Small City New Zealand: Nelson

abel tasmanGolden rays beam down on the little city of Nelson, located at the top of the South Island. It boasts more sunshine than anywhere else in New Zealand, three national parks and the title of arts capital of the country. Plenty to see and do, then!

Jump on your bike: Nelson is a pedaller’s paradise with kilometres of scenic tracks and trails, conveniently pitstopped by great cafes, wineries and craft breweries.

The two classic rides of the region are the Great Taste Trail, a 175km meander through the Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay region, and the Dun Mountain Trail, a 38km Grade 3 MTB trail.

For details of other trails in the region, hop on over to the Nelson Mountain Bike Club website.

Wander the city streets: The heart of Nelson is a compact one kilometre square, brimming with art galleries, boutiques, cafes and bars. It’s one of the oldest settlements in the country and features plenty of beautiful buildings.

Journey to the Centre of New Zealand: Take a walk through the botanical gardens (where New Zealand’s very first game of rugby was played) to the spot that supposedly marks the country’s mid-point. Whether or not this is technically accurate, the landmark still provides a picturesque, bird’s eye view of the Nelson coastline.

Snorkel, kayak or walk at Cable Bay: Take a short drive east from the city and you’ll arrive at Cable Bay, a sheltered stretch of beach with calm seas and plenty of interesting wildlife. The Cable Bay walkway is a three hour meander around the coastline and offers spectacular views of the region.

Fill your panniers (and stomach) with tasty treats: Markets are a big part of life in Nelson. The Farmers’ Market takes place every Wednesday in the heart of the city, while Saturday brings arts and crafts, plus plenty of local produce to Montgomery Square, for the 30-year old Saturday market.

Drink well: The Nelson/Tasman region is the only area in the country where hops are still grown. Not surprising then that numerous craft breweries have sprung up, offering everything from pale ales to hearty stouts. Try Bays Brewery, where beers are made without chemicals, preservatives or sugar. There are also more than 25 wineries in the region. Find full details at

Food stops: Devilles is well-regarded for its all-day brunch options, Nicole’s Cantina serves exceptional Mexican fare while for a special treat head to Hopgoods – owner/chef Kevin Hopgood previously worked under Gordon Ramsay.

Image: Andrea Schaffer