The blog has been quiet for some time now, however, life in New Zealand has been anything but! Last week, we put work aside for a bit and took our first holiday (or as Americans would say vacation) in New Zealand.
Nelson is a city on northeastern part of the South Island. This little city is best known for its arts and crafts scene but it also had a pretty happening food culture not to mention some amazing wines. Nelson is closely situated to Able Tasman Park which provides access to plenty of water and land-based activities, all of which comes with amazing views.
The Drive: The drive from Christchurch to Nelson is a little over 5 hours but, I would plan for close to 6 hours because you are going to want to make a few stops along the way to check out the scenery.
On Sunday, we packed everything but the kitchen sink into the Jazz and headed north.
The Stay: In terms of accommodations, Nelson offers everything from high-end boutique hotels to backpackers to camping grounds. We opted for an Airbnb that was within 10-minutes walking distance to town.
The Eats: Nelson’s food scene is simply delicious. Many of the restaurants source their ingredients locally so the menus are ever changing. Here are a few of my top picks from the area:
Urban, this tapas style restaurant is shaking up the food scene by serving up some imaginative dishes. Their menu changes rather frequently and much of what they serve is sourced locally. We loved it so much we ate their two days in a row. They don’t take reservations and from what we could see the place is a happening spot in the evenings so I recommend having lunch here.
Cod & Lobster, if you are craving seafood this is the place to go. The Whitebait, Softshell crab, and prawns were delicious! They are also a dog-friendly with outdoor seating at both the front and rear of the restaurant.
Sweet A’s, a great spot of a coffee and a sweet treat. Located at 270 Trafalgar Square, pop in here for a quick lunch or a late afternoon caffeine fix.
Jellyfish, delicious food with great views. Located at the Mapua Whaft with its dog-friendly patio this is a great place for a sunset cocktail or afternoon lunch.
Hopgood’s, this restaurant is all about doing classic food well. They use primarily locally sourced food – a theme in Nelson. While the food and wine are high-end the restaurant has a comfortable homey feel. Something to note is that on Mondays and Tuesdays they have a set course menu.
The Activities: Nelson has it all from hiking to beaches to wineries and museums. We were a bit limited on the hikes we could do because we had Redd and Chloe with us. Many of the national parks in New Zealand don’t allow dogs because they are home to native birds, many of whom are in at risk of going extinct.
One dog-friendly walk was the Motueka Water Front, this track is off the beaten path and it seemed like a hidden gem the locals keep to themselves. This is a relatively easy walk and has one of my favorite features of New Zealand – the close proximity of beaches to mountains. On one side you will see beautiful mountains with green fields and cow grazing away. On the other side, the pristine clear blue waters of the Tasman.
Beaches, similar to hiking, many of the beaches are off limits to dogs. However, Tahunanui Back Beach is dog-friendly. Just be mindful of the signs so you don’t accidentally walk into an area that restricts dogs.
While on holiday, Redd turned 12 years old. So, for his birthday we treated him to a run along the beach with Chloe.
After a run on the dog beach, Redd & Chloe were exhausted so while they recovered with a nap, we went to Kaiteriteri for a quick stroll. Golden sand beaches and clear blue waters…I just could not take enough pictures.
Nelson has loads of lakes and trails to explore…just wish we had a bit more time.
Wineries, Nelson is one of New Zealand’s smaller wine growing regions but you should not let its size fool you. This region produces some amazing wines. The region has a cooler climate so it is prime for growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot grape varieties. There are only a handful of wineries that have open cellar doors so you could check out all of the wineries in a day – just be sure to have a designated driver.
While we didn’t get to do this on this particular trip, something I have earmarked for next time is the Great Taste Trail, where you can bike to the different wineries.
Neudorf get’s my vote as the best in the region because of their Alberino. They only make about 100 bottles of this variety a year and it simply amazing. I was excited to score a few bottles. I also love that they allow you to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with their wines while you take in the view…and what a view.
Te Mania is an organic family-owned winery and it makes my list of favorites because of its Three Brothers wine which is a Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon blend – quite a unique wine for this region.
Seifried is the largest winery in this region. Their Pinot Gris is hands down my favorite from the region but, what really piqued my interest was their Zweigelt a varietal I had not tried before.
Himmelsfeld was I wanted to try but their tasting room was closed when we arrived. So, it is one of next time. However, the drive here wasn’t a total waste as I had the opportunity to befriend some inhabitants of the winery.
Microbreweries, if you are more into beer than wine then Nelson is the place for you too. Admittedly, my knowledge of beer is limited. On the rare occasion where I drink a beer, it is usually a stout and it takes me about 4 hours to get through a pint. So, I will not offer any commentary on the subject but will share the link to the Nelson Microbrew trail – if you happen to check it out, let me know your thoughts.
Mapua Waterfront is a neat spot with a collection of stores, restaurants, cafes, and galleries. This is a great spot to sit outside and enjoy a leisurely lunch with some awesome views.
Interesting Tid-Bits: Compared to other New Zealand cities, I found Nelson to be very dog-friendly. Nelson had the most amount of dog-friendly accommodations available when we were looking to book our trip and almost every restaurant we went to had outdoor seating that welcomed dogs.
Second, if there was a prize for most friendly locals, Nelson would win it. Everyone from waitstaff to shopkeepers and even complete strangers on the street would stop for a chat and give you tips about the area. Kiwis, in general, are very friendly but Nelson Kiwis are exceptionally friendly…perhaps it is all that sunshine!
Things We Saw Along the Way: Before moving to New Zealand, I absolutely hated road trips. I was more the, let’s fly there and be done with it kind of person. In New Zealand, half the fun is the drive there because it allows you to discover so many things along the way.
With its golden sandy beaches, mountain views, great food, and wine, Nelson makes for a great holiday. There is so much more in this part of the country that we could not possibly explore in a week which only means there will have to be another trip. So, until next time…be well Nelson!