Although a relatively small town, Nelson holds the status of being New Zealand’s second city. It also holds the title of being one of the countries most beautiful cities, and is lucky enough to boarder the Abel Tasman National Park. Being located on the coast has given Nelson a nautical flavour, which is reflected in its street names, shops and residents. Its Maori name, Whakatu, can be translated as “the place where you dump broken canoes”! The city also has a vibrant arts scene, and it is packed with galleries, craft shops and attractions relating to its heritage. The topography of the area comprises of golden beaches and tidal estuaries, which makes walking around the region a delight. Its outstanding climate rewards it with being the sunniest place in New Zealand, enjoying over 2,400 hours of sunshine a year. Combined with the areas fame for good food and wine, Nelson offers the ideal destination on any trip.


The Christ Church Cathedral is Nelson’s most important building. Its neo-Gothic architecture makes it stand out from the buildings which boarder it, and its construction was surrounded by much debate. The site on which it was built was a former residence to a survey base, fort and immigration barracks, and remains of the old fort can be seen near the entrance of the cathedral. It is located at the top of Trafalgar Street, which is the city’s main street, which includes colonial era houses and gardens containing plantings made by the Dalai Lama.

The Suter Art Gallery houses one of New Zealand’s most important permanent art collections. This includes paintings by the founder of New Zealand’s modern art scene, Sir Tosswill Woolaston, as well as collections from Frances Hodgkins and Colin McCahon. The gallery also has changing exhibitions, live performances and films, as well as a collection of Maori art, and thus the variety of its material means that it is an ideal representative of the area’s arts scene. For information about current and forthcoming exhibitions log on to

Nelson Lakes National Park is located just over an hours drive from the city and is one of the country’s most stunning parks. The twin lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa, were both formed by glaciers and are filled with reflecting, crystal blue waters. The lakes are popular with fishers, and can also be used for sailing, swimming, kayaking or just as a visual delight. In winter, the area is used for ski touring and climbing. Walks are detailed at all times of the year, but during the summer months the two-day walk to Lake Angelus is recommended, although it does include high altitudes.

The city is filled with an abundance of various artists, including glass blowers, ceramic artists, and craft designers, who own studios and workshops. Due to its size, it is possible to wonder around Nelson and discover the arts and craft galleries that are dotted around the city.

Two km from the town is the Founders Historic Park. This outdoor museum aims to recreate a typical nineteenth century village, complete with bakery, wind-powered flourmill and traditional craft shops.

The highlight of this area is the Abel Tasman National Park, named after the Dutch navigator who came to the region. Although it is one of the country’s smallest parks, what it lacks in size it makes up in beauty and it is possible to loose several days here soaking up the sights. On land, the walks around the park take you over mountains and along golden sand beaches. Kayaking is the best way to explore the islands and bays of the park. Guides can be arranged for beginners, which can range from an hour to half a day, for example Kaiteriteri Kayaks. These will lead you to the best spots to find seals and dolphins, as well as the areas most spectacular scenery. Kayaks can also be rented for independent exploring, however care must always be taken in this ecologically sensitive area. To find out more information about walks in the area, visit the Tourist Information Centre in Nelson or see


Nelson Market is held every weekend in Montgomery Square. A plethora of goods, ranging from flowers to sushi, can be purchased from sunrise to sunset, and all residents come to shop and chat. Craft shops cover the city, as well as a few well-known chain shops. Richmond Shopping Mall is a fifteen-minute drive from Nelson. It is the largest mall in the South Island, containing a huge number of retail and lifestyle shops.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Although Nelson only contains a handful of restaurants, these all specialise in fresh seafood at reasonable prices. The outstanding views across the waters offer no better place to enjoy fish caught that day, coupled with wine that was produced in the region. There are a few pubs in the city, but Nelson is not known for its nightlife and the city is usually quiet long before midnight.

Tourist Information

  • Latitude Nelson, Level 1, Millers Acre Centre - Taha o te Awa, 75 Trafalgar Street, Nelson, New Zealand
  • Tel: +64 3 548 2304
  • Fax: +64 3 545 6850
  • Email:
  • Website:


Located only a fifteen-minute drive from the city, Nelson Regional Airport has links with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as a few smaller towns based in the provinces.