Top Things to do in Nelson

Looking for some great things to do in Nelson? World-renowned for its sun, picturesque mountains and golden beaches, the Nelson region is full of great attractions for thrill seekers or those just wanting to kick back and relax. With so much to see and do, check out our list of six of the region’s best attractions and start planning your Nelson adventure today! 

Tourists boarding a boat for a cruise along the Abel Tasman.

Photo credit Wilsons Abel Tasman

Wilsons Abel Tasman

With boat transport, walking, guided sea kayaking and beachfront lodges, Wilsons Abel Tasman offers a wide choice for visitors to the famous Abel Tasman National Park, just a one hour drive from Nelson. One of the longest-running operators for trips to the Abel Tasman Track, the Wilson’s team has the experience to provide spectacular tours to suit any visitor. Their Vista Cruise provides fast, safe, comfortable transport to picturesque beaches along the golden granite coast. Stay on board with the best views from comfortable seating, or choose a beach stop where you can relax onshore, go for a hike or join a guided sea kayak trip. Visitors can arrange for trips that last a few hours or take a full day taking in the Park’s unique scenery. Wilsons Abel Tasman also offers 3 and 5 day all-inclusive holidays with accommodation at their beautiful lodges situated right on the beachfront. The Abel Tasman National Park is a must see Nelson attraction that is best experienced with the team from Wilsons Abel Tasman.

 Man fishing at Owen River Lodge in Nelson, New Zealand.

Photo credit Owen River Lodge

Owen River Lodge

For many outdoorsmen fly-fishing is a true passion, and as one of New Zealand’s finest luxury fishing lodges, the Owen River Lodge offers some of the world’s best angling. Located on the Owen River, the lodge provides easy access to Nelson, Marlborough, North Canterbury and West Coast fisheries, with many locations within an hour and a half’s drive. These rivers are often referred to as being ‘gin clear’ and offer spectacular sighted river fishing and the perfect opportunity to land that dream 10 pound trout. Visitors to the Owen River Lodge can choose to go it alone or they can hire one of the local expert fishing guides to help them navigate their way around the best angling spots. These experienced guides also offer tuition for beginners and accomplished fly fishers and can help you get the most from your time on the rivers.  While the Owen River Lodge is the ideal base for that once in a lifetime fishing adventure, there are plenty of nearby attractions like hiking, mountain biking and golf that appeal to anglers and non-anglers alike.

 Tourists enjoying a guided sea kayaking tour at Abel Tasman National Park.

Photo credit: Kaiterteri Kayaks

Kaiteriteri Kayaks & Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle

A guided kayaking tour with Kaiteriteri Kayaks is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the Abel Tasman National Park. Tours can be perfectly tailored to the amount of time that the group has available - 2,3 or 4 hours exploring the coastline from Kaiteriteri to Split Apple Rock.

Via sister company, Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles there is also a customized fleet of ferries servicing the many beaches and pick up/drop off points of the Abel Tasman National Park.  Between the Kayak and Shuttle options you can plan a trip that involves some hiking, kayaking and/or ferry transport to create your preferred itinerary for exploring the Abel Tasman Track and coastline.

Kaiteriteri Kayaks and Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles pride themselves on being environmentally friendly tourism operators and through sea shuttles they make regular in-kind contributions to Project Janzoon and The Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust.  They also provide a kayak rental service for anyone wishing to go off and explore the coast on their own. Experience the best of the Abel Tasman’s awe-inspiring plant and animal life when you book a tour with Kaiteriteri Kayaks and Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle.

 Cruise around Nelson with a private yacht from Gourmet Sailing.

 Photo credit Gourmet Sailing

Gourmet Sailing

Gourmet sailing is a unique Nelson tourist attraction that offers New Zealand nature adventures with exceptional dining, service and accommodation aboard their two beautiful yachts.  Submerge yourself in the beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park for a full day (maybe three?), or enjoy a new perspective on Nelson’s historic harbour for a few hours. While relaxing afloat, indulge in superb gourmet cuisine prepared with market-fresh local boutique ingredients and premium Nelson wines and beers.  Gourmet Sailing offers a range of day trips and overnight cruises for unforgettable getaways in the pristine beauty of the Abel Tasman Park or Marlborough Sounds. Gourmet Sailing is a crewed charter service and their attentive staff do their best to ensure you have an exceptional experience whether you are a sailor or novice.   Your private sail will be custom-planned to fit the specific needs of you and your guests. For a Nelson outing that offers a superb combination of luxury and adventure, spend a day or two afloat with Gourmet Sailing.

Adventurous tourist enjoying a thrilling tour in the Abel Tasman Canyons. Photo credit Abel Tasman Canyons

Abel Tasman Canyons

If you’re looking for adventure, Abel Tasman Canyons offers one-of-a-kind canyon tours that have visitor’s experiencing a day of nature and thrilling activity that few places can beat. With experienced guides by your side, descend into one of five different canyons to visit areas and discover sights that most visitors never get to see. During your guided canyoning trip you’ll get the chance to slide down water chutes, abseil through scenic waterfalls and for the adrenaline junkies, jump from cliffs into sparkling pools of water. Abel Tasman Canyons operates tours in three National Parks that include Abel Tasman National Park, Mount Richmond Forest Park and Kahurangi National Park. A full range of canyoning trips are available for visitors with different levels of fitness, with some having more jumps, abseils or swimming required.  All necessary equipment is provided by Abel Tasman Canyons with transport and catering provided on most trips. For a superb mix of adventure and stunning scenery, visit Abel Tasman Canyons for an unforgettable Nelson experience.

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Receive a 5% discount on all Abel Tasman Canyons tours upon presentation of your Omega keytag!  

 Tourists riding wind carts provided by Vortex Wind Karting.

Photo credit Vortex Wind Karting

Vortex Wind Karting

Looking for things to do in Nelson with the family? Vortex Wind Karting provides tons of fun and excitement as you speed around in one of their three wheeled carts. Visitors can sail one of these blokarts around the purpose built track using the power of winds provided by the Tasman Bay. Located on the outskirts of Richmond, this is a great activity for any thrill seekers aged eight and above. Controlled by hand and easy to operate, Vortex Wind Karting’s expert instructors will teach you how to handle the craft in just few minutes, and then with the help of a decent breeze you’ll be on your way. Vortex Wind Karting provide a helmet, gloves and a blokart, while riders must bring a pair of comfortable closed shoes and sunglasses.  As one of Nelson most thrilling attractions, sailing a blokart with Vortex Wind Karting is a great way to spend a day with family and friends.


If you’re looking to explore this stunning corner of New Zealand, hire a rental car in Nelson, from near the airport, or from Picton and experience more of the region's famous scenery as you head to your next adventure.