South Island

An extraordinary corner of New Zealand, where the attractions range from deep forest to crazy cafe culture.

The Nelson region is the northwestern half of the top of the South Island: the beautiful country lying between the northern edge of the Southern Alps and a great sweep of beaches.

Nelson’s trademark is the diverse culture that has bloomed in this area of rich resources and easy climate. There is always something happening in the Nelson region, and you can count on encountering original characters amongst a vital network of artists and craftspeople, farm and orchard settlements, Maori marae, alternative communities and adventurers- friendly folk happy to share their good life with you.
Leave the ordinary behind. Checkout our collection of South Island Hotels

This is the urban centre of the Nelson region, a compact, kaleidoscopic city of 40,000 people. Richmond, with a population of 10,000, is only 14km away on the edge of the Waimea Plains. Together the two form a cruisey lifestyle destination, home to a community that combines a relaxed approach to life with a get-up-and-go attitude. This is where you can organise yourself an adventure, or begin an arty shopping spree, or start your survey of the Nelson fresh food feast.

Appreciate the city’s seaside setting from a harbour cruise, or the little ferry to Haulashore Island, or charter a yacht close to Nelson, or further to the Marlborough Sounds or Abel Tasman, or go out with a sea-fishing guide. You can drive to the unique formation of the Boulder Bank, and walk there between sea and sky. Or saunter through late afternoon on the Nelson promenade around the historic harbourside, taking coffee, maybe dinner, at a waterfront cafe.

Windows on history There are also lots of places that allow you to look inside the cultural heritage of the area (for details see the guidebook for the Treasured Pathway). You can ask to visit Whakatu Marae and nearby are Founders Park, the Miyazu Japanese Gardens and the historic Wakapuaka Cemetery. Bishop’s School, near the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, is a reconstructed schoolroom from the 19th century, while the historic homes of Melrose, Fairfield and Broadgreen are well preserved and set in lovely gardens. The historic precincts in South Street and Albion Square are interesting curiosities.

Entertainment The Nelson-Richmond area is becoming well known for performance events, such as the Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards and the Nelson School of Music Winter Festival, as well as other more idiosyncratic events such as the Festival of Possibilities. See Nelson Events Calender.

South Island New Zealand Adventure

The region has three national parks within 90 minutes of each other, two marine reserves and many more wonderful places to play.

Explore coast and country at your own speed, by sea kayak, or chartered yacht, on horseback or mountain bike trails, on 4X4 motorbikes, or you can walk the famous Abel Tasman coast and Heaphy tracks. Admire it all at once on a glorious sight-seeing flight.
For adrenalin highs without hype try tandem skydiving where the climate provides the highest number of jump days per year in New Zealand or whitewater rafting on the Buller or Motueka rivers.

There is skiing, ice-skating, lake kayaking and safe swimming beaches, and family adventures to have in accessible caves, visiting Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs, and on 4WD safari along Farewell Spit. Enjoy quiet short walks and nature trails, and for the quietest adventure of them all try Nelson’s world famous brown trout rivers.

South Island New Zealand Lazing

The Nelson region boasts gentle, golden and sun-baked beaches, ideal for lazy days by the sea. Or pack a picnic and head up river to beautiful picnic spots.

Much of the accommodation in the region has beautiful natural settings; settle on your verandah, catch some rays, lose your cares. Maybe try a health resort in a region brimming over with natural remedies and therapies.

Nothing more relaxing, of course, than admiring the inventive industry of others – visit unique straw-bale and adobe buildings and many unusual gardens.

South Island New Zealand Culture

Visit and shop from some of the over 300 fulltime artists and craftspeople active throughout the Nelson region. There are ceramic artists, sculptors, glassblowers, painters, designers, woodworkers, jewellers and textile artists. You can visit their studios and home galleries, and in Nelson city on Saturday you can’t miss the open air market in Montgomery Square, where everything from silver jewelry to decorated toilet-seats is sold.

Explore the rich history of the Nelson region through museums crammed with amazing curiosities, and restored historic homes. Or follow the Treasured Pathway, the Marlborough Nelson Heritage Highway, a guided drive that brings the human and natural history of this area to life.

Festivals and fairs provide great entertainment in the home of the Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards, The Gathering outdoor rave at New Year, the New Zealand Festival of Wheels and Golden Bay Scallop Festival and that’s only a small sample. Check out Nelson’s Events Calendar

New Zealand Dining

Explore boutique wineries, sample the product, dine in the garden. Nelson is one of the smallest, but fastest growing wine regions in New Zealand. Premier wine varieties are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. You can also tour the home of Mac’s beer, in the country’s only hop-growing area.

Nelson region is like a brimming food bowl. There is great fresh fish to try and shellfish you can’t miss, including scallops, crab and mussels. Fruit and vegetables come to the table garden fresh, or you can buy your own at roadside stalls. When out and about stop to buy orchard fruit and berries, or some of the gourmet products made all around the region: manuka- smoked fish, pickles and relishes, jams and honey, juices, cheese and breads.

Enjoy memorable meals in stunning settings: looking across the harbor or the garden, in old colonial buildings or perhaps a schoolhouse, with art and entertainment all around.

Southern Alps of New Zealand

The Southern Alps of New Zealand are a beautiful mountain range bigger than all the mountains in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. New Zealands Southern Alps have over 2441 glaciers making them one of the most glaciated pieces of terrain in the world and have thrilled climbers and mountaineers. Out the back of Blanket Bay Lodge at the head of the Rees valley is Mount Head which to the South overlooks the Rees Valley, Glenorchy and Lake Wakatipu and to the West peers into the main divide and the Barrier Range which blocks any easy access to the West Coast.

We love New Zealand, our Virtuoso Travel Advisors have visited here over 30 times. Call us at 1 800 330 8820 for the trip of your lifetime.

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