bay; Stephens Bay Reserve, Anawera Crescent, Stephens Bay; Breaker Bay, Breaker Bay, Kaiteriteri; Ligar Bay Reserve, Ligar Bay, Golden Bay; Tata Beach Reserve, Tata Beach, Golden Bay; Miles Reserve, Parapara Bishops Road, Parapara, Golden Bay; Tomatea Point, Pakawau Beach Road, Golden Bay; Cornwall Place Reserve, Tata Beach, Golden Bay.

6. Nelson Boulder Bank

When visiting Nelson you most likely will notice a long sand line in the water. That is Nelson`s Boulder Bank.  Boulder Banks are internationally rare, but this one stretches for 13 kilometres from MacKay Bluff to the Nelson’s harbour.  The Boulder Bank is a unique and unusual landform, comprised of a rock known as granodiorite which comes from MacKay Bluff, and it`s home to rare coastal plant species and shorebirds like banded dotterel, red-billed gull and white-fronted tern.

7. Abel Tasman National Park

Of course, if you are already in Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park is the one that everyone will be recommending you. So we won`t skip this either. This is New Zealand’s smallest national park, claimed to be a costal paradise.

The national park is accessible from Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the South, and from Golden Bay and Totaranui in the North. It is covering an area of 237 km2. The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a super-popular hiking track that follows the coastline. It is one of the Department of Conservation Great Walks! So keep in mind that you might not be the only person there, but joining hundreds of hikers! If you do not carry a tent, book a shack in advance!

You can choose to explore the park from land, on the water, or in the air – cruises, water taxi services, kayaking options, heli-tours and sailing catamarans are all there for you! Crystal clear streams join in the ocean while granite and marble formations lead you the way. You will be accompanied with native wildlife like Tui, bellbird and little blue penguins!

8. Walking Trails

There are also some hiking trails around the town.

Marina Walk1 1½ hours around Port Nelson, starting from Millers Acre Centre, corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets.

The Bridges Walk – 40 60 minutes around Nelson Central, starting from Millers Acre Centre, corner of Trafalgar and Halifax Streets.

Willow Walk 4060 minutes around Nelson Central, starting from Brook Street playground.

Wellington Walk 30 45 minutes around Nelson Central, starting from Montgomery Square Car Park.

Miyazu Gardens & North Rd Playground 30 50 minutes around Atawhai, starting from the Miyazu Japanese Gardens on Atawhai Drive.

Trevor Horne Heritage Trail 1 hour around Central City, starting from the back of the Cathedral on Trafalgar Street.

Three Gardens Walk 1 3 hours around Nelson Central starting from the top of Trafalgar Street at the Church Steps, the focal point of Nelson’s inner city.

Maitai Walkway & Lower Botanics 40 60 minutes around Nelson Central, starting from Millers Acre Centre, corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets.

Washington Walk 50 80 minutes around Washington Valley, starting from Anzac Park, corner of Halifax and Rutherford Streets.

Sir Stanley Whitehead Walk 2 1/2 3 hours around Nelson East, starting from Branford Park, approximately 500m on the left from the start of Maitai Valley Road

9. The Centre of New Zealand

The Centre of New Zealand is another hiking trail in the town, but this is a very special one – yeah, you can reach the very centre of the country! It is a 30 60 minutes-long hike around the Nelson Central, starting from The Botanical Reserve. This is one of Nelson`s most popular walks as on the top of the hill you will be able to find not only a monument to this special place, but also stunning scenery and information panels of Nelson`s geography.

Enjoy this sunny city on the top of the New Zealand`s South Island!


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