If you are visiting Nelson for a week or more, this list of day trips will keep your days jam packed. And even better, they won’t break the bank… that’s right, there are plenty of affordable things to keep yourselves and the kiddos entertained.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
Top 10 Day Trips in Nelson!
Glenduan to Cable Bay Walkway
This one is for you if you like to get the blood pumping. Now, what should have been a three hour walk, took us five with a couple of littler people on our team. Of course, we were stopping regularly to explore the flora and fauna and to refuel the tummy tanks. So, don’t let our extended hike time put you off.
There are a couple of things to factor in if you decide to do this walk. Firstly, the track is one way. So, if you don’t want to make the journey a six hour one, then you’ll need to consider how to get back to your car. If you are travelling with others then park cars on either side of the track, or you might need to look at other options such as a taxi.
Secondly, we recommend starting the walk from the Glenduan side of the walkway, as this will have you walking into Cable Bay with remarkable views to finish. Parking from the Glenduan side is restricted to further below the track, keep your eyes peeled for the parking signs as you approach. However, just quietly, the day we walked the track we parked up the hill by the beginning of the track.
The journey takes you through farmland, a pine forest and native bush. The combination of scenes make for a stunning walk. The views over Peppin Island and the blue waters of Cable Bay are beautiful. And at the end of the day it is topped off as the golden sun lights up the hillside.
Travel tips – bring snacks, water, a camera and make sure you don’t use up all your drone battery at the beginning of the walk!
Peanut Butter World
Now hear me out before you think I’ve gone totally mad. Pic’s Peanut Butter comes with a cool story and a tour around their factory is well worth a visit. The best part… making your own peanut butter… on a bike!! I know! That sparked your interest didn’t it. At the end you’ll be needing to drag the kids (or your husband) off the bike.
Their story is very simple, an interesting guy (enter Mr Pic) decides to order some peanuts. Accidently he orders way too many and as a result stumbles upon the art of making the most perfect peanut butter. Before long he is selling to friends, then at the markets and fast forward a few years it’s New Zealand’s fav peanut butter.
Now they are super busy because us kiwis are passionate about peanut butter, and probably also because the tours are free, so make sure you BOOK ONLINE in advance! The tour takes no more than 45 minutes and there is some yummy tasting to finish.
Travel Tips – Plan your visit for a weekday if you want to see the factory in action. We went on a Saturday and so there wasn’t much happening on the factory floor.
Art lovers must check out these master glass blowers just out of town. These guys are very good at what they do and so you’ll want to see them doing there thing. Call before you go to check that they are glass blowing while you visit.
I’m no expert, but it is easy to see how talented this family are. The glass works on display in the show room is incredible. And a walk through is as educational as it is inspiring.
Eyebright Country Store and Guinea Pig Village
Now if you have littles, you’ll want to put this special little place at the top of your list. Our kids were ALL OVER it! They couldn’t wait to step into the Guinea Pig Village!
The Eyebright Country Store is a 5 minute drive from Hoglund’s Glass (above). This is also a great place to stop for lunch, so bring a bite to eat and enjoy the surrounding rustic gardens. There is a container café on site if you haven’t planned a picnic ahead of your visit.
BUT the stars of the show are small and furry and very cute. For a couple of dollars, the kids can get some special food from the store to feed the guinea pigs of Wendelton Village. Tiny homes and a castle are the picture perfect habitat, and this little family excitedly approach the fence to be hand feed.
About 40 minutes West of Nelson is the groovy little wharf and estuary of Mapua. What was once a flax trading wharf in the time of the early settlers, is now a trendy destination for food and shopping.
Stop for an ice-cream, meander through the furniture or gift shops, take a seat beside the estuary and chill. This is the place to take a breath, enjoy the sun and eat really good food from the many fine cafes and restaurants.
There is also a ferry that runs hourly back and forward to Rabbit Island and is frequented by cyclists. Check their site here for more on ferry timings. More on Rabbit Island below.
The Nelson Museum
For a mere $5 per adult this museum was a win for us. I called ahead to see how long we might expect to take on a visit. I was advised that it could be between 45 minutes and two hours. Let me just say, we struggled to see it all in two hours as it was amazing!!!
Two floors of Nelson and New Zealand history, interactive displays for the kids, compelling stories over time from the European settlers and Maori. We slowly made our way around admiring fossils, photographs, art and culture. It was a great place and one that I would thoroughly recommend.
The Nelson Markets
Once a week these markets fill with locals selling their wares. From food, to art, jewellery, clothing and treasures, you’ll no doubt find yourself a keepsake here.
Established in the 80’s the market is well known among locals and visitors to the region. So, get there early to grab yourself a bargain! It is open between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays and is situated in the heart of town. Click here to read more.
Accessible by bridge, Rabbit Island sits just off the coast between Mapua and Nelson. The island is a large sand island covered in forest and is popular for day trips with the Nelson locals, particularly during summer. The sweeping beach along the ocean side of the island offers plenty of quiet spots to park up for a picnic, or to catch some sun, sand and a dip.
You’ll also likely see avid cyclists exploring the paths and back roads of the domain. And there may even be horses with their riders about, as they make their way up and down the long stretch of beach. The domain closes at 6pm so keep this in mind or you may find yourself locked inside for the night.
Willowbank Heritage Village
Sadly, the Willowbank Heritage Village was closed during our stay. But if it had been open we would definitely have stopped in for a nosy. On their Facebook page, one visitor described it like stepping into a scene from Downton Abbey. Historical houses line the street, depicting a time from the early settlers in the aim to preserve history.
The passionate organisers come together on open days in a fantastic display of community and history. From the clothes to the store presentation, there is a true likeness to the days of old. What’s even better is that there is no fee to enter, but donations are welcome. Check their website here for more information about their open days.
The Centre of New Zealand
This is a relatively easy 20 minute walk from the Botanical Reserve with great views over Nelson and beyond. A wide path winds its way all the way up to the top of Botanical Hill from the reserve, making it stroller friendly. Don’t get me wrong, you might need a couple of breathers along the way, but nothing too extreme.
And at the top, yes you guessed it, you’ll find a large needle pin pointing down towards the centre of New Zealand. Note: There are a couple of extra walkways leading to the same point that you might like to explore further and that take a little longer.
If you are a bit of a rugby junkie, you might also be interested to know that the Botanical Reserve was home to the first game of rugby ever played in New Zealand. There is a board that shares some of the history… did you know that instead of a ball they used to use a pig’s bladder? I didn’t!
Where to Eat – The Boat Shed
Lunch or Dinner? Look no further than the Boat Shed. This is an iconic restaurant in Nelson and the food is equally as good as the vibe. Suspended over the water, this restaurant is restricted by space, so nab a seat outside on the deck for stunning views in the sun.
Where to Stay –
We recommend the below options for your stay. As always our selection is based on atmosphere, location and price. So depending on what you are looking for, below you’ll find the best cabins, hotels and campgrounds in and around Nelson. Go check the links to see photos and to book your stay.
- The Apple Pickers’ Cottages in Matahua, near Mapua – Hands down this place wins for atmosphere. Perfect for couples looking for a relaxing break away from hustle and bustle.
- 4 bedroom house Copper Gate in Mapua – Perfect if you are travelling as a group or large family and need something bigger.
- The smaller 3 bedroom house Corru Gate in Mapua – For a smaller group or family!
- Boutique Hotel Warwick House – This hotel is in central Nelson, and so the location is perfect. Also, for it’s history, location and quirky charm it makes our list.
- The Barn Cabins and Camping – This is further from Nelson and is beside the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park. The family cabins are great, the shared kitchen is warm and friendly, and the price can’t be beat!
Extra Ideas for Nelson Day Trips
- The Early Settler’s Memorial and Monument – near the Boat Shed Cafe.
- The Queens Gardens – central Nelson and great place to read a book.
- The Founder’s Heritage Park – for local culture and history.
- The Old Factory Corner – this place specializes in food and has a huge selection to choose from. A great place to pick up some local produce.
Go on! Tell us about your favourite Nelson day trips in the comments section below. We’d LOVE to know what you LOVED.
If you are visiting the North Island and you want to know the best places to visit, then don’t miss this post right here. We cover it ALL!