We knew the Abel Tasman National Park was a “must see” during our trip to New Zealand. As we were in the planning stages, we realized visiting this park would require us to fly into the Nelson Airport for access, a city we frankly knew little about. We decided to spend 48 hours in Nelson and check it out what the city had to offer. The verdict, not to be missed awesome food, amazing beaches, stunning National Park and gorgeous wineries! We left wishing we had another couple days in this beautiful town.
Where to Stay
We decided to stay in Nelson versus camping in the National Park. We settled on a charming B&B, A Culinary Experience. Joe & Kay’s stunning home is located high on a hill with breathtaking views. Their downstairs has 2 bedrooms and a common room for their guests. It is located just about 10 minutes to the main street with several restaurants. We stayed in the Tuscan Suite which was spacious, comfortable and full of details.
The room included a lovely private patio outside the sliding glass doors which was the perfect spot to enjoy some of the local wine and indulge in the homemade macaroons Kay left in the room!
Not only do Joe & Kay provide comfortable accommodations, but there are several amenities offered as well including hot tub, sauna, an extensive wine cellar for purchase, use of the washer/drier, delicious breakfast and options to book add-on services such as dinner or massage treatments. Kay & Joe are both very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. They can help to plan activities or make restaurant reservations for your stay. This service far surpassed our expectations!
Each evening Kay would take our breakfast order and in the morning we would be greeted with a gorgeous presentation and delicious meals! Due to our short amount of time, we were not able to utilize many of the many features of this property and left wishing we had another day to just relax in the gorgeous gardens while taking one of Kay’s cooking classes. This will definitely be on our list for our next visit to Nelson!
Where to Eat
Our B&B was only about 10 minutes from the main street of town. There were several dining options from casual to more up-scale. A couple notable favorites during our 48 hours in Nelson.
Hopgoods & Co – This restaurant prides itself in creating modern dishes with seasonal ingredients. The dishes are award winning and will certainly provide a delicious spot for a meal! The menu changes frequently but a few of our favorite dishes from our visit included beef tartare, duck and pork belly!
Mahana Estate – This is a winery which also has a full service restaurant as well. The scenery is simply stunning and we highly recommend dining on the back patio! We stopped here for lunch and shared the winemakers tapas long board and finished by enjoying the honeycomb & white chocolate cheesecake with gingerbread ice cream. OMG….we literally licked the plate clean. It was one of our favorite desserts during our 2 week stay in New Zealand.
The Smokehouse – Along Mapua Warf there is an amazing spot for fish & chips. For the perfect afternoon, order takeaway fish & chips from the Smokehouse and sit at The Rimu Winebar across the street. The wine bar allows you to bring “outside” food if you buy a beverage – the perfect spot! The fish & chips were the perfect golden fried and came with a generous portion!
Cod & Lobster Brasserie – We stopped here for cocktails as we had heard of their extensive cocktail list and the tip was spot on! The menu was full of unique concoctions so of course we had to indulge in a little tasting! What really impressed us the most were the smoked Manhattan and Gotham City cocktails which featured smoked hickory and cherry to add that perfect smoke essence to the drink. Fantastic selection and innovative cocktail list make this a must stop when in Nelson!
Things to Do
The reason we visited Nelson was to visit Abel Tasman National Park. The park was about an hour drive from Nelson. We had planned to spend the day there with the Earth, Sea & Sky Tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks. This was a full day tour that offered a boat tour, hike and kayaking. The hike, which took about 2 hours, included stunning views of the gorgeous bay and a walk over a suspension bridge. The hike ended at Bark Bay and the second part of the day was a kayak tour back. It was a fabulous way to spend the day and the park is a gorgeous setting with bright, blue water against the golden beaches.
Helicopter Tour – We were so blown away with the beauty of Abel Tasman, we decided to get some aerial views of the park as well. A full review of the helicopter experience can be found here. It’s amazing to see the sizes and shapes of this vast park from the air!
Te Waikoropupu Springs – A short walking tour of the springs and you can see some of the clearest water in the world! It’s definitely worth a stop to see the views.
Wineries – There are several wineries surrounding the Nelson region. We had underestimated this during our planning stages. We had previously spent a couple days in Hawke’s Bay for the wine region and after being to both areas, we would skip Hawke’s Bay and plan for added time in Nelson on the next trip. The wineries not only had some fantastic wine options but each property we visited had gorgeous views to admire while we sipped on the various varietals. Wineries are a must stop during your 48 hours in Nelson.
Seifried Estate Winery – This one was one of the closest to the town of Nelson and was our first stop. It was a beautiful property, making it the perfect spot to start our winery afternoon.
Rimu Grove Winery – This was our favorite property to enjoy a tasting. Rimu Grove has a patio with incredible views of the vineyard and surrounding scenery. We had an extensive tasting and loved all the varieties.
Mahana Winery – We also featured this place in the food section due to the fabulous lunch but it also has a winery with some excellent options.
Rabbit Island – If you are looking for a gorgeous public beach just outside the city, a visit to Rabbit Island is for you! It is a recreational reserve and a great place if you wanted to pack a picnic while enjoying the afternoon. The B&B even provides picnic baskets for your use. Due to our short 48 hours in Nelson, we were not able to indulge but will add this for next time.
Needless to say we had a busy 48 hours in Nelson and there was still a long list of other activities for us to accomplish including visiting art & craft galleries, taking a cycling tour or renting a bike to explore the many trails, renting a boat, visiting the 2 other national parks nearby and taking more day trips including Picton and Golden Bay.
Hope this helped give you a brief overview of how you could spend 48 hours in Nelson. If you are planning your trip and can add an extra night or two, we’d highly recommend it. A fabulous town with friendly people, gorgeous scenery and no shortage of quality food and wine. Until next time Nelson…..