Nelson is a small city located at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. This area is one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. Nelson has a nice vibe and is a popular holiday and retirement destination due to its high sunsine hours. It has a good market on Saturday mornings.
Alcohol fans will be right at home in Nelson and the nearby province, Marlborough. These areas are famous for producing some of New Zealand’s best wines, notably the Seifried Estate and others.
Abel Tasman National Park
The highlight of the Nelson region is a National Park extending along the coast from Motueka to Takaka. It is named after the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, the first European to visit New Zealand in 1642. It is a beautiful park home to native forest (called “the bush” in New Zealand terminology) and birds. You can hike (called “tramping” in New Zealand terminology) the park in 3 leisurely days, staying in camp grounds. There is also a lodge with cafe at the Araroa beach. Alternatively, you can make days walks, take a water taxi (i.e. boat) from the start of the park at Marahau or the gorgeous village of Kaiteriteri, or kayak into secluded beaches. Even in the summer high season, the park is never crowded.
The Marlborough Sounds are a series of sea-drowned valleys in the north of the south island. The picturesque sounds are quite remote and difficult to reach by car. The main town in the region is Picton, a port from which you can take the Cook Strait ferry to Nelson. The ferry travels through the Queen Charlotte Sound to reach Picton.
Further east from the Abel Tasman National Park is Golden Bay. It extends in an arc-shape from Takaka along to Collingwood to the most northern tip of the South Island, Farewell Spit. As a side trip from Takaka, you can visit the Te Waikoropupu springs, known for their crystal-clear water.
Nelson Lakes National Parks
About an hour and a half drive south of Nelson is the Nelson Lakes National Park. There are 2 main lakes, Lake Rotoriti and Lake Rotoroa. It is a very peaceful and remote area with lots of hiking opportunities. There can go skiing in the nearby ski field, the Rainbow Ski area.