Nelson is a historic city with a boutique, urban vibe. Deliciously delightful markets and award-winning restaurants are situated next-door to marvellous cathedral grounds, brick laneways and established art galleries. Around every corner is something that adds to the character of the place, whether that’s a giant seal and squid mural or a quirky cocktail bar.
If arriving on a weekend, your first destination should be the Saturday Market held in Montgomery Square. A favourite of visitors and locals for over 40 years, the market showcases the diverse array of arts and artisans the Nelson Tasman region is renowned for. Linger at the clothing stalls, run your fingers along the grooves of handcrafted jewellery, peruse the selections of artworks and taste your way around the delicious spreads and chutneys.
Just a short distance from the square you’ll find the Nelson Provincial Museum, resting on the same town acre block that it resided on back in 1842. With two galleries to explore, you’ll get an insight into the fascinating history of Te Tau Ihu, before heading further up the street to the towering Christ Church Cathedral. Standing proudly on Pikimai Hill, watching over the central city from the head of the Church Steps, the cathedral and its surrounding gardens are treasured by the local community and are spectacularly beautiful landmarks in their own right.
To the right of the top of Trafalgar is the Jens Hansen studio, where you’ll be left amazed by the contemporary craftsmanship of the jewellers, and of the intricate masterpieces that adorn the cabinets. From here, continue on to the South Street Heritage Precinct, home to cobblestone streets, white picket fences, lantern streetlights and quaint cottages dating back as far as the mid-1800’s. As New Zealand’s oldest fully preserved street, this is the perfect place to end your first day of discovery, before enjoying all of the modern comforts at one of our central city hotels.
If you're looking for something to do this evening, you won't want to miss out on experiencing some of the region's famed heritage and cultural venues. The Theatre Royal is the oldest operating performing arts theatre in the country, and is also the busiest - not surprising given the spectacular array of shows on offer. Alternatively, if the sweet sound of music is more your thing, the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts is renowned for having some of the best concert hall acoustics in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting internationally-acclaimed musicians all year round.
On day two, take a morning stroll along the picturesque Maitai River, beginning your journey at The Refinery Artspace, the heart of contemporary art in Nelson. A short detour across a blue footbridge further down the river will land you at the Botanic Reserve, the site of New Zealand’s very first rugby game and the base of the track to the Centre of New Zealand. If an uphill trek wasn’t quite what you had in mind for the day, head further down the road toward Founders Heritage Park. Tucked behind the windmill shop you’ll find an array of landmarks that make up Nelson Tasman’s history, from a railway line through to a Bristol Freighter Plane, to a beer garden established by one of the region’s most long-standing craft breweries.
Fuelled up for an afternoon of arty experiences, the Suter Art Gallery is next on the list. Despite being one of New Zealand’s oldest cultural establishments, the modern architecture of the gallery is almost as fascinating as it’s exhibitions, which span from watercolour paintings through to ceramic collections. Nearby, in Stoke, you can browse the exhibition at the Nelson Classic Car Museum, taking a trip down memory lane with one of Australasia's largest private collection of classic cars.
The depth of history and passion for the arts in Nelson City is undeniable, and with an endless array of discoveries to be made around every corner, there’s no better place to conclude your trip than by dining alfresco on the waterfront, sipping on a glass of our extraordinary local wine, looking out into the bay that the regions very first settlers sailed into.
See below for the list of operators featuring in this itinerary.