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Nelson City

Photo: The Cut, Nelson

Nelson is famed for its sunshine, vineyards, gorgeous coast, craft beer, bike trails and art galleries.

Nelson City is spread around the largest fishing port in Australasia. The city area is notable for its colonial architecture and occupies flat coastal land, while the suburbs spill over nearby hills.

Māori have lived around the top of the South Island since about the 1300s. This region is known as Te Tau Ihu, referring to the prow of Māui’s canoe. These days the eight tribes in the area are Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa, Rangitāne, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama and Te Āti Awa.

Nelson City was planned as a settlement by the New Zealand Company. Captain Arthur Wakefield arrived with three ships in 1841, and the site for Nelson was chosen based on its excellent harbour. Later in the 1800s German immigrants arrived and settled around the Upper Moutere and Neudorf.

The first game of rugby in New Zealand was played between Nelson College and the Nelson club team on 14 May 1870.

The historic Suter Gallery is the oldest purpose-built art gallery in the country. Nelson is home to more working artists per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand. Popping in to visit some of them in their home studios on the arts trail from Richmond to Motueka is a great way to meet some amazing characters along your journey.

The World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum is a Nelson icon and the place to see magnificent creations combining art and the human form.

The Nelson Saturday Market is a good spot to experience the original creative spirit of the Nelson Tasman region in one happening place. Prowl the lanes between the hundreds of stalls for Nelson’s best; fresh vegetables, breads, fruit, cheeses, gourmet dips, smoked seafood, woodwork, jewellery, ceramics, visual art, fashion, crafts, treasure, furniture, etc. The market is held every Saturday 8am - 1pm (except religious holidays) in Montgomery Square. If you’re not about on a Saturday, there are plenty of other markets worth checking out. The Farmers’ Market at Founders Heritage Park on Fridays (3-7pm during summer and 3-6pm during winter) and the Sunday Motueka Market are definitely worth a visit.

Nelson Tasman is a mountain biking mecca, with numerous tracks suiting differing abilities both in the city and further afield. The most popular city track is up Dun Mountain, just a few minutes’ ride from the CBD.

What to do

  • Visit the World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum
  • Check out the Farmers’ Market
  • Go mountain biking up Dun Mountain, or on the Great Taste Trail
  • Visit the Suter Gallery
  • Have the best seafood meal of your life

More info


Getting there

  • From Christchurch by road: 424km
  • From Wellington by road and ferry: 202km
Piwa perched