Nelson: a slice of paradise

Nelson, you beauty. This little slice of paradise is known to be some of New Zealand’s finest and with basically all of my favourite things on offer, I couldn’t agree more. It was such an easy getaway from Wellington (Friday evening through to Sunday evening – Air New Zealand’s flight times are perfect) that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it already. Four of us arrived for the weekend, hired a car and off we went. Too easy! Here are some of Nelson’s highlights:

1. Markets

Honestly, I think I have been so spoilt with my choice of farmers markets over the years, Nelson was yet another great one to add to the list (other good markets I have had the pleasure of making my local include Hawkes Bay, Dunedin and Wellington). Nelson’s market is different though. It is located right in the centre of town (on a Saturday morning), it sells less fresh produce and has more of a focus on arts, crafts, local goods and ready to eat food (which includes both food stalls and cheeses, meats, breads etc). The arts and crafts are mostly very stylish and very practical, for example wine barrel cheese boards, as well as your usual selection of handmade soaps, clothing and other cool gifts.

2. Beaches

We were blessed to be staying at an AirBnB right on Ruby Bay. The water was so calm and flat; the clear waters enticed even through the cold. A little further north lies Kaiteriteri beach: idyllic, popular and picturesque – I can’t even imagine how crowded it would be during the height of summer. The road to Kaiteriteri from Nelson is pretty gnarly though – I was certainly paying a lot of attention to the horizon. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way around to Golden Bay, but if I had longer this is probably the first additional place I would have visited.

3. Food

One of my favourite parts about going on holiday is that it is such a good reason to eat out… constantly. Nelson certainly didn’t disappoint on the food and drink front. You can read more about my specific food posts here, but one of the coolest spots we visited was Mapua Wharf – a collection of shops, eateries and even a brewery, right down on the waters edge (it is also possible to catch a ferry across to Rabbit Island from here). Also, if you visit Nelson during the week, it is entirely possible to do a tour of the Pic’s Peanut Butter Factory – and it’s free!

4. Drink

Nelson’s sunny climate unsurprisingly lends itself to the making of good wine, and as a result there is no shortage of good wineries. We visited Seifried Estate Winery – a slightly larger operation which was producing two lines. The Sweet Agnes was the day’s highlight and will hopefully linger for a long time to come. At the other end of the spectrum,  we visited Riwaka River Estate; a tiny, little one-man-band who was essentially running the tastings out the back of his house with his dog Jess serving as the doorbell. It was very cute and certainly one of the most intimate and informative tastings I have ever had.

Unbeknownst to me (and probably dozens of other Wellingtonians) but Nelson is self-proclaimed craft beer capital of New Zealand. I was surprised, but seriously impressed, by the sheer number of breweries that existed in the region. We found time to visit the Golden Bear Brewery (down at Mapua Wharf) as well as the Sprig and Fern – both make for terrific spots on a sunny day. The other brewery we visited was Hop Federation Brewery, but being unlicensed, we could only do some tastings and then buy the bottles to take away (the bottles were extremely cheap, especially compared to what you’d pay for it in the supermarket).

5. Explore

Literally the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, which would have to be some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. You can walk the track as a multi-day hike, or catch a water-taxi in and walk out. When coming from Nelson, the entrance is at Marahau, where you can just park your car and wander on in. We walked for a couple of hours just in and then back out, stopping at the various beaches and bays we passed on the way. It is also common to kayak the Abel Tasman, where in summertime dolphin spotting is not uncommon.

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