New Zealand's oldest and sunniest city, Nelson, with its coastal South Island location, is surrounded by the most spectacular scenery this stunning country has to offer. Named in 1858 for the British admiral Viscount Nelson, its urban cityscape is backed by a region of soaring mountains, alpine lakes, rivers and three national parks. The coastline is part of the Abel Tasman National Park, and the city is known for its thriving art scene.
Basing a touring holiday via campervan rental in this breathtaking region of South Island gives the freedom to discover unspoiled secret places and remote natural beauty. Scenic drives here are some of the world's loveliest, and campervan rental in Nelson is easy to arrange. The region is one of traditional Maori settlement dating back 700 years, and a good number of colonial heritage buildings can be seen.
Nelson's Founders Heritage Park includes a vintage railway line as well as original settlement buildings and a few historic replicas, and gives a glimpse into the lives of the Victorian pioneers who risked everything on a move to a new and totally unfamiliar land. Christ Church Cathedral's unique design was conceived during the Art Deco period, but construction wasn't complete until 1965 due to problems with earthquake protection.
Charming Amber House is a 19th century timber home in the true colonial style boasting unfaded, original William Morris wallpaper revealed during renovations. Neighbouring Cabragh House has original Victorian furnishings and is on New Zealand's Historic Register for its typical provincial architecture. Nelson Provincial Museum displays historic everyday artefacts from its colonial era including a magnificent collection of antique silverware.
Golden Bay, a scenic drive from Nelson, is the site of the first European explorers'contact with New Zealand in 1622. Wide, sandy beaches, a huge freshwater spring, sand dunes, dramatic Cape Farewell and spectacular Wharariki Beach are all here. To the south past Wharariki Inlet are jagged rock formations and more glorious beaches.
Tahuna Beach Holiday Park is an ideal campervan holiday location within walking distance of the beach, eateries and shops. On site there's a dairy, internet access, BBQ spots, a TV lounge, kids' playgrounds, go-kart hire, mini-golf and a worm farm. The park is an award-winner, and popular with families.
Golden Bay Holiday Park is set backing the beach with its safe swimming and water sports. The private site is quiet, peaceful and has native bush borders allowing wildlife and bird watching. Kayaks, canoes and fishing tackle can be hired.
Cable Bay Farm and Holiday Park lies just 12kms from Nelson's city centre, and offers local fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming and horse riding in an idyllic location. Powered sites are set on the beachfront or backed by native bush.
Nelson is a small town with reasonable traffic conditions and generally considerate local drivers. Light traffic in town and on the roads to nearby attractions is the rule rather than the exception, and parking in the centre is easy. Traffic police here take drink-driving very seriously, and it's advisable not to risk it.
- Speed limits in the city: 50kph.
- Speed limits on national roads: 100/kph.
- Help number: 111