Nelson self-drive holiday

Departing from Wellington, our three-day self-drive package will take you from the sparkling capital to the sunniest region in New Zealand where you'll discover a thriving local art and cultural scene in Nelson.

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Photo credit: Barry Peck

Explore New Zealand’s sunniest region 

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2 nights, based on share twin


Enjoy a self-drive break taking your own vehicle (or we can arrange a rental car in Picton for you) to sunny Nelson.

Depart Wellington aboard an Interislander ferry en-route to Picton for your self-drive holiday (if you don't have a vehicle we can arrange a rental for you in Picton) you'll be provided with vouchers for enjoying the wide selection of food and beverages available at the on-board outlets as you travel across the Cook Strait. As you cruise through the Sounds in the late morning, you can even enjoy a taste of Marlborough, with our selection of local wine or beer.

After arriving in Picton, you will be all set for your roadie (if you're collecting a rental car as part of this package please follow the instructions in our booking confirmation).

Nelson is the oldest city in the South Island and the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand. Well known for local arts and crafts shops it's also a popular base for vineyards and Abel Tasman National Park. As the sunshine capital of New Zealand you'll be in for a treat, whether you follow our itinerary or create your own and discover new things along the way.


Aratere in the Tory Channel
Taking pictures of Oriental Parade from the Interislander
Entering Ocean View Eatery on Kaitaki


Day 1

Departing from Wellington Interislander Terminal, the first leg of your great escape is a voyage of discovery. While cruising through Wellington Harbour, you'll take in the famous sights of Oriental Parade, Matui Island, Eastbourne, and the historic Pencarrow lighthouses.

Heading out onto Cook Strait, you'll be travelling north to where two seas meet. On a clear day, you'll see Cloudy Bay and Blenheim on the far shore with the Kaikoura mountains rising in the distance. On the Wellington side, you'll see the wild hills of Cape Terawhiti.

The hour-long passage through Cook Strait is an ideal opportunity to enjoy our range of food and beverages. During the morning sailing, both cooked and continental breakfasts are available with juices, teas and coffees. There is also a selection of cakes, pastries, hot and cold food available if you're looking for something other than breakfast.

The final chapter of an incredible voyage is spent sailing through the sheltered the Marlborough Sounds - a safe-haven for marine and birdlife. As you cruise through the Tory Channel, there is an excellent chance of seeing dolphins and several native bird species, along with the awe-inspiring scenery of Marlborough.

After a sharp turn around Dieffenbach Point, you will be on the broad Queen Charlotte Sound (known locally as Totaranui) and soon the twinkling town of Picton will be visible in the distance.


Havelock town
Pelorus River Bridge
Mussels on Nydia Track


Once in Picton you’ll be all set to start your roadie as you set off en-route to Nelson. We highly recommend taking Queen Charlotte Drive, a stunning 40km scenic drive along winding roads of native forest and sleepy bays as you head to Havelock. Make sure you make lots of stops along the way to fully appreciate the drive – one of the best you’ll ever do.

Our tip – just before you reach Havelock, visit the lookout at Cullens Point for a view that will take your breath away and well worth capturing with a photo so you can saviour the moment for years to come.

At Havelock, you will join SH6 to Nelson. On a nice day, it’s a great stop for some home-cooked treats at the local café, a taste of greenshell mussels, or a nature walk at Pelorus Bridge (a few minutes drive further along SH6). There is also a great swim hole at Pelorus Bridge if the weather is warm, make sure you have your swimmers in your bag.

If you enjoy your seafood – Havelock is also known as the Greenshell Mussel capital of the world.

Once a gold mining settlement, the town has many quaint colonial buildings that today house boutique galleries and eating places (be sure to order the mussels). The Havelock Museum has interesting displays that explain the town's past. If you would like to taste mussels fresh from the sea, we can organise a tour (ask our travel consultant when booking)

From here, head over the Whangamoa Range to Tasman Bay, an approximately one-hour drive. Nelson is the largest town in the region and surrounded by beautiful beaches including Tahunanui Beach.

On arrival at your accommodation, enjoy some free time to relax before heading out to try some of the local cuisines.

Our tip – For places to eat, try one of these; Paasha (Mediterranean), Harry’s Hawker House and Bar (Asian, Gastropub), Hopgoods (European, NZ) and Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery (Street Food, NZ) you will not be disappointed with any of these choices.


WOW Museum
Queens Gardens
Couple shopping


Day 2: 

The day is yours to explore. Nelson is well known for its arts scene. The best known of which is the World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum (tickets can be purchased at the time of booking) – a true highlight. Other highlights include Abel Tasman National Park, Founders Heritage Park, Queens Gardens, and the Centre of New Zealand Walkway, as well as boutique shopping, craft galleries, and great eating and drinking including several craft beer bars.

Our tip - A trip into Abel Tasman National Park is not to be missed. Take a tour (tickets can be purchased at the time of booking) and travel through Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Pause to view the antics at Tonga Island Seal Colony then continue to Totaranui along the remote northern beaches where nikau palms and native rata (the South Island Christmas tree) feature in the rainforest.

Kayaking in Abel Tasman

From Totaranui, return to historic Tonga Quarry Beach to enjoy a walk over a forested saddle and along the waterfall trail around the stunning Bark Bay Inlet, crossing the spectacular suspension bridge beside Bark Bay Falls.

Take some extra time to relax on the golden sands at Bark Bay before you continue on to picturesque Medlands Beach.

This trip involves around 2 hrs of walking as you take in many of the highlights of the national park.

For dinner, there are plenty of great restaurants in Nelson serving up a range of cuisine.

Our tip – For places to eat, try one of these; Paasha (Mediterranean), Harry’s Hawker House and Bar (Asian, Gastropub), Hopgoods (European, NZ) and Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery (Street Food, NZ) you will not be disappointed with any of these choices.

Day 3: 

Enjoy the day ticking off what you didn’t do yesterday or head out and explore the boutique shops or craft galleries.  The seaside city of Nelson is home to over 300 working artists and a large number of galleries. Its also well known for its food and boutique craft breweries.

Early afternoon start your journey back to Picton for your return journey home.

The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the heart of the Marlborough Sounds and a great place to take a stroll around the attractive waterfront. A relaxed small town with a selection of cafés, restaurants, and various types of galleries. There’s also a floating maritime museum and an aquarium.

Late afternoon board the Interislander ferry for your return journey. Included in your package are vouchers to enjoy some of the great food and beverages served up on-board (with the option to upgrade to our Plus Lounge with its complimentary food and beverages).

Sit back and relax as you cruise through the Marlborough Sounds and across the Cook Strait back to Wellington.


Picton Waterfront
Picton Waterfront
Picton Memorial Steps


**Additional accommodation nights can be added to the package as well as pre and post your journey, as well as listed activities. Ask our Travel Consultant when booking this package**

Choose your hotel

Choose from one these great hotels as part of your Nelson Self-Drive


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Century Park Motor Lodge Nelson

5-Star | Stay in the heart of Nelson, Just a 5-minute flat walk from award-winning restaurants and bars and Nelson's CBD.
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Delorenzos Studio Apartments Nelson

5-Star | Stay in one of Nelson's most stylish and contemporary hotels, just a short stroll into the centre of the city
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Trailways Hotel Nelson

4.5 Star | Perfectly located on the banks of Maitai River, in the center of Nelson
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The Hotel Nelson

4-Star | Stay within walking distance of Nelsons shopping and entertainment precinct with The Hotel Nelson
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Room upgrades are available at a surcharge (subject to availability). During times of high demand, if the advertised package room is not available, a substitution of a similar or better room may be made to complete the package and a surcharge may apply.

Package Overview

What's included:

  • Return Interislander travel (INCLUDING CAR)
  • Return Interislander FOOD AND BEVERAGE VOUCHERS
  • Two nights AT YOUR SELECTED accommodation IN NELSON
  • 3 days group c (Mazda 3 or similar) rental car hire (can be added at an additional cost if required)  



All enquiries

0800 802 802

Overseas:  +64 4498 3302

Option 3 •  Mon-Fri •  08:00 - 17:00

Interislander T&C •  Packages T&C

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