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Eclectic art galleries in Nelson and epic coastal walks at Abel Tasman National Park

The Tasman district of New Zealand hovers at the tip of South Island, with Nelson being the region’s largest city.

Sitting on the eastern coast of Tasman Bay, Nelson is the oldest city in South Island and the second-oldest in New Zealand. It’s known for its thriving arts scene, beautiful surroundings and excellent food and drink.

Nelson is packed with art galleries and museums, with notable places to visit including the wool weaving cooperative of Fibre Spectrum (New Zealand boasts the highest sheep-to-person ratio in the world); the Jens Hansen metal workshop best known as the Lord of the Rings jeweller; and the whimsical swirls of the Flamedaisy glass-blowing studio.

A selection of local artists and their creations can also be seen at the weekly Nelson Market, held on Saturdays – perfect for souvenir shopping.

Out of the city, you can enjoy Tasman’s natural beauty, including numerous walking and cycling routes, such as a walk up to the Botanical Reserve and the Dun Mountain Trail - a tough one-day bike ride for those who love a two-wheeled challenge.

Visitors seeking the rush of adrenaline will love Nelson’s summer activities around Tahuna Beach, such as tandem paragliding, kitesurfing and paddle-boarding.

If you’re feeling less energetic, then try the Great Taste Trail, which is a slow wander through beautiful (and flat) countryside with plenty of food, wine and art stops along the way, showcasing the region’s reputation for delicious Kiwi cuisine.

However, the main attraction of the region is Abel Tasman National Park, located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay, named after the first European explorer to sight New Zealand. The rugged marble and limestone hills, many walking and cycling trails, as well as hidden coves and beaches, are what draw visitors to this beautiful national park.

The park is also home to New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk (there are nine in total on the official list), the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

This 60-kimometre stretch of exceptional coastal views attracts overnight hikers and kayakers, who tramp along the well-maintained and well-marked track to discover hidden oases, such as Cleopatra’s Pool, before throwing off their walking shoes to paddle along the beaches (watch out for the tides!).

The entire route takes three to five days to complete, but a quick water taxi converts the trail into manageable day hikes or kayaking trips.

Tasman offers both the wild wonders of Mother Nature and the artsy sophistication of quiet city galleries in Nelson; a diverse region that showcases some of the best natural and man-made attractions that New Zealand has for visitors.

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Best times to visit Nelson & Abel Tasman National Park

The sunny summer months (December, January and February) offer the best weather for the Coastal Track, though the school holidays and festive holidays in this period also mean that you’ll have plenty of company from Kiwi tourists on their summer vacation. However, a mild climate means that the region can be explored all year round.

With a flourishing population of creatives, there’s always something going on in Nelson. Look out for Feast for the Senses in July and August, where visual and performing arts blend with culinary treats; the Nelson Arts Festival in October; and Light Nelson in July, where local artists collaborate on spectacular light installations.

New Zealand's monthly weather chart

Call us on 0203 143 4293 to start planning your holiday, we’re
looking forward to hearing from you.

or

Accommodation in Nelson & Abel Tasman

Our suggested itineraries include stays at The Rutherford Hotel, the biggest hotel in Nelson and the city’s tallest building, as well as Te Koi - The Lodge at Bronte, which is a family-run lodge overlooking the picturesque Waimea Estuary. Both offer luxury accommodation, stylish décor and a relaxing retreat with high-quality facilities.

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