We used Nelson as a base for five days of holiday – each packed with great things to do! Nelson gets more sunshine than anywhere else in the South Island and along with being a great town on its own, it is a great base for numerous day trips.
What To Do in Nelson
This guest post is from a professional couple in their late 30s who were inspired by Sandal Road to take their own trip to New Zealand. In their first post on Sandal Road, they are talking about their experiences in and around Nelson. Enjoy!
The Nelson Farmers Market is a pleasant hour in central Nelson. Take a turn through the market and then enjoy a light lunch from one of the stalls to complete a morning. Warren from ENZ BEE knows his bees so expect to spend a minimum of ten minutes deciding which honey to buy. We followed that with freshly picked cherries (first of the season) and some quality olive oil.
Kayak in Abel Tasman
We opted for the afternoon Sea Kayaking Company Bark Bay trip. Note that afternoon is really “late morning” because of the schedule of the water taxi to get you to Bark Bay. We had to leave Nelson about 1000 to get to the check in on time. Thank heavens we took a guided tour. We have canoed lots of times but sea kayaking is totally different not least because the sea is choppy. Our guide was brilliant and even brought homemade cakes.
You kayak out into the sea past seals and other wildlife and islands that are protected by the DOC. It is pretty decent physical activity and the water taxi is quick but very choppy. It is also very busy at the end of the day as all the tours finish about the same time and try to get the last water taxi back to town. It is one of the only places where it is possible to get run over by a tractor and the thing I found most surprising was that you are loaded onto the water taxi boat that is then loaded onto the trailer that is then towed via tractor to the sea. It is an experience!
Quad bike and Skywire
Happy Valley Adventures is brilliant. The quad bike track was gentle and they are certified for driver + rider. Our group was six (plus a guide) – mom, dad and two boys made up the numbers. However, our brilliant guide made sure that the boys got time on the “fun track” where they could peel out, go too fast and splash in the water without riders on the back of the quad bike. When you get to the top, not only are you greeted with amazing views but there is a lodge and a Skywire. There are not words to describe the Skywire – click through and watch the video – it is an exhilarating experience. The reverse ride was better than falling forward in my opinion.
Self-Drive Winery Tour
I’m sure there are good tours for the wineries but it was brilliant on self-drive. We started early so beat all of the tour groups to many of the locations. I am a white wine drinker so preferred the wineries in the Nelson region to those in the Otago (Queenstown) region. Special mention for Wairau River Wines (in Blenheim) which served the most amazing gourmet pizza with a chardonnay that was to die for. The young chap at Waimea wines was very knowledgeable and served up a great Sauvignon Blanc and Trev’s Red which, although a blend, was delicious. The Te Mania Sauvignon Blanc was the special wine at The Boat Shed café and the winery did not disappoint.
Day Trip to Golden Bay
Some of our best driving trips were in the Nelson area. Our day out to Golden Bay was a highlight. On the way, we stopped at Takaka. Takaka has a bohemian and mystic vibe. Sort of like Glastonbury on a much smaller scale. The main street takes about 20 minutes to walk end-to-end but is full of treasures. The Wholemeal Café is one of them where we stopped for a great lunch. Later we stumbled into a souvenir / crystals / incense shop and came face-to-face with a real life Gandalf who had stopped by to buy incense – which somehow seemed entirely in character of this little town.
Our drive continued up past Collingwood to Whanganui Inlet – quite possibly the end of the Earth. We drove as far as possible on unsealed roads and then climbed over fences and through the hills of grazing sheep and cows, down to the sand dunes that surround the Inlet. The DOC posts this walk as 40 minutes return from the car park – which is an underestimate if the tide is out. It is 40 minutes return to the Inlet itself and then if you want to walk to the ocean or to the cave filled with seals, you can plan on doubling that and it is difficult to climb around the dunes. So, come prepared – bring water, bug repellent and extra time.
Eating & Drinking in Nelson
Boat Shed Café – romantic, event dining. Expensive but great location, brilliant food and wine.
Zumo Coffee – Beans roasted and ground onsite and offering of at least four different kinds of beans for your coffee. Brilliantly good coffee.
Morrison’s Café – a brilliant spot for breakfast. Unfortunately, everyone thinks the same way so it tends to fill up very quickly in the morning.