Nelson : Tasman

Thanks to the year-round sunshine and the shelter provided by the mountains, the Nelson Tasman region basks in a balmy Mediterranean-style climate. 

There’s something for everyone here, especially if you love art, wine and the great outdoors.

This laid back, scenic area is a hotbed of creativity and it is home to more than 300 artists. It’s often referred to as the Creative Arts Centre of New Zealand. This region also hosts a number of exciting arts events, such as the Nelson Arts Festival (Nelson is also the name of the main city in the region).

There are also other events held throughout the year, such as New Zealand’s longest running annual Kite Festival.

Visitors from around the globe flock here to visit one or more of the national parks that have some of the most incredible natural landscapes on earth, and house some of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’.

Whether you’re horseback riding on Wharariki Beach, shopping at the quirky boutiques of downtown Nelson or hiking along the jewel-like lakes of Nelson Lakes National Park – you’ll quickly fall in love with the Nelson-Tasman region.

Nelson Lakes

Activities & Attractions


The cuisine in Nelson-Tasman reflects a love of the abundant natural ingredients of the region, as well as a curiosity, playfulness and willingness to experiment with new flavours.

Check out Harry’s – a local favourite with an exciting Asian-fusion menu, great cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere. The Tides is also a great place for fine dining, offering views of the river and elegant presentation.

If you really want to treat yourself to a special night out, head to Hopgoods where you will find an impressive wine list, superb European-style cuisine and a sophisticated setting.


Take a stroll along stunning tracks that wind through sandy beaches, lush forests and breathtaking oceanside cliffs.

The world famous 51km track around Abel Tasman National Park can be broken up into smaller sections, perfect for adventurous day walks.

Also, one of the other “Great Walks” of New Zealand is located in the Nelson Tasman region – the Heaphy Track.

Or, there are easy hikes such as the Wainui Falls Track, which will take you to a picturesque waterfall in a quiet native forest in only 1.5 hours.

National Parks

In the Nelson Tasman region you will find not one, but three gorgeous national parks.

Nelson Lakes National Park, Kahurangi National Park and Abel Tasman National Park are all within a 90 minute drive from Nelson City.

These parks are absolutely worth exploring, as they offer soft golden sand beaches and quiet walkways through pristine forests. Whether you explore them in a kayak or on foot, you’ll be swept away by the natural beauty (pictured, Nelson Lakes National Park).

Nelson Lakes National Park


The Nelson Saturday Market has been operating for 40 years and it is a great place to shop every Saturday. Plus, there’s also the Motueka Sunday Market which is a community hub that provides a meeting place and a means for local artisans and producers to sell their wares.

If you’re looking for handcrafted jewelry or clothing, home décor, gifts and more, the town centres of Richmond, Nelson, Mapua, Takaka and Motueka have a number of thriving shops.

For big brand name shopping, Richmond Mall in Nelson city has 22,000 square metres of retail space.


The Nelson Provincial Museum brings the past to life with fossilized skeletons and full-size models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures who once roamed the earth.

You can also visit the WOW Museum – the World of Wearable Art. This intriguing museum showcases impressive examples of the collision between art and fashion. Plus, it’s also home to a collection of more than 140 vintage classic cars.

History & Culture

The Nelson Region of New Zealand was settled by the Maori people in the 12th century and it was known to them as the Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui. This translates to “The Prow of the Canoe of Maui.”

In 1642 Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, arrived into Golden Bay. Although the Tasman region bears his name, he never actually set food on land – due to a skirmish with local Maori people in which four of his crew were killed. Hence, the Dutch called this area Murderer’s Bay and stayed away – heading instead to the North Island.

Captain James Cook arrived in the Nelson region in 1770, landing at Queen Charlotte Sound and Ship Cove (these names were given by Cook). He only stayed for a few weeks, making repairs to The Endeavor and re-stocking supplies.

European settlement eventually occurred when the English arrived in the 1840s. The town of Nelson is named after Lord Horatio Nelson, who fought Napoleon in 1805 in the Battle of Trafalgar. Many of the streets and public places in the city are named after the battle – such as Trafalgar Street.

In 1858 Nelson was proclaimed a Bishop’s See and a city by Queen Victoria.

Key Facts

Getting around Nelson city can be done quite easily on the NBus service, which covers most of the suburbs and regular connections between Nelson and Richmond. You can pick up a timetable at the i-Site Visitor Centre or visit the website.
Nelson city is at the geographical centre of New Zealand. (Well, technically the exact centre is in a forest in Spooner’s Range – 35 kilometres south-west of Nelson.)
The Nelson-Tasman region has some of the best climate in New Zealand and often tops the lists of the sunniest spots in the country. It gets an average of over 2400 hours of sunshine every year.
The Te Waikoropupu Springs in Golden Bay are thought to be the world’s clearest freshwater springs.
Nelson Rugby Club is the oldest rugby club in New Zealand.
In Kahurangi National Park you can explore the largest and deepest caverns that have ever been explored in the southern hemisphere.
Nelson has a Lord of the Rings connection. The “One Ring” used in the film trilogy was crafted by a local jeweler and replicas can be purchased from his store.
Nelson : Tasman with MoaTrek
Our tours that visit Nelson include the following;

Two nights in Nelson allowing time to explore the town and the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Golden Sands of Kaiteriteri beach – the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park (swim or spot seals and dolphins!)
Choose between a full scenic cruise or walk a section of the coastal track.

Tours You'll Love

Kakapo 21 Day Tour

The ultimate New Zealand small group itinerary, this is the very best of our country. Milford Sound, Queenstown, Mt Cook, Abel Tasman, Tongariro, Rotorua, the Bay of Islands and a few more surprises. Small friendly groups led by our expert Kiwi Guides.
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