Nelson Rental Car Travel Itinerary
This stunning region of the northern South Island offers a range of exciting options to explore, relax and discover. With everything from guided walks and 4WD safaris through to boutique wineries, beautiful beaches and personal encounters with the seals, Nelson truly has it all.
To really make the most of the Nelson region, you’ll need at least a week, we’ve put together this helpful travel itinerary to get you started on your journey of discovery around the region.
Today is all about appreciating the artist talents of the Nelson locals, get set for a tranquil day among the best art galleries in Nelson.
- Nelson is well known for its arts and crafts culture, there are numerous galleries, craft outlets, artists and markets just waiting to be explored. Kick off the morning with a visit to the Suter Art Gallery, where you can wander the halls and enjoy the watercolours of John Gully, the modern interpretations of Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston and much more from artists all around the world.
- After a quick lunch in the peaceful surrounds of the Suter Art Gallery Café (the water and park views are just stunning), lets head out and hit the art trail. There are a number of places within the central city worth a visit, try the Art @ 203 Gallery on Trafalgar Street for watercolour, oil, acrylic paintings, or the Atkins Gallery on Bridge Street for a wide range of NZ art from local painters, print makers, ceramic artists, sculptors and jewellers.
- Flamedaisy Glass Design is the place to be for all things glass – time it right and see the Master Glass Blower at work, or head on over to the South Street Gallery for some amazing ceramics.
- If you are lucky enough to be in Nelson on a Saturday Morning, the Nelson Markets are the place to be. Find a wide array of local art and crafts, along with some delicious local produce. The market is open from 8 am to 1 pm.
Can’t wait any longer? OK lets go to the Abel Tasman National Park and find a beach!
- The Abel Tasman National Park is simply one of New Zealand’s best National Parks – golden sands, clear blue water and beautiful New Zealand native bush land await those who take on this epic outdoor adventure.
- If you have the time, walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a bucket-list must do. Drawing visitors from far and wide, the Coast Track covers approximately 60 km taking anywhere from 3 to five days to complete.
- If you are just visiting for the day, Water Taxi is the best way to make the most of your time here. Regular Water Taxis operate during the day (weather permitting) and can take you to various points of interest along the coast line. Spend the day with the local fur seals, seeking out the Falls River Swingbridge or just soaking up the sun on a secluded beach.
- Kayaking is another great way to enhance your Abel Tasman experience, guided Kayak trips are available from Kaiteriteri, Golden Bay and Marahau, and can be combined with the Water Taxi service. Be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Time to get out on the water and make the most of Nelson’s glorious sunny weather!
- For those who love being out on the water (or in it), Nelson has a wide range of activities available. Try white water rafting on the Buller and Gowan Rivers, dotted with gorges and waterfalls, guides provide all the gear, no experience necessary.
- Or for a more leisurely trip, cruising Nelson Harbour might be more your style. Enjoy stunning Harbour views and indulge in some freshly prepared gourmet foods and watch the sun go down as you glide across the water.
- Or try your hand at Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Wind Surfing, Kayaking, Kite Surfing, out on the ocean or Trout Fishing on the Motueka River – all readily available at reasonable prices.
- Diving is also a really popular water sport in Nelson, whether you choose snorkelling or scuba diving there is something for everyone. An abundance of marine life make dive and fish excursions are popular along with Island diving. Cable Bay is a great spot for beginners, while advanced divers will enjoy the Black Reef site a little further afield.
We are taking a good old New Zealand “roadie” (road trip) today so grab a coffee and let’s go.
- This is a biggy so we need to get an early start; the road trip to Farwell Spit takes approximately 2.5 hours (that’s not including all the great little places you will want to stop along the way).
- Heading north west out of Nelson, Motueka is a good place for a late breakfast, take your pick from anywhere along High Street – our top pick is Patisserie Royale for something on the go or the Elevation Café for a hearty sit-down breakfast.
- Heading inland skirting the borders of the Abel Tasman National Park, this part of the trip is just forest, forest and more forest! Take care on the road – it is narrow and windy. Arrival at Takaka means you have made it back out to the coast again. Check out New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft, Harwood’s Hole on the way through or the famous Te Waikoropupu Springs.
- From Takaka its roughly 45 minutes drive up to Puponga, at the tip of Farewell Spit. However the only way to fully access the Spit is by an approved 4WD tour, these are available from Collingwood – just 20 minutes drive from Takaka.
- There is currently only one company that offers approved 4WD tours along Farewell Spit – Farewell Spit Tours. Visitors can choose from a tour to the tip of the spit and the resident Gannet Colony or just to the lighthouse part way along.
- It is still possible to access the first 4 km of the Spit on foot without taking the tour if you wish to make your own way to Puponga.
Heading south today – Nelson Lakes National Park here we come!
- The Nelson Lakes region is home to some of New Zealand’s best natural waterways, protected forest reserves and conservation land. Outdoor enthusiasts will be excited by the range of activities at hand, some of which include hiking, skiing, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, camping and wildlife appreciation.
- Lake Rotoiti and St Arnaud are a good place to start. St Arnaud has the all the basics including accommodation if you feel like staying on overnight. Waterskiing and fishing are popular pursuits along with hiking. It is possible to walk the entire circuit of the Lake, however this is a 7 to 10 hour circuit, taking a Water Taxi part of the way can shorten the trip.
- Lake Rotoroa is a great destination to start with a number of really lovely walks catering to all levels of fitness and abilities. Trout fishing expeditions are available along with Water Taxi services.
Today we are taking a tour of Nelson’s wineries, so nominate your sober driver and let’s go!
- The high sunshine hours and temperate climate of the Nelson region makes it perfect for wine making. There are lots of different wineries in Nelson to visit, choose from everything from boutique organic wineries through to mainstream and award winning wineries.
- After a bit of a sleep-in and a leisurely breakfast, Neudorf Vineyards is the first stop on today’s self-drive winery tour. Approximately 40 minutes’ drive from central Nelson, Neudorf’s are a well known, family orientated vineyard with a focus on organics and sustainability. Enjoy a platter of local cheeses, cured meats and a selection of crackers with your favourite wines at the cellar door.
- Make a couple of stops at the Harakeke Winery and Kahurangi Estate as you make your way back towards the Moutere Hills Winery for lunch at their onsite café. Try the slow cooked Lamb Shanks and the locally made Appleby ice-cream for a delicious desert.
- Heading back towards Nelson, the Seifried Estate is a good one to try, the Kaimira Winery and Middle Earth Wines, and Waimea Estates are also worth a taste along the way if you have the time.
Time to get adventurous with the team at The Cable Bay Adventure Park.
- Just 15 minutes from central Nelson, the Cable Bay Adventure Park (Formerly Happy Valley Adventures) provides a good range of activities and fun for the whole family. Take a Quad Bike tour or hit the trails and enjoy Horse Back Riding – allow around 2 hours for each.
- Young family and want to all ride together? Try the Argo an amphibious all terrain 8 wheeled vehicle and make you way through muddy bogs, across rivers and around the expansive farmland.
- Head back to the licenced onsite café for the chance to refuel and recharge before doing battle in the purpose built Paintball Arena then to finish the day on a high it’s a trip down the famous “Skywire” – said to be the longest flying fox in the world.
- Heading back to Nelson grab an easy takeaway tea at the Sands Fish And Chip Shop on Rocks Road. Enjoy this good old New Zealand favourite the Kiwi way – down on the beach as the sun goes down.