A locals guide: Nelson Tasman's best brunch spots

A locals guide: Nelson Tasman's best brunch spots

Posted on Wednesday 15 June 2022

For some reason, the combination of breakfast and lunch is a classic illustration of the 'better together' concept, igniting excitement in the lucky recipients of brunch invitations. But the topic of brunch is also hotly contested, and it seems everyone has their own idea of what the word 'brunch' really means. 

In my quest to discover the best brunch spots around Nelson Tasman, I’ve heard it all. To me, brunch is a meal eaten between 10am-12pm, and it must be cooked. If I’m having cereal for brunch, it isn't brunch - it's breakfast. Friends challenged me with their own definitions; that breakfast at any time of the day is called brunch, that the window of time is in fact much smaller, that it only counts as brunch on weekends or that only big breakfasts can be classified as brunch. It seems that brunch is a touchy subject, and I gave up on getting to the bottom of it when words such as brinner, lupper and dunch started being thrown around.

So, although we're not quite sure exactly what the word itself means, we asked some of our Nelson Tasman locals to share their favourite brunch spots from around the region.

East St Cafe & Bar – Nelson

"Unbelievably good plant based food and a vibrant, modern atmosphere. (Toy dinosaurs as table numbers? Yes please!)" - Laura Bruce

Waffles, turmeric crepes and mushrooms on toast - you're spoilt for choice when it comes to hearty, vegan brunch options at East St Cafe & Bar. Their food packs a whole lot of flavour, and the atmosphere is pretty great too! East St is yet another Nelson Tasman gem nestled down a side street in the city centre.

Food on table

Photo: East St Cafe & Bar

The Boat Shed – Nelson

"Always enjoy great food with a spectacular view on the deck out back over the water" - Vikki Challies

"For brunch, there’s nothing better than The Boathouse’s delicious Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms" - Tina Hamilton

The Boat Shed is somewhat of a Nelson Tasman institution, a favourite for locals since way way back. This seaside cafe overlooks the calm waters of Tasman Bay, so if you're looking for brunch with a view you'll find what you're looking for here. Savour the taste of fresh, simple ingredients as you enjoy the views of Fifeshire Rock, Haulashore Island and The Boulder Bank.

Seaside restaurant The Boat Shed in Nelson

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

Bobby Franks Cafe – Nelson

"Great staff, fantastic location, always amazing food" - Gina Fletcher

Bobby Franks is located just a short stroll from the city centre, and is the place that all the locals are talking about. Taking classic kiwi favourites and adding their own unique spin, the cafe serves up delicious brunch options including chilli feta scrambles and chorizo egg rolls. 

Food on plates

Photo: Bobby Franks Cafe

Hardy Street Eatery – Nelson

"Avocado on Rye toast with a side of mushrooms and home-made hash brown and my partner had a side of poached egg also. Omg it was so good, words can’t express the pleasure in our taste buds.” – Katie

The review says it all. Hardy Street Eatery runs on the philosophy of serving creative, seasonal food from a regularly changing menu with damn good booze and coffee. This Cafe is a must! 


Photo: Hardy Street Eatery

The River Kitchen – Nelson 

"The cabinet food at The River Kitchen is so yummy, especially the scones and filled croissants. The buttermilk fried chicken waffles are also a good choice!" – Laura 

An easy stroll on your lunch break, or a place to indulge in some beautiful scenery, the River Kitchen is the epitome of city living meets seaside dining. Located on the banks of the Maitai River, the atmosphere of this brunch spot buzzes as cyclists, walkers and paddle-boarders enjoy the outdoors.  

River Kitchen Dining taken by Oliver Weber credit www.nelsontasman.nz

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

Deville Café & Bar – Nelson

"Great spot with lovely food, coffee and gorgeous outdoor courtyard seating. Very child friendly." – Sally Florance

"Hands down amazing brunch spot! Always meet up with old friends coming back home to Nelson when i'm there" – Lisa Rule

Located down a quaint side street in Nelson's CBD, Deville is somewhat of a hidden gem, but once you've had a taste we guarantee you'll keep returning for more. Entering through the wrought iron fence, you'll discover a gorgeous alfresco area where you can relax amongst the greenery, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Deville 8 credit Neat Places

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

Little Dove Café – Nelson 

Wow. Where to begin? My partner and I are speechless at how incredibly yum our brekky was. The shakshuka was divine, the hoummos was the stuff dreams are made of.– Chelsea 

Handmade soul food inspired by the kitchens of the eastern Mediterranean and Levant. Organic produce sourced locally and from fellow artisans.  

Little Dove Cafe entrance

Photo: Little Dove Cafe

Alberta's – Mapua

"We stopped in for their Eggs Benedict. It was the yummiest brought breakfast we’ve had in a while. Great service too, so thank you" – Bex

Alberta's is located on the Mapua Wharf and serves up a tasty brunch menu using local ingredients (even their coffee is roasted right next door). An endless array of cabinet options are sure to satisfy your tastebuds, but if not they also have a smoothie bar on-site.  

Mapua Wharf Couple Web Res taken by Oliver Weber credit www.nelsontasman.nz

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

Mapua Village Bakery – Mapua

“We had a lovely breakfast with a very friendly woman serving us. Great ambience, amazing pastries and bread with a damn fine coffee, and hot!” – David

Choose to sit outside under the trees in the sunny outdoor area and watch Mapua life go by, or eat inside in the cosy and bustling café. Mapua Village Bakery offer bakery style breakfast choices and light lunches or just a treat from the cake cabinet to go with your coffee.

Mapua Village Bakery

Photo: Mapua Village Bakery

The Smoking Barrel – Motueka

"Have had the donuts on 3 separate occasions... the thing that keeps you returning is the clever changing up of the variety types that are available at any one time” – Sally

It’s hard to beat 1,273 Google Reviews equating to 4.6 Stars! The staff are super friendly and always on point, no matter how run off their feet they are. The Smoking Barrel is famous for its incredible in-house baked donuts with new recipes created regularly. Brunch is a great time to visit. Choose from mouth-watering burgers, BBQ Pork Ribs or the impressive Chicken Waffle Stack. Leave with a delicious donut for later in the day before they all go out the door.

The smoking Barrel

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

Toad Hall – Motueka

"The most amazing brunch I have had for a long time. There were so many flavours in one meal it’s unreal. P.S awesome brewery round the back. Spot on!” – Robert

The car park may look full, but that's because Toad Hall is hugely popular. You'll find a comfy spot with plenty of space on the expansive deck, inside under cover or outside where the children play. Once voted the most child-friendly café in NZ, there's something for everyone here. You can even bring your dog. Serving up the healthiest, freshest local produce, you are assured everything on the menu is created to nourish customers while supporting the community that produces and harvests.

Toad Hall

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

The Grape Escape – Richmond

" A local legend that’s worth a visit. Great food and drinks. Amazing garden to sit in on a fine day. It’s located in the old factory corner so have lunch and then browse the other local legends.” – Gordon

Nestled in a beautiful country garden, The Grape Escape Cafe is the perfect place to relax and enjoy great food and superb coffee. With a brunch and lunch menu available all day from 10-3 with many delicious options, this cosy cafe is a lovely spot to meet with your friends and family. Relax on the deck, outdoors under a sun umbrella, or in the shade of a tree enjoying the garden. And in the winter, it is cosy on the outside covered deck.

The Grape Escape Cafe Entry

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz

The Courthouse Cafe – Collingwood

"Delicious food, great coffee and awesome service with a smile. Can't wait to go back soon!" – Emily Parker

The Courthouse Cafe in Collingwood was originally built in 1901, and was used as a Courthouse until the 1930's. Today you'll find a historic building that oozes character, serving up a delicious selection of food and beverages. Dogs are welcome, and they even have their own friendly pup that wanders around the property!

Courthouse Cafe

Photo: www.nelsontasman.nz