Nelson is known as the sunshine capital of New Zealand, and with good reason. Along with the highest number of sunshine hours in the country, the town boasts great beaches, wonderful vineyards and outdoor adventures within easy reach, a thriving local art scene, award winning restaurants and a burgeoning café culture.
Three national parks lie within a 90 minute drive of the city centre. Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi National Parks are all well worth a visit, with some great short and multi-day hikes. Secluded bays and dense forest have attracted visitors to the area for decades.
If you are a keen fisherman then you’ll find some of the world’s best fly fishing around Nelson, usually in fairly remote areas. For more of an adrenalin rush, the Tasman region is one of the top global white water destinations – rafting, kayaking and jetboating can be done on up to 18 rivers within a small area.
There are some superb mountain bike trails that are great for both amateur and pro cyclists. Some major race events are held here, including Dun Mountain and Heaphy Track, as well as the first stage of the Great Taste Trail. Bikes can be hired from a number of tour companies around town.
Water sports abound here, with fishing, diving, sailing and kitesurfing all popular on – or in – the Pacific Ocean. One of the best places to kitesurf is on Tahunanui Beach, with regular wind and a scenic location making it a popular choice.
Distances: 105km from Picton, 415km from Christchurch
Best time to visit: The weather is best in summer and early autumn (November through April), but with more sunshine hours than anywhere else in the country Nelson is worth a visit any time of year.
How long to spend there: A day or two in Nelson, and another in the surrounding region. Add several more if you’re walking the famous Abel Tasman track, of course.