Hike Or Cycle The Dun Mountain Trail Free
For a more adventurous walk around Nelson, try the Dun Mountain Trail. This shared biking/walking trail is well-graded taking you through the hills and native and pine forest. Youll capture amazing mountain scenery along the way. The 9.5km walk usually takes three hours both ways. Walking the trail is obviously part of the free things to do in Nelson, but if you want to hire a bike and learn more about the trail, check out Mountain Biking in Nelson Tasman.
Location: Start the trail from Brook Street, Nelson.
Watch Planes Take Off
The airport is right in town and since its such a narrow valley, its quite the approach. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio at Finleys Bar and Grill and have a front row view of the take offs and landings.
While youre there, sample the many local craft beers. There are some good ones! Or head down to the trails by the marina and look up.
Visit Art And Heritage Museums
The Suter Art Gallery is one of the top Nelson attractions. It showcases local and international works from the last 200 years, including ceramics. For art in the outdoors, hire a bike or vintage scooter and explore the City Mural Trail. To learn about the region’s fascinating history, head to Founders Heritage Park or the Nelson Provincial Museum. You’ll also find small galleries dotted throughout the region and several historic homes that welcome visitors.
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Stroll The Wonderful Gardens
A lovely pastime of Nelson locals and visitors alike is to stroll the exquisite gardens of the city. Weve talked a lot about the beauty of the natural scenery and the gardens showcase this wonderfully well. Queens Gardens, which has been the pride and joy of the city since 1892, are a great place to start and reflect the Victorian era in which they were built. For something a little bit different, the Miyazu Garden is a Japanese garden that provides an escape to East Asia with some lovely paths to follow.
Picnic On Rabbit Island
Rabbit Island is a 25-minute drive from Nelson and is a popular spot with locals for picnics, barbecues, walking, cycling, and swimming.
There are trails through the pine forest and a long grey sandy beach with safe swimming in the turquoise water.
You can drive onto the island or cycle there on the Great Taste Trail .
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Honest Lawyer Country Pub
This Olde Worlde English-style pub has a large beer garden overlooking the Waimea Estuary a 15-minute drive from central Nelson.
The pub food is decent and there are plenty of beers on tap, but youre really here for the setting which is ideal on a sunny day, especially if you have kids.
Hit The Beach At Tahunanui And Kaiteriteri
We make mention of the beach above, and no summary of Nelson’s offerings would be complete without emphasizing the quality of the region’s beaches as an attraction in their own right. The Nelson region’s varied coastline contains a range of beaches, each with their own outlook and aspect and while some are more famous than others, the sunshine makes enjoying a day at any of the available choices an easy prospect.
Perhaps the most famous of these is Tahunanui, the main beach of Nelson City which serves as the first go-to beach for many visiting the region and provides a great spot for swimming or a picnic due to its relatively sheltered nature. There are plenty of activities other than a simple swim to take part in here too cafes and restaurants of all kinds are just a stone’s throw away while it’s also home to a fun park that kids will love and gives families the chance to partake in a round of mini golf, ride on bumper boats and go-karts or even try a ride on a hydro slide.
“The Nelson region’s varied coastline contains a range of beaches, each with their own outlook and aspect and while some are more famous than others, the sunshine makes enjoying a day at any of the available choices an easy prospect.”
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Walk Down Historic Baker Street And Check Out The Local Shops
Nelson was established in 1897, and Baker Street has always been the heart of the city. Today, Baker is still the vibrant downtown core of the city, and its tree-lined streets are filled with local shops, artisans, buskers, breweries, art and statues from local artists, heritage buildings, restaurants, outdoor stores, boutiques, coffee shops, bike shops, patios, and cannabis stores.
During the summer months, you can do a self-guided tour of Baker Street and the surrounding area by exploring the various stops on the ArtWalk, which is a free community event that showcases the work of local artists inside businesses and storefronts.
Many of Nelsons hotels are within walking distance of Baker Street. If you do decide to drive here, bring change because theres metered parking available right on Baker and on the side streets.
Kayak In Nelson Haven
Hire a kayak or jump on a ferry through Nelson Haven. Visit the unusual natural formation of Boulder Bank, a 13km stretch of rocky substrate, and check out lighthouse standing in the middle of it. Additionally, paddle to Haulashore Island to relax on the beach and watch the sunset.
Location: Nelson Haven, ferry and kayak services run from Wakefield Quay, approximately 2.5km from Nelson city centre.
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Relax On Tahunanui Beach
A short drive from central Nelson is this rather large and lovely expanse of beach. Jutting out, almost pointing towards the Abel Tasman National Park it is particularly lovely during the summer months.
With some pretty spectacular views towards the aforementioned Abel Tasman National Park, this is a lovely place to relax with a good book and a great view.
If youre not sure what to do in Nelson, then this is a great place to start.
READ MORE: Plan your trip to New Zealand with our comprehensive New Zealand Travel Guide.
Go On A Walking Mural Tour
Speaking of great photo spots, Nelson is full of amazing murals all around town. Every year in mid-August is the Nelson International Mural Festival where fresh murals are painted around town by renowned local and international artists.
But dont worry if youre not visiting on this particular weekend, they stay up all year round.
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Local Orchards And Farms
Long established family orchards such as Dickie Brothers, Saunders Brothers, Drumhellers, Seamans and Fitzgeralds provide apples in the fall and hold fall festivals on the weekends. Other seasonal fruits available are peaches, strawberries and blackberries.
Many smaller farms provide produce to local farmers markets and restaurants with many of them growing organic products, including meats and cheeses.
The Best Things To Do In Nelson Bc
Nestled between the calm waters of Kootenay Lake, and the snow-capped Selkirk mountains, Nelson BC Canada is a small city with a big heart. Its relatively void of commercialization and prides itself on supporting both local business and the environment. Theres a ton of things to do in Nelson BC, so if youre planning a visit to this little mountain gem, read on!
Nelson is one of my favourite little cities in BC! Actually, its one of my favourite little cities in the entire world. I grew up an hour from Nelson and have spent countless hours shopping, eating and getting into trouble here.
Nelson has always been a hippie town, which makes it super unique. Im pretty sure the town itself invented the zero-waste movement because theyve been preaching the environmentally friendly/vegan/hippie lifestyle for decades. For as long as I can remember, the town has had a rather distinct smell of marijuana .
If youre looking for a variety of things to do, Nelson BC has something for everyone. You can connect with your inner hippie, go green shopping, eat some seriously incredible local food, or get outdoors in the surrounding mountains. So, what are you waiting for???
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Go To Tahunanui Beach Free
Who doesnt love spending time at the beach?! Tahunanui Beach is a popular one with the locals and is just a 10-minute drive from Nelson city centre. To save money on gas, walking from the city centre to the beach takes about an hour along the beautiful Rock Road which follows the coast. Whats more, its another excellent option for families.
Location: Tahunanui Beach, just off State Highway 6 when heading south from Nelson
Check Out The Stunning Architecture Of Christ Church Cathedral
In the heart of Nelson you with find the Christ Church Cathedral, not to be confused with the cathedral in the city of Christchurch itself.
Its a lovely old building thats well worth taking a stroll around.
- Opening Hours: 9:00 am 6:00 pm daily.
- Cost: Free
- Address: 1 Trafalgar Square, Nelson 7010, New Zealand.
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Experience The Nelson Market
Immerse yourself in the local creative community at this longstanding market, renowned for quality Nelson produce, arts and crafts. Held every Saturday morning at Montgomery Square in the heart of the city, it’s frequently rated as one of the best things to do in Nelson Tasman. The market is a great place for a coffee, a bite to eat, gifts or a memento of your holiday.
Ride The Worlds Longest Free Ferry
Yep, to get across Kootenay Lake from Balfour to Kootenay Bay, youve got to take a ferry. You just line up at the end of the road and drive you car onto the ferry.
Its a great way to see the area from the water and really get an idea of the impressive landscape. Its about a 30 minute ride.
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Go Bird Spotting At The Brook Wanimara Sanctuary
This rather lovely sanctuary on the outskirts of Nelson is home to a wide variety of native bird and plant species.
The sanctuary is home to a number of hiking trails where you can take yourself off and explore and catch a glimpse of some of the native species that inhabit the sanctuary.
With all of the challenges, New Zealands indigenous species its great to see organizations like this trying to reverse the problems invasive species have brought to these shores.
- Opening Hours: 9:00 am 4:00 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Cost: Adult $15 Child $8.
- Address: 651 Brook St, The Brook, Nelson 7010, New Zealand.
Experience The Music Scene And Nightlife
You might not expect to find a thriving nightlife in a small town like Nelson, but this place is full of surprises. Theres something going on at one or more of the different pubs, bars, or restaurants on any given night of the week, as long as you know where to look. Heres a sampling of the regular weekly evening entertainment you can check out in Nelson:
- Bingo every Tuesday at Mikes Place Pub during the winter
- Open mic night at Finleys every Tuesday
- Karaoke at Torchlight every Saturday
- Eat to the Beat every Friday at Pitchfork Eatery
- Trivia night at Uptown Tavern every Thursday
- Plays and performances at the Capitol Theatre
Theres always something going on in town, so keep an eye out for the old-school poster boards on Baker Street to find out whos playing where throughout the month.
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Hiking / Tramping & Walks
Abel Tasman Coastal Track
One of NZ’s 9 Great Walks – blessed with a mild climate, golden beaches and lush coastal native bush, the Abel Tasman Coast Track has it all. Walk the whole track in either direction, take a water taxi or kayak between different locations. The whole track is 60km and it takes 3-5 days to complete.Visit website »
One of 9 NZ Great Walks. Travel through expansive tussock downs, lush forests and nkau palms to the roaring seas of the West Coast. The whole track is 78.4km and it takes 4 – 6 days to complete.Visit website »
Nelson Short Walks
In and around Nelson are several short walks of varying length and difficulties. The Nelson City Council offers descriptions and maps for all of them.Visit website »
Centre of New Zealand
The Centre of New Zealand on Botanical Hill is one of Nelsons most popular walks. To reach the top will take 20-60 minutes, depending on your age, speed and fitness.
Where Is Nelson Bc
I think Nelson has remained in its own world because of its relatively secluded location. For instance, its an 8 hour drive from Vancouver.
Or, a 7 hour drive from Calgary, Alberta. But, its only a 3 hour drive from Spokane, Washington.
Yes, Nelson is located so far south that its only 40 miles to the United States border. Chances are, you will be driving to get here, but any road in is gorgeous.
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Things To Do Around Nelson Bc
Theres also a lot of things to do near Nelson BC that can easily be done via day trips. From Nelson, you can head up Kootenay Lake to Kaslo, across the Balfour Ferry to Crawford Bay & Creston, or North towards Nakusps hot springs.
Ainsworth Hot Springs
I may be a bit biased, but I do love Ainsworth hot springs. Theyre unique amongst any other hot springs Ive visited because of the cave. It may seem a bit creepy initially, but its such a cool feature that Ive never seen anywhere else!
You can spend the night in one of the on-site hotel rooms, which will also give you priority access an hour before the general public in the morning. This is definitely worth it if you want a quiet/less busy swim. The restaurant is also pretty good and has a gorgeous view over Kootenay Lake .
Ainsworth Hot Springs
Kokanee Creek Old Growth Forest
Further up the road from Ainsworth youll find Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. In it itself is worth visiting, especially late-August when the salmon are spawning! The lesser known stop is a beautiful hike through a 600-800 year old Old Growth Forest.
The trail is a short 2km with very minimal elevation change. Its relatively well marked and easy to follow. The end of the trail has a loop that passes the largest and oldest of the trees. My suggestion is to go left at the loop!
Places To Go In Nelson
Welcome, traveler, to Nelson. Your journey has landed you here, and new adventures are calling your name. Now that youve arrived, you can stay in the safety and comfort of your hotel and watch the world spin pastor you can embrace this new place youve come to. Learn its streets. Meet its people. Learn its history. Your hand is already on the doorknob, isnt it?
Things to Do in Nelson
Youll not be wanting for things to do in Nelson. Explore the downtown area in search of museums and boutiquesor that next delicious meal. What tickles your fancy? A delectable five-course supper at the restaurant youve been hearing about? Or perhaps youd rather read the paper while sipping hot coffee at one of the cafes scattered throughout town. Take in a show at the theatre, or just walk along down the main thoroughfare, watching people wander past.
Why spend hours ruminating over what to do in Nelson? Let the possibilities wash over you as you explore this new region. Move out on foot and get to know the area on a more personal level. Find that perfect souvenir at one of the smaller shops, or reinvent your entire artistic aesthetic at your new favorite gallery.
When you book your journey with Travelocity, youre never far from Nelson attractions. After all, the money you save when you plan a trip with us is best spent along the way. Whether its the roar of the city you crave, or the quiet solitude that comes with a simpler getaway, everything you need to get started is right here.
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Hike In A National Park
The Nelson region has not one, not two but three national parks within its boundaries making it a great place to stretch the legs and take in some incredible sights. The three National Parks are the Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park and the Nelson Lakes National Park and each offers something a little bit different. From the beautiful coastal views of the Abel Tasman National Park to the high plateaux of the Kahurangi National Park and the crystal clear waters of the Nelson Lakes National Park youve got a diverse range of vistas covered.
Best Things To Do In Nelson
Ive divided our top things to do in Nelson into three areas: the city centre, the outskirts, and further afield locations which are great for day trips.
Many of these Nelson activities are free, but Ive included costs when applicable. All prices are in New Zealand dollars. The current exchange rate is NZD $1 = USD $0.68, GBP £0.51, and EUR 0.60.
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