Nelson is an artistic seaside city at the top of the South Island. With high sunshine hours and a temperate climate, the Nelson Tasman region has attracted talented food producers and creative thinkers for generations. Surrounded by national parks and the sparkling waters of Tasman Bay, the people here have a natural connection with nature and a strong sense of community. For visitors this means a warm welcome, great food and wine, and a wide range of outdoor activities to enjoy in picture-perfect landscapes.
About our flights to Nelson
Air New Zealand operates daily non-stop flights to Nelson from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with connections across the domestic network. With all our New Zealand domestic airfares you can choose seat, seat+bag, flexichange or flexirefund fare types. Flexichange gives you the flexibility to change your flight with no change fees while flexirefund is fully refundable. Find out more about our New Zealand domestic seat options.
Abel Tasman National Park promises blissful one-day and multi-day kayak and hiking adventures, complete with golden sand beaches, wildlife and native forest.
Where to go and what to see in Nelson
Nelson Tasman promises an extraordinary range of visitor experiences all within easy reach. On any day you can explore art galleries and markets, hike in national parks, kayak a glorious piece of coastline or ride cycle trails. You can also tour food producers, micro-breweries and award winning vineyards. Accommodation options range from backpacker hostels to luxury lodges and you can count on friendly local hospitality wherever you go.
Discover local art and artisans
Nelson has always been a creative hub. It's home to longstanding cultural enterprises such as the Theatre Royal, the Suter Art Gallery and the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts. It's also where the internationally recognised World of Wearable Arts event began. And if you're looking for a magical experience, Nelson is where you'll find jeweller Jens Hansen, who created the One Ring for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Maybe you can find your own ring of power?
If there's room in your luggage for some souvenir shopping, there's a fascinating range of locally-produced art, fashion and home décor accessories to discover. Galleries and craft shops are dotted around the region and the Nelson Market and Motueka's Sunday Market feature an irresistible selection of fresh foods, creative products and vintage objects. Visiting a market will put you in touch with the melting pot of cultures and strong community spirit of the Nelson Tasman region.
For peanut butter lovers of all ages, Nelson Tasman offers you the chance to visit the home of Pic's Peanut Butter. You can take a tour of the factory and have a go at making your own peanut butter to take home as a souvenir. Alternatively, you can find the full Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter range from their red and yellow striped marquee at the Nelson Market.
Hike in beautiful national parks
There are three national parks less than 1.5 hours by car from Nelson city. The Abel Tasman National Park offers one-day and multi-day kayak cruise and hiking adventures in a beautiful coastal setting with golden sand beaches, granite cliffs, wetlands, wildlife and native forest. There are guided and self-guided tours to choose from, with bookable campsites and hikers' huts or the option of fully-catered lodge accommodation for luxurious overnight stays. It's easy to see why the Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks.
Nelson Lakes National Park has a more alpine setting, with trails that range from short lakeside walks through native forest to multi-day mountain treks for experienced hikers. The popular network of easy tracks around Lake Rotoiti delivers enchanting views across the water to pristine mountain landscapes. Deep in the alpine back country, spectacular scenery awaits at Lake Angelus and Lake Rotomairewhenua, the clearest lake in the world.
Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand's second largest. Stretching from near Golden Bay to the rugged West Coast, it features easy to advanced tracks providing access to wild rivers, coastal native forests, craggy mountain landscapes and alpine herb fields. The most well-known trail is the four-to-six day Heaphy Track, another one of New Zealand's Great Walks.
Cycle scenic trails
If you like biking you'll love the numerous cycle touring, road cycling and mountain biking routes in and around the Nelson Tasman region. The Great Taste Trail encompasses 174 kilometres of easy riding, two-thirds of which is off-road. You can tackle the whole trail over three days, or simply select sections that suit your interests and appetite for exercise. As the name suggests, this scenic trail connects orchards, vineyards, breweries and restaurants where you can stop to explore flavours. Local operators offer bike hire, pick-up and shuttle services and all the helpful advice you'll need to execute an excellent bike adventure.
If mountain biking is more your thing, the 43km Dun Mountain Trail is one on New Zealand's Great Rides. Confident grade 4 (advanced) mountain bikers can tackle the whole trail, including a long technical descent, while less experienced riders can ride up and back along the less difficult first section. The trail begins at Codgers Mountain Bike Park in the heart of Nelson. One of six MTB parks in the region, Codgers has a great selection of purpose-built public trails that make it easy to put together rides from 30 minutes to several hours.
For grade 4 (advanced) riders, the Heaphy Track opens for mountain bikes from May to November, when hiker numbers are low. This window of opportunity promises an exceptional three-day ride in the Kahurangi National Park following one of New Zealand's Great Walks.
Explore local food, craft beer, cider and wine
The creativity of Nelson Tasman has led to a delicious range of artisan foods, wines, ciders and beers throughout the region. Food and wine tours make it easy to find the best local producers, so you can nibble, sip and shop to your heart's content.
From casual eats to fine dining, the top Nelson cafes and restaurants make the most of fresh local produce to create flavour-filled experiences. Seafood and vegetarian dishes feature strongly on the region's menus and there are plenty of cuisine styles to choose from.
Nelson is where commercial winemaking began for New Zealand's South Island. Sunny days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for growing exceptional grapes. Around the Richmond Foothills, Brightwater and Moutere, talented winemakers are producing sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir that's celebrated around the world.
If you love craft beer, you'll be tickled to know that Nelson Tasman is the hop-growing centre of New Zealand. There are several boutique breweries in the region. While local brews are readily available in most restaurants and bars, visiting the region's boutique breweries will help you learn more about the craft and the people behind it. You can ride an easy 7km brewery cycle trail, pick up a map for the region-wide Nelson Craft Beer Trail or join a small-group guided tour.
Nelson Tasman is the largest cider region in New Zealand, producing over 60% of the country's cider. To celebrate, Nelson holds the annual New Zealand Cider Festival in November - along with the extraordinary landscape and cuisine in this region, it is the perfect place to celebrate all things cider!
Top 10 things to do in Nelson Tasman
- Explore the stunning National Parks
In the Abel Tasman National Park, you can kayak or hike a picturesque coastal sanctuary with native forests, wetlands, golden sand beaches and awesome granite cliffs. Walk or mountain bike in Kahurangi National Park or visit Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.
- Shop at the Nelson Market
Join the locals at this busy festive market for locally-made art, crafts, produce, coffee and food to go.
- Visit art galleries and heritage museums
Explore fine art and fascinating local history at Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson Provincial Museum and Founders Heritage Park.
- Discover wearable art and vintage cars
Enjoy more than 50 garments from the World of WearableArt shows and 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars at the WOW museum.
- Taste craft beers and award winning wine
Tour boutique breweries and celebrated local vineyards to sample award-winning beer and wine
- Soak up the sun
Nelson is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, so get ready to relax in the sun at a café, park, lake or beach.
- Ride the cycle trails
From the easy Great Taste Trail to challenging mountain bike tracks, Nelson offers two-wheeled adventures for everyone.
- Wine and dine at Mapua Wharf
Explore shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants and bars beside the beautiful Waimea Estuary.
- See some of the world's clearest spring water
Visit Te Waikoropupū Springs in Golden Bay to see the country's largest fresh water spring and some of the clearest water in the world.
- Cable Bay Adventure park
For the adventure-seekers, this park has some exhilarating and unique experiences - ride on the World's longest flying fox, set amongst the stunning forest canopy. Take a quad biking or horse-riding tour or try your skills at archery. Too much choice!
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Keep exploring Nelson Tasman
Best time to visit Nelson
Nelson is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand and a true year-round destination. The coastal areas have mild winters and warm summers. Average daily highs range from 22°C in summer to 13°C in winter, with average lows about five degrees less throughout the year. Monthly rainfall is fairly even throughout the year, with a few more rainy days in winter. December to February, during long New Zealand holiday season, is the busiest time in Nelson.
How much will it cost?
This will depend on your tastes and what you want to do. As a rough guide, not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $150 to $200 a day per person for food and entertainment.
|Flight route||Flight time*||Stops**||Days||Book|
Auckland (AKL) to Nelson (NSN)
|1h 25m||Non-stop||M,T,W,T,F,S,S||Find flights|
Wellington (WLG) to Nelson (NSN)
Christchurch (CHC) to Nelson (NSN)
Cheap flights to Nelson
Auckland (AKL) to Nelson (NSN)
Wellington (WLG) to Nelson (NSN)
Christchurch (CHC) to Nelson (NSN)
*Flight times are based on the fastest route available.
**Indirect flights may also be available for this route.