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Exploring New Zealand

Nelson Area Guide

Yacht moored in Nelson harbour with
Haulashore Island behind - ©
The small city of Nelson drapes itself around the eastern side of Tasman Bay, its sunny climate and sandy beaches making it a popular place for summer holidays, and a base for a thriving community of artists and craftspeople.

The main streets of Trafalgar and Bridge Street are just behind the busy Port of Nelson, the country's biggest fishing port. Offshore, the 14-kilometre natural rock breakwater of Boulder Bank reaches into the sea, protecting the harbour. To the south west lies the long sandy stretch of Tahunanui Beach, where generations of children have spent summer holidays swimming and building sandcastles.

One of Nelson's most memorable symbols, the Christ Church Cathedral, looks down on the town from the top of Trafalgar Street. Nearby, on South Street, the row of restored workers' cottages dating from the 1860s offers a reminder that Nelson is one of New Zealand's oldest European settlements. Just east of the centre is the small, but attractive Victorian Queens Gardens and next door, The Suter, one of the country's best provincial art galleries. The nearby Botanic Gardens has great views over the town, and a spire marking the exact geographical centre of New Zealand. The Nelson Market is held at the central Montgomery Square on Saturday mornings, with stallholders selling the best of local produce, cheese, olive oil, gourmet food, and arts and crafts.

The World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum near Nelson Airport allows you to explore the uber cool world of the WearableArt Awards. The annual show began in Nelson, its alternative arts community tailoring recycled junk and other materials into high and often bizarre forms of art worn by models in a spectacular stage show, the event so successful it eventually had to be moved to a bigger venue in the capital, Wellington. The high-tech museum features creative masterpieces from the show, many designed by artists who worked on costumes for the Lord of the Rings movies.

Lord of the Rings fans should also visit Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith at 320 Trafalgar Square. The late Jens was commissioned by filmmaker Peter Jackson to make several versions of The One Ring for the Lord of the Rings movies, and one of the original rings is on display in the studio, now run by his son Thorkild.