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Nelson & Marlborough

Great weather, world-class wineries, three national parks and a captivating coastline make these neighbouring regions an excellent choice for a road trip at any time of year.

From the Christchurch Britz depot, it’s an easy drive north to the top of the South Island, with beautiful coastal scenery along the way. The sea is a major feature of these neighbouring regions, which boasts an epic coastline including over 3,000km in the Marlborough Sounds alone.

This part of New Zealand can also be reached by ferry from Wellington, which cruises to Picton, a neat little tourist town offering a raft of outdoor adventures including hiking, mountain biking and kayaking in the Sounds.

Nearby is Marlborough’s capital, Blenheim, in the heart of the Wairau Valley. This is the epicentre of New Zealand wine industry, with cellar doors and restaurants generously sprinkled throughout a picturesque landscape.

Nelson is the region’s biggest metropolis, separated from Marlborough by the Richmond Range. It’s a confident place with an active arts scene and glorious rural and seaside surrounds. Neighbouring Motueka town is a pleasant gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, as well as Kahurangi and charming Golden Bay over Takaka Hill.

At the southern boundary of Marlborough is salty Kaikoura, world famous for whales and other wildlife.

Marlbourough is an area where abundant natural beauty is soaked in a sunny climate - a land of fine wines and great food, mountains and crystal lakes, oceans and tumbling rivers, rolling hills and sandy beaches. It's an adventure playground for those who love to get amongst the Great Outdoors.


  • wildlife, particularly marine mammals and seabirds
  • three national parks and numerous nature reserves
  • varied coastline with beautiful beaches and remote sounds
  • kayaking, boat cruises and water sports
  • world-class wine country
  • sunny towns

Suggested self-drive experiences 

 Nelson's abundant sunshine and beautiful landscapes draw those seeking a laidback lifestyle and authentic cultural experiences. Bring an appetite for exquisite fresh cuisine and outdoor adventure against a backdrop of forest and beaches.

What to see & do 

Wine & Food

Visit Mapua Wharf; a vibrant centre of arts, cuisine and delicious takeaway smoked fish. Buy fresh produce at the Saturday market, take away a chunk of cheese or an aromatic loaf of freshly made bread. Get sticky over locally handmade chocolates, try Kiwi hokey pokey ice cream. Make sure you stop in Golden Bay for a bowl of delicious local scallops or to experience catching your own.

Nature & Scenic


The Nelson region covers five distinct geographic areas:

  • the urban centres of Nelson & Richmond
  • the highways of Mapua, Motueka, Moutere, through rolling horticultural land
  • the idyllic coastline of Abel Tasman National Park
  • the heart of the parks, Golden Bay between Kahurangi and Abel Tasman national parks
  • the alpine lakes and rivers around St Arnaud - Nelson Lakes & Murchison including Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks

Art & Culture

The WearableArt phenomenon is now an internationally celebrated event. Winning entries from the shows live exclusively in Nelson at the World of WearableArt and Collectable Cars Museum. The juxtaposition of incredible garments with classic cars in one museum is a winning combination.

Beach & Coastal Encounters


Abel Tasman National Park covers just 22,350ha but its international reputation is enormous. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and it takes three to five days to walk the full length. The golden beaches, tranquil lagoons, clear water, native bush, seals and bird life ma

ke this an amazing year-round destination and a favourite location for sea-kayaking. The inland track is less travelled and also offers some spectacular scenery.

Wildlife Experiences

Highly recommend is Farewell Spit, where there is a café and visitor centre. The only access to the spit is by approved 4WD tours to the world-class bird sanctuary or Pillar Point Lighthouse. There are also lots of walks nearby including: to the lighthouse, to Puponga Point and Fossil Point, not to mention walking the dramatic west coast beaches

Kahurangi National Park offers an enormous range of landscapes: alpine tussock downs, caves, natural arches, sinkholes and water-worn outcrops to nikau forests on the West Coast. Wildlife includes the protected Blue Duck, giant land snail, largest cave spider, smallest giant weta, and the largest remaining population of Great Spotted Kiwi.

Nelson Lakes National Park is centred on two beautiful alpine lakes: Rotoiti and Rotoroa. Craggy mountains, tranquil lakes, beech forest, clear streams and pebble ‘beaches’ are synonymous wi

th Nelson Lakes.. Vegetation is predominantly red, silver and black beech. 

Look out for Nelson's exciting birdlife including tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman. The South Island kaka is less common, but can be spotted in Nelson Lakes.

Nelson & Marlborough Quick Facts

​At the northern end of the South Island are the winding sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds.  This collection of drowned river valleys is a natural wonder, unparalleled in New Zealand.  This is the region of nature's infinite variety.

The city of Nelson is the hub of a region abundant in vineyards making a variety of wines and is world renowned for it’s crispy Sauvignon Blanc. It is also known for delicious seafood and a some of New Zealand best known artists.

Visitors love the way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with beach life – bursts of hiking or kayaking, punctuated by sunbathing, swimming and sedate snorkelling around the characteristic granite outcrops.

Nelson Marlborough – the finer things in life.


Discover the creative paradise that is Nelson – an irresistible blend of lifestyle and stunning landscape at the top northwest corner of the South Island. From the northern edge of the Southern Alps across the fertile plains and out to a great sweep of beaches, our place is beautifully laid out under a generous sun that delivers New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. To visit Nelson region is to discover azure skies and wide open spaces, beaches and lakes, spectacular national parks and unique landforms, vineyards and gourmet cafés, artists and galleries, entrepreneurs and boutique shopping experiences...a uniquely Nelson way of life.

Nelson region combines the finest elements of the New Zealand experience and delivers them across stunning geography, sun-ripened at the perfect latitude under New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours.

Quick Facts

Population: Nelson city is the 10th most populous city and geographical centre of New Zealand. Nelson Tasman Region has a resident population of 87,000 (2001)
  • Nelson city 43,500
  • Tasman district 43,500  
Climate:Nelson city rates consistently as New Zealand's sunniest spot with over 2,500 sunshine hours per year.
Cultural Mix:Iwi (Maori tribal groups) claim ancestral occupation rights, or rights of conquest over areas in the Nelson Region. These Iwi are Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Te Atiawa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia and Ngati Toa.
Famous For:
  • Nelson is New Zealand's second oldest city, settled in 1841
  • Home to NZ's oldest state secondary school, Nelson College, est. in 1856
  • Home to 22 wineries which benefit from the mild Mediterranean climate
  • Unique landscape and wildlife with three spectacular national parks all within 90 minutes drive of each other
  • Two of New Zealand's Great Walks are within this region - Abel Tasman Coastal Track and Heaphy Track

Related Information

Itinerary Ideas – Northbound Scenic Sights This 12-day adventure brings you up close to most of New Zealand's world-famous tourist hotspots from Queenstown, Marlborough, Wellington, Waitomo and Auckland.

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