Love the Arts? You'll love Nelson Tasman
Nelson is renowned for its stunning scenery and sunshine, but there’s far more to the region. If you’re of a more artsy persuasion, good news. Nelson is brimming with some of the country’s finest crafts and artists.
It’s true, you’ll find almost no other region that boasts more passion per square inch. But with so much on offer, it can be tricky knowing where to start. So to help get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a selection of exciting things to do for a weekend in Nelson – enjoy!
Things to do in Nelson
Nelson's Saturday markets
Kick things off early (anytime from 8am till noon) with a trip to Nelson’s famous Saturday markets – nestled in Montgomery square, the heart of Nelson City, this market’s been a favourite amongst locals for almost 40 years. Here you’ll find a collection of Nelson’s most innovative creators selling everything from fresh produce – vegetables, cheeses, bread – to jewellery, ceramics, pottery and some of the region’s best peanut butter. Yum.
Head over the hill to Takaka
If you’ve got access to wheels, add a roadie to the list and make a trip to the quirky and colourful town of Takaka – located just two hours north of Nelson’s centre. Arts and crafts are at the centre of this town’s being, with funky cafés, painters, sculptors and distilleries (check out Dancing Sands Distillery) tucked into every corner. Special mention must go to ‘The Mussel Inn Brewery - a rustic woolshed style café that offers live music, tasty food (their mussels are a must) and the famous ‘captain cooker’ craft beer – inspired by Captain Cook himself.
Things to view in Nelson
The WOW (World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum is a great choice for lovers of art, fashion and innovation. If you’d like to take a look at the WOW design competition’s award-winning frocks, this museum has more than fifty on display. Or if you’re into shiny toys with engines, check out the ‘100 years of motoring’ vintage car collection – it’s home to more than 140 classic cars – including Mustangs, Cadillacs, Aston Martins – and even the world’s fastest Mini.
If you’d like to marvel over artistic talents in a beautifully designed space, The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson is a must. Exhibitions, live theatre performances and workshops are all things to see and do at this public gallery. And nearby is The Suter Café – which is well worth a visit. You’ll love the friendly service, tasty food and delicious coffee – all served with views of the lush Queen’s Gardens.
For something a bit different, visit The Hoglund Art Glass Gallery. It’s renowned for its glass masterpieces, which have been sought after by some big names – Sir Elton John, Bill Clinton, Mohammad Ali just to name a few. To see their glassblowing work live in action, make a trip to the studio (call beforehand), or to get your hands on one of their creations, check out the display gallery – open from 10am to 5pm daily.
Lastly, if you know what we’re talking about when we say Frodo, Gandalf and Mordor, you’ll definitely want to pop into Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith. Famous for designing and making THE ring from Lord of the Rings, it’s total bragging rights for Tolkien lovers – and better yet - you can even get your very own replica ring made for you.
After a day of exploring Nelson’s arts and crafts scene, you might want to settle in for a night at the Art Deco State Cinema – the centre for Nelson movie goers since 1936. Having recently gone through a half-a-million dollar do-up, the cinema offers one of the biggest screens, best sound quality and all-round movie experiences in the country. Pizza and a wine are also on hand, so if you’ve got an appetite to curb, head upstairs to Stefano’s authentic Italian restaurant for a meal beforehand. All in all, it makes for the perfect night out with a special someone.
Over summer, head along to Founders Park on Sunday afternoon to soak up some sounds with the sun. Every week they have a different Jazz group performing live courtesy of Nelson Jazz Club, which goes perfectly with a picnic and good company.
Or if you're after something a little more rousing, Nelson isn't short of live music venues. Little Rock Bar and Deville Cafe are two of the more popular ones, with live music on offer most days of the week. So pack your dancing shoes and check them out. What's more, rock up to Little Rock Bar on Tuesday and the mic's all yours at Karaoke night – just saying.
Things to taste in Nelson
If you’re into beverages of the craft kind, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Nelson – better known as New Zealand’s craft beer capital and one of the world’s top cider cities (as voted by National Geographic). Ten breweries (most of which are locally owned) are scattered throughout the Nelson region but a few stand out as suggestions – Spring and Fern, Golden Bear and Hop Federation – think Lager, Pale Ale, Pilsners and Cider. Choose to reach each brewery by car, foot or hire a bike and follow the Nelson Craft Beer Trail Map if you’d like to pedal between beers.
For a sip of something fancy and a bite to eat, book a spot at the charming Melrose Café– located just five minutes from Nelson’s city centre. High tea along with savoury delicacies and sweet treats is what this café’s best known for (it’s served daily at 2:30 pm). But if you’re after something heavier, there’s some delicious breakfast and lunch options to enjoy with a glass of French champagne. After you’ve indulged in the menu, take a stroll through the manicured Melrose gardens – there’s even an audio tour available if you’ve got your smartphone handy.
Nelson’s food scene is award-winning, delicious and great for foodies of all sorts. For some fresh seafood and locally crafted brews, stop by the Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery(they don’t take bookings). Or for some delicious appetisers, cocktails and big fish platters, make your way to the family-run Cod and Lobster Brasserie. And if saying you’ve been to New Zealand’s oldest pub appeals, head to the Moutere Inn. Built back in 1850, the pub is still in its original building and serves up a healthy dose of history, along with local brews, hearty meals and a relaxed atmosphere.
Fine dining more your thing? Check out Hopgoods – a bistro-style restaurant serving seasonally based platters, decadent desserts and a great selection of Nelson and European wines. Or if you want to eat on the water, head to The Boat Shed Café. Their ‘a la carte’ menu is great for those wanting individual platters, while their ‘trust the chef’ menu is full of surprises and made to be shared.
On board? See you in Nelson
Be it jewellery, furniture, ham and cheese pizza or something else entirely, Nelson locals are all about making things by hand. And they can’t wait for you to come and try it all! So whether you want to dance, draw, dine or drink, come and spend some time in Nelson, Tasman. Bursting with artistic and culinary talent, it’s the perfect day trip for those close by, or weekend away for those slightly further. And with its location being just over an hour from the Picton terminal, it’s a short journey for those coming in on the Interislander ferry.
On that note, the Plus Lounge on the Interislander is a break in itself – so grab yourself a Nelson pinot noir and sit back and relax before you tackle all that Nelson has to offer.