So you’ve got a quick weekend escape or a two-day getaway and you’ve picked gorgeous Nelson to spend your time in - we think it’s a great choice! Located in the geographical centre of New Zealand, the Nelson region is known for its warm sunshine, sandy beaches, national parks, foodie finds and creative scene. It’s really no surprise it’s a favourite for both, a longer stay or a blissful short trip. If you only have 48 hours to spend in this city, it’s understandable to want to hit the top spots, it’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to exploring the best of Nelson in 48 hours.
Nelson is known for its stunning landscapes and diverse geography including stretches of golden beaches, lush forests and gorgeous hikes just minutes from the city. While you’re in the city for a short stay, we recommend picking from some of these top destinations to explore and discover the very best of nature that Nelson has to offer.
From the city centre, you could start your day with breakfast at Hardy St Eatery with slices of house-made sourdough, preserves and a perfectly crafted brew. Next, hop in your hire car and take a quick 7-minute drive to the beautiful Maitai River. The river offers an easy 8 kilometres of paved walkway to start you off on your adventures where you’ll be surrounded by tall, leafy trees and a number of swimming spots including the Black Hole, Dennes Hole and Sunday Hole, which are perfect for cooling off after a stroll.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a climb with a view that makes it all worth it, we suggest taking a detour off the Maitai River Walkway onto a trail that takes you up the Botanical Hill to the Centre of New Zealand. Though it’s not exactly the centre of New Zealand, the name comes from the spot being used by surveyors in the 1870s as a centre point. Find yourself basking in the beauty from above it all and taking in the view of the entire city and beyond.
Wanting more of a challenge? We recommend the Grampians. Just a 20-minute walk from the city centre, you can access the beginning of the hike from Collingwood Street and reach the summit in about an hour. Reward yourself with a lunch or high tea experience at the historic Melrose House where you can relax on the veranda with a glass of Lavender Lemonade, enjoy a sweet treat or wander the rose gardens.
The beaches are an unmissable part of Nelson and one of the highlights of this city. Located just a short 4-minute drive from the city centre, you’ll discover Tahunanui Beach, a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and kite surfing. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic or fish and chips by the sea. If you’re looking for some stellar seaside dining options, this spot offers a range of pubs, cafes and restaurants too.
If you’re looking to venture a little further out of the city for more nature, the 102,000 hectare Nelson Lakes National Park is the perfect spot to escape to. A one-hour cruise in your rental car will lead you to this awe-inspiring destination that’s ready to enchant with its mountains, forests and beautiful alpine lakes of Rotorua and Rotoiti.
Aside from its inspiring surroundings, Nelson is well known for its creative spirit and delightful local produce. If you’re visiting over the weekend, begin exploring at the famous Nelson Market where you’ll find fresh produce, baked goods, cheeses, gourmet food options alongside jewellery, arts and crafts. If you’re looking for more art, check out the Suter Art Gallery located next to the Queens Garden. It is one of the oldest galleries in New Zealand and is home to a 150-seat theatre as well as a popular cafe and gallery store featuring pieces by local artists. For petrolheads, the Nelson Classic Car Museum is a must-see. This museum features a collection of over 150 iconic and immaculate cars from more than 100 years of motoring.
For foodies and wine-lovers who are looking for more, take a short 30-minute drive from Nelson’s CBD to the Upper Moutere region where your taste buds will be thrilled to find a variety of artisan producers including cheesemakers, wineries, artisan cider, a family-run olive grove and a specialist in gourmet European and wild mushrooms.
To make the most out of your two-day escape to Nelson, hire a car from Nelson Airport and start exploring!