36 Hours in Nelson, New Zealand

I started my time on the South Island in Nelson—a small, easy to navigate town surrounded by water. I wasn’t here for long and wanted to make the most of my time. It was hard to choose, but here’s what I did:


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Biking along the Maitai River

Landing in the afternoon after a 21-hour flight, I needed to stay awake. I rented a bike from Trail Journeys Nelson and headed straight for the Maitai River. It’s a combination of paved trail and more rugged mountain biking terrain. It was a little trickier than I expected to get used to being on the left side of the ‘road’. More than once, I’d pull off the trail thinking I was being polite to oncoming bikes, only to realize I was actually right in their way. It wasn’t as crowded as it sounds – and it’s such varied terrain. I highly recommend it!

Burger Culture

Perhaps not what you think of as ‘quintessential New Zealand cuisine’, but their burgers are good! It was the perfect thing after a long flight and energizing bike ride. They have some fantastic over-the-top donuts that looked to daunting to try. Fruit Loops? Check. Caramel goodness? Definitely.

Walking to the ‘Centre of New Zealand’

I started the morning (rain!) with a short walk up a trail that touts itself as being the ‘centre of New Zealand’. It starts at the Botanical Reserve, at the end of Hardy street. Walking through neighborhoods as the city is waking up is one of my favorite things to do when traveling – so, getting there was half the fun. The payoff at the top of the hill is a nice view of the city.

Nelson Provincial Museum

No matter the size or awe, I typically have a one-hour attention span at museums. This small museum downtown was perfect to get a little culture in on a rainy morning before getting on a bike. The exhibits are well done and give you a good sense of history and the Maori culture.

Bicycling to wineries

Despite the rain, I was determined to explore the Tasman Great Taste Trail. There were two options – an out-and-back or a one-way with a van transport back. I highly recommend the one-way ride. The bike ride is so much more varied and relaxing once you get out of town (instead of just doing the busy, unvaried part twice).

I got so enamored with the scenery that I got to the end without stopping at one winery! I really wanted that experience (and pinot!), so I turned around and backtracked. Seifried winery was a lovely stop and I’m glad I turned around. The trail crosses over city paths, rural roads, an amazing beach–and ends with a short ferry ride to Mapua, where you can explore restaurants and galleries before catching the van back to Nelson.

How ’bout you? What are your favorite parts of Nelson – what should I do next time?

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