Things to Do in Nelson

Nelson sits at the top of New Zealand’s South Island and has become one of the South Island’s most popular holiday destinations.  There is much to offer…mountains, beaches, lakes, native bush, wineries, art galleries, and much more. For a thriving city, you will be surprised that you may have the beaches, mountains, and trails all to yourself.

Nelson is certainly worth the attention of local and international visitors alike. This small city has a lot to offer and punches well above its weight, making it a perfect base for exploring the region. We will share some of the best things to do in Nelson.

Sunrise view of Nelson at the top of a hill.

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Offering year-round attractions, Nelson gives visitors a splendid balance of indoor and outdoor activities for long hot summer days and shorter cooler winter days. Hire a quality rental car with Pegasus Nelson and find out what you’ve been missing!


Nature Walks and Hikes at Nelson Lakes National Park

Amazing views of the lake at Nelson Lakes National Park.

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Only an hour and a half drive from Pegasus Nelson, this national park is the start of the Southern Alps. These rugged mountain ranges together with their forested valleys provide a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities.

From easy 15-minute walking tracks along the lakeside to challenging multi-day alpine hikes, the Nelson Lakes National Park has something for everyone. The beautiful lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa are the centre of this amazing 100,000-hectare national park. The campground at these lakes provides majestic views across the water right to the fringe of the mountainous terrain. Jump off a jetty at Lake Rotoiti and experience the enchanting alpine landscape and stunning glacial lakes.

These lakes are a popular destination for boating, water skiing, swimming, and kayaking. The village of St Arnaud is the ideal base for those seeking to fish or hike in the national park.


Outdoor Pursuits at Abel Tasman National Park

People kayaking on crystal clear waters off a sandy beach.

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Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs and is New Zealand’s smallest national park. This easy-access coastal paradise is a popular summer spot, but if you’re in with the locals, you will know that the best time to visit is during the shoulder season. You can truly enjoy the peace and tranquillity as you kayak across calm waters, quiet beaches and explore the park without the crowds.

Whether you have all the time in the world for a multi-day hike or just a few hours for a short walk, you can make the most of being in this extraordinary place. You can access the park from the seaside village of Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the South, or Golden Bay and Totaranui in the North.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is listed as one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ on the South Island. This famous track is walkable at any time of the year. This track will take you up cliffs, headlands, native forest, and a series of pristine beaches. You have the option to walk a portion of the trail for a day or the entire length over 3-5 days.

Please visit the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre before going on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.


Beaches, Swimming Outdoor Activities at Tahunanui Beach

sunset view of seagulls and people walking on Tahunanui beach.

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A beautiful and safe family-friendly beach, Tahunanui beach is a recreational paradise and only a short drive from the Nelson city centre. Tahunanui is translated in Māori to mean ‘big sandbank’.

The beach is a popular location for the usual beachy activities such as sunbathing, swimming, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and kayaking. There are other activities beyond the rolling sand dunes by the beach for kids including a water slide, mini-golf, go-karting, model railway, skatepark, roller skating rink, laser tag course, trampoline park, zoo, and much more.

The glistening waters of the Tahunanui waterfront are thriving with marine life and are often the place where you will be able to spot stingrays, dolphins, and orcas playing amongst the gentle waves.

A playground like no other, people of all ages are bound to have endless hours of fun indulging in everything outdoor. And if you get hungry, there are numerous cafes and restaurants that offer spectacular seaside dining experiences along the beach.

Cycling and Mountain Biking

couple of people cycling along the Great Taste Train in Nelson.

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If you love cycling, you’re in the right place! Cycling is an indispensable part of the Nelson culture. You will routinely see groups of cyclists out and about taking in the spectacular sights along coastal roads. The mountain bike parks are usually high in energy, with people enthusiastically tearing up the trails.

If you’re looking to get active during your visit, you’re sure to find plenty of leisurely cycle trails to enjoy. Nelson is one of six regions worldwide to be graded with a ‘Gold Ride’ status by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

The Great Taste Trail is a notable scenic coastal cycle route that showcases the very best of Nelson. This trail allows you to cycle past vineyards, orchards, rivers, coastlines, and hills. You will experience a diverse range of breathtaking vistas spanning over 174 kms. You can spend a couple of hours, an entire day, or enjoy a multi-day biking adventure, entirely up to you.

The trail is lined with artisan ice-cream and coffee stalls, eateries, cafés, and restaurants to refuel. There are art galleries and attractions that are accessible just off the trail. It is the perfect way to explore other parts of Nelson Tasman along the way.


Wildlife Attractions at Brook Waimārama Sanctuary

Entrance hutt to the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary.

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Only 12 kilometres from Pegasus Nelson, you will find the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary – South Island’s largest fenced sanctuary for endangered plants and native wildlife. This predator-free sanctuary was established in 2004, with the purpose to restore the flora and fauna of the Brook Valley.

Home to a wide variety of native birds, you will hear these glorious songbirds as you venture through the vast network of tranquil trails through protected bushlands and rivers. The most popular (Loop Track) would take approximately an hour to complete, leading you through ferns, waterfalls, and valleys. The track is suitable for all ages and fitness abilities and is wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly.

This sanctuary offers you the opportunity to reconnect with nature for a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. Support them on their conservation efforts and revitalise yourself with the essence of a natural environment. Check out the Brook Sanctuary website for more information.


Great Places to Eat in Nelson

There is no shortage of amazing food to be found in Nelson. With its dependable sunny climate, rolling hills, and fertile soil, you can bet that Nelson has top-quality produce. Combined with their passionate artisan producers, you will be left with a tantalising experience only found in Nelson.

With a myriad of choices, coming up with a shortlist was nothing short of a challenge. Here are a few options that will satisfy your tastebuds…just a stone’s throw away from Pegasus Nelson.


evening photo of the Styx restaurant.

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The Styx is an amazing venue overlooking the Tasman Sea, hospitality has been their thing for the past 10 years. They have honed their expertise by curating food that caters to sincere cooking – honest food made from scratch. Partnering with local dairy, fish, and meat suppliers, Styx will give you a coastal cuisine experience at its best. Food is meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. Amazing food, amazing location…need we say more?


Delicious crispy prawn tacos and beef bites.

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Harry’s Hawker House – If you’re looking for food with fresh flavours and local ingredients look no further. Flavours inspired by the vibrancy of Southeast Asian street-food paired with perfectly matched regional wines and beer produces an unbeatable combination. The team at Hawker House creates a fine dining experience with a very laid-back atmosphere. Only 10 minutes from Pegasus Nelson you will find a fun atmosphere, great ambiance, and amazing flavours. Don’t be fooled by the name, it may very well be your new favourite.


Mouth watering bugers and curly fries from Burger Culture.

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Burger Culture is Nelson’s only dedicated burger joint. If delicious, tasty, phat, and juicy burgers are your thing you’re sure to find it here. Not much can beat an addictively fresh handcrafted burger, partnered with a milkshake or your favourite beverage. A short 10-minute drive to good times, great vibes, amazing staff, and an absolutely smashing experience!


a selection of ice creams and sorbets.

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Pudding, everyone loves pudding following a good meal. Penguino Ice Cream Café is a multi-award-winning gelato and ice-cream retail shop based in the heart of Nelson only a 3-minute walk from Burger Culture and Harry’s Hawker House. You will find a wide range of flavours from the regular to the exotic (piña colada, lavender, coconut, watermelon) plus specialty biscuits. A perfect place for ice cream lovers, not only by the scoop but a tasting platter or a litre or two to go and enjoy at your accommodation. Go on indulge in Nelson.


Spread your wings in a Pegasus rental car, book now!

Are you ready to visit Nelson and explore all that you’ve been missing? Hush down the nay-sayers! Whatever you are looking for, Nelson has lots for you to experience. Whether you’re flying in or driving to Nelson, Pegasus Rental Cars will give you wings to get to where you want to.

Pegasus Nelson has an extensive fleet that will keep you in budget. You can be sure that we are here to help you with your travels – make Nelson your next destination, we look forward to seeing you!