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           Home >  Regions  > Nelson  :

Favourite places to visit and revisit in Nelson
Dorothy - 27/11/03

Nelson offers so much of interest that visitors have a fascinating variety of plaes to visit. In the city itself the shopping area decorated with hanging baskets of flowers, Botanical Hill, known as the Centre of New Zealand, the Nelson Cathedral, the Queens Gardens, the Suter Gallery, and Britannia Heights with the view of the Fifeshire Rock and Haulashore Island. Close at hand are the Grampians, Tahunanui Beach, Broadgreen and Isel House. For longer trips Cable Bay, Mapua, Abel Tasman National Park, Lake Rotoiti at Nelson Lakes National Park, , Motueka, Ruby Bay, Kaiteriteri, Marahau, the Grampians, The Glen, and Rabbit Island.

Our recent trip was a return visit to the city, but we still chose to begin with a walk around the city streets and a drive around some familiar landmarks.

Nelson's climate makes it a pleasant place to visit all year round. Along with Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty in the North Island and Blenheim in nearby Marlborough Nelson enjoys over 2350 hours of bright sunshine each year.

We began by parking in a parking area diagonally opposite the Post Office and adjacent to the Visitors' Centre - a good focal point.

Car Park, Visitors Centre and Post Office
The Post Office is of an unusual design and with its clock tower it makes a good landmark when you want to return to your car.

We had chosen to visit in February when the peak of the tourist season was over, but as we ambled along Trafalgar Street in the sunshine we were impressed with the holiday atmosphere with people lunching outdoors, and the lovely hanging baskets of flowers all along the street.

View along Trafalgar Street to the Cathedral with the Grampians behind
Photo source Alister Hunt
We walked up the Cawthron Steps to the Cathedral on Church Hill - clearly visible as we wandered up Trafalgar Street. The Cathedral is open to visitors and we were fortunate to go in when the organist was playing which was a highlight of our visit.

Walk to the Queens Gardens
From the Cathedral we walked back down Trafalgar Street, turned right into Hardy Street and walked east until we reached the Queens Gardens on our left. This pleasant garden is popular with Nelson residents and visitors alike. It is a typical Victorian garden with a duck pond and many tall trees to provide shade for a rest after a walk in Nelson's sunshine. Feeding the ducks and white swans is a popular pastime for all ages.

Feeding the ducks and swans at the Queens Gardens
The Suter
We crossed the Queens Gardens to the Bridge Street gate, turned left and found ourselves at the entrance to The Suter, Nelson's art gallery. It has a number of works by well-known nineteenth century artists including Gully, Van der Velden and Lindauer, but is also developing its collection of works by contemporary artists, such as the local artist, Sir Toss Woollaston. There is a changing programme of exhibitions of work by New Zealand artists. In the Gallery building there are three exhibition galleries, a cafe, a cinema and a craft shop.

Walking up Botanical Hill to the Centre of New Zealand
We added a more demanding walk by returning to Hardy Street and walking east to Milton Street. This brought us to the Botanical Reserve. Here moderately steep but well defined paths up Botanical Hill took us to the trig at the summit which is said to mark the centre of New Zealand - the mid point of the country measured from north to south. It took only about twenty minutes to climb the hill, and it was well worth the effort for the views at the top across to the Boulder Bank and up the Maitai Valley.

Back to the car park
We returned to the carpark by walking along Bridge Street, turning right into Trafalgar Street and along to the car park.

A suggestion for a scenic drive
Leaving the car park turn right and drive along Halifax Street to Anzac Park where you turn right and the straight forward route takes you along Haven Road to the Port and Wakefield Quay and along Rocks Road beside the water to the Tahunanui shops. At the shops turn left and drive up the hill along Bisley Ave and Moana Ave. On reaching Princes Drive continue to the Davis Lookout with a parking bay where you can appreciate the vista before you and take photographs.

Looking below Davis Lookout at Arrow Rock, Haulashore Island and the end of the Boulder Bank
You have driven along Haven Road, so called because it is beside Nelson Haven. Nelson from the time of its settlement was very fortunate in having such a sheltered place for shipping to dock. The shelter is provided by the Boulder Bank - a natural formation stretching from Mackays Bluff to the east of Nelson for thirteen kilometres, It was formed by igneous boulders of grandiorite eroded from the Bluff and carried southwest by the tide. At the south west end of the Boulder Bank there is a cut in the bank made in 1906 to save vessels from sailing around Haulashore Island where the tides were rapid and the passage narrow. The Fifeshire which brought settlers to Nelson in 1842 foundered that year on Arrow Rock. Both the island and the rock are sometimes called Fifeshire after the ship. The historic lighthouse on the Boulder Bank was built in 1861.

Looking to the west across the end of Tahunanui Beach to the Waimea Plain and Rabbit Island
Tahunanui Beach, more often called Tahuna, is an extensive and safe beach, which has made it a popular holiday destination for visitors of all ages. Although people flock there in the summer holidays it offers such a long stretch of fine sand that there is ample room for all the holiday makers. There are also other attractions at the beach - the Lions Playground, a roller skating rink, a Hydroslide, Bumpa Boats, a model railway, tennis courts open to the public, mini golf, a petanque court, and Natureland which is a small zoo.

Rabbit Island with the pine trees on the right of the photo is another popular picnic place with long stretches of beach.

Walking or driving a short distance to the west along Princes Drive you can see across the city to the Grampians. It is possible to follow tracks on the Grampians and walk to the TV translator - another site which offers impressive views of the city and Tasman Bay.

Looking back across Nelson to the Grampians
Drives close to Nelson city
Historic houses

Plan a drive which includes South Street where there is a group of historic working class cottages built in the 1860s, Broadgreen in Nayland Rd, Stoke, which is a beautifully restored two storey cob house dating from 1855 and Isel House, Main Road, Stoke, with its magnificent gardens.
Broadgreen - a two storey cob house
Maitai Valley
Six kilometres from the city is the City Council Camping and Picnic Ground. There several picnic grounds and swimming holes in the valley.

The Glen and Cable Bay
Heading out of the city on the Blenheim highway, SH6, you take the Glen turnoff and drive along to the start of the Boulder Bank. Returning to SH6 you continue on over Gentle Annie hill and soon come to the Cable Bay turnoff. This attractive bay was once the site where the cable from Australia came ashore and there were office buildings and accommodation. Now it is a quiet bay with some holiday cottages and a camping ground with no trace of the former complex of buildings.

Cable Bay when it was the cable station
Driving further afield
While staying near the city of Nelson you have a wide selection of day tours. As you drive remember that the Nelson area is very popular with artists and craftspeople and watch for galleries where you can view and possibly purchase their work. Look too for cafes, wineries and fruit stalls which make inviting stopping places.

The round trip to Motueka
If you choose to take the coastal route - SH 60 - watch for the turnoff just past Richmond. This road takes you along the coast through horticultural country and the settlements at Appleby, Mapua, Ruby Bay, and Tasman. Mapua, at the mouth of the Waimea inlet between Mapua and Rabbit Island is the biggest estuary in the South Island and the home of a variety of birdlife. Mapua offers good cafes, motels, an aquarium/gift shop, jet boat rides, Eco-tours by jet, sea kayaking and mountain biking.

From Motueka you can continue through Riwaka to Kaiteriteri and Marahau - two very popular holiday beaches. You will be tempted by the road signs directing you to Takaka and Golden Bay, to Abel Tasman National Park and to Kahurangi National Park, but to visit these areas you need more than a day trip from Nelson, so plan a holiday where you spend several days exploring the areas beyond Motueka.

You will most likely spend a long time in the inviting places on this drive so you may well want to return by the most direct route on the Moutere Highway which takes you through Lower Moutere, Upper Moutere and the Redwood valley.

Nelson Lakes National Park
One and a half hours drive takes you to the St Arnaud township and beautiful Lake Rotoiti. For more information about this area and photographs go to the relevant NZine articles.

A magnet for visitors
Nelson has so much to offer the holiday maker that we make return visits and are always finding something fresh to enjoy.

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