The 10 Best Things to Do and See in Nelson

Photo of Karmi Chan
9 February 2017

Situated on the idyllic eastern shores of Tasman Bay, Nelson is the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand. A dynamic hub of arts and culture, Nelson annually hosts the Nelson Arts Festival, an extravaganza of music, comedy, dance and theater, and is the home of the Wearable Art Awards, an international fashion event where designers enter wearable works of art. And if visitors aren’t artistically inclined, there’s a wealth of charming gardens to amble in, markets to peruse and breweries to enjoy. Here’s our guide to the 10 best things to see and experience in the region.

Nelson, New Zealand I | © Iris Liu/Flickr

Nelson Market

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Organic food stall at Nelson Market
© Tim Cuff / Alamy Stock Photo
Every Saturday in Montgomery Square, Nelson Market comes alive with enthusiastic vendors and visitors. From fresh, tasty produce to handmade crafts, the market has a stall for everything, each with its own expert stall holder eager to share their passion for their products. Established for more than 30 years now, the event is a much-loved opportunity for people to socialize and enjoy a creative, uplifting atmosphere – it’s even had a royal visit from Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Opening hours: Sat, 8am-1pm

World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum

Since its opening in 2001, the World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum has been a popular tourist attraction in Nelson, New Zealand, showcasing an array of vintage vehicles and a plethora of artwork that has been designed to be worn. The WearableArt gallery is home to 60 World of WearableArt garments, including extravagant headwear, flamboyant masks and colorful costumes, many of which are award-winning pieces. The car collection is spectacular, an exhibit of classic automobiles in mint condition, including shiny Cadillac Coupe de Villes and Pierce-Arrow sedans. The World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum is a gem unique to Nelson, and a must-see when in the area.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 10am-5pm

Address & telephone number: Cadillac Way, Annesbrook, New Zealand, +64 3-547 4573

Harwoods Hole Walk

For all the daredevils visiting Nelson, Harwoods Hole Walk is an adventure well worth experiencing, a trek that takes participants through the depths of a mystical beech forest, over boulders and limestone rocks and through stunning scenery, before its culmination at a giant, echoing sinkhole. This is an arresting sight, a natural hole measuring 176 meters deep, making it New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft. The sinkhole drops to an underground river that flows into Gorge Creek, before continuing into the Takaka river. This is a popular site among cavers, and if you’re lucky you might even get to see a group descending down the rockface. There are no barriers around this natural landscape, so make sure to be careful as you approach the hole.

Address & telephone number: Takaka Hill, Nelson, New Zealand

Gardens of the World

Boasting six acres of beautiful gardens, Gardens of the World showcases rare and exquisite plants in Nelson for all to enjoy. Laid out in contrasting sectors, each garden zone represents a different continent or gardening style, and includes an African garden brimming with aloes, and an English area full of roses in bloom. The venue offers spectacular views of the nearby lake, and is home to the Pohutukawa tree, also known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 9am-8pm

Address & telephone number: 95 Clover Road, Hope, New Zealand, +64 3-542 3736

Vortex Wind Karting

Vortex Wind Karting offers exciting adventures for visitors of all ages. Come here to learn how to sail a blokart, a three-wheeled land kart, which uses a sail to catch the wind and propel excited drivers along the ground. The blokart is controlled easily by hand, and can be smoothly navigated with relatively little skill. Before starting any journey Vortex Wind Karting provide a full, detailed safety tutorial, so even if the word blokart has only just been added to your vocabulary, you’re sure to master the art of wind karting in no time at all.

Address & telephone number: 384 Lower Queen Street, Richmond Park, Nelson 7041, New Zealand, +64 3-544 7181

Natureland Zoo

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Kakariki | ©Sid Mosdell/Flickr
Working to protect and preserve New Zealand’s native species, Natureland Zoo is a wonderful home to many creatures including the tuatara, kea and kakariki. And it acts as a home to exotic animals from all over the world too, including the pygmy marmoset, Nepalese yak, and the agouti. The perfect destination for a day of family fun, this is a top spot in which to learn about Natureland’s conservation efforts while enjoying all the wonderful animals this zoo has to offer.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 9:30am-4:30pm

Miyazu Garden

Transporting visitors into a world of serenity, Miyazu Garden makes for a wonderful day filled with idyllic peace and quiet. Full of reflective ponds, beautiful fountains and unspoiled foliage, Miyazu Garden should definitely be on every visitor’s list of places to stop at when in Nelson. Upon entering the garden you’ll find yourself in front of a Dragon Pond, where an amazing 30-year-old bonsai tree sits majestically. An afternoon spent strolling through Miyazu Garden makes for a relaxing activity, and is well worth your time.

Address & telephone number: The Wood, Nelson, New Zealand

McCashin’s Brewery

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Rochdale Cider
Rochdale Cider | ©Taubin/Flickr
McCashin’s Brewery is an extremely popular Nelson drinking spot renowned for its wide assortment of Stoke beers and fruity Rochdale ciders. Priding themselves on their innovative experimentation with original beverages, McCashin’s Brewery has been taking drinks to the next level since the early 1980s. The venue also serves many non-alcoholic options, including a zingy ginger ale and a zesty homemade lemonade. Enjoy a tour of McCashin’s Brewery to learn the interesting history of the facility and to sample a range of the tantalizing beer brews on offer.

Opening hours: Mon-Wed, 7am-6pm, Thurs-Sat, 7am-9pm, Sun, 7am-6pm


Tahunanui, nicknamed Nelson’s gem by the sea, is a stunning stretch of sand ideal for jogging, windsurfing, swimming and tanning. As well as golden shores and crystal waters, the area offers many tourist attractions and activities including surfing, paddleboarding and rollerskating. Tahunanui is also home to an array of quaint cafes, restaurants and bars, making this spot the perfect place to spend the entire day with family or friends.

Address & telephone number: Tahunanui, Nelson, New Zealand

The Abel Tasman National Park Coast Track

For a wonderful day out immersed in the unparalleled scenery of New Zealand, the Abel Tasman National Park Coast Track should be your top choice when in Nelson. A favorite walk popular with locals and tourists alike, this trail offers stunning views of the coast, scenic treks through lush forest and panoramic viewpoints of the turquoise sea and fine sand of the area. The track itself is in good condition and is easy to follow, and the entire trail takes around three to five days to complete, so make sure to bring some sturdy walking boots.

Address & telephone number: Upper Moutere, Nelson, New Zealand, +64 3-528 4044

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