A short flight across Cook Strait from Wellington or a scenic drive from the Picton ferry port, this picturesque region at the northern tip of the South Island is the perfect spot for an all season, all-purpose break.
Nelson is one of the country’s leading wine regions, with a large number of awards relative to its production. Sunny and sheltered with ideal soil qualities means almost anything will grow here and grapes positively thrive – as German settlers discovered in the mid-1800s. Today Nelson produces outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics, along with an impressive array of emerging varieties.
Two sub-regions - the Waimea Plains and the Moutere Hills - not only have their own unique growing conditions, but also their individual style of wineries, restaurants, accommodation, and wine tours.
Many wineries also reflect Nelson’s vibrant artistic and café culture and both are additional drawcards at their cellar doors. The region’s compact size means visitors can get around most wineries in a day, with many choosing to do so by bicycle. But there’s so much to do in this relatively off-the-beaten track destination that you’ll want to explore beyond the obvious and savour the relaxed vibe.
Nelson Tasman is also the craft brewing capital of New Zealand and supplies all of the country's commercially grown hops. It is also Australasia’s largest fishing port and exports scallops, clams and salmon. Delicious fresh local seafood and artisan foods can be sampled in the region's numerous eateries, including the delightful old Mapua wharf where former apple sheds have been refurbished as cafés and restaurants overlooking the Waimea estuary on Tasman Bay.
The region is also a major destination for fans of the great outdoors with beautiful beaches and vast protected areas of national park setting the scene for year-round nature, wildlife and outdoor experiences. Nelson Tasman has three national parks - Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman – ripe for hiking, sea kayaking and camping holidays.
Bike trails offer cycling fun for all ages and skill levels, and the Tasman's Great Taste Cycle Trail is an especially enjoyable way to explore the region's breweries, vineyards, country pubs and historic buildings. The coastal Abel Tasman track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks and Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park is the longest Great Walk.
Nelson was the birthplace of New Zealand’s unique World of WearableArt show and claims the country’s highest per capita artist community, with 350-plus resident artists. The World of WearableArt museum is based in Nelson with the Classic Cars Museum, containing one of Australasia's largest private car collections, next door.
Nelson is the geographical centre of New Zealand and a 1.5 hour flight from Auckland, 50 minutes from Christchurch, or a 25 minute hop across Cook Strait if you're flying from Wellington. Passenger and vehicle ferries also connect the two islands, departing regularly from Wellington and docking at the charming town of Picton in the South Island, just 2 hours’ drive from Nelson centre.