Ahhhh, Nelson

January 13, 2013

If you’ll recall from a previous geography lesson, our original plan was to move to Nelson (or Wellington). We put aside plans to move to Wellington when we realized that we really wanted to live on the south island of New Zealand. We never gave up on trying to move to Nelson, but unsurprisingly, Christchurch is chalk full of job vacancies and Nelson is not. Nelson is arguably the most desirable place to live on the South Island. (I feel the need to defend Chch at this point, because it has a super energetic and creative revival scene that I love. Chch is a big city though, and Nelson a more average sized town, which is more our thing. They’re like comparing apples and orangoutangs).

So to orient yourself geography-wise, click the link above. The drive from Christchurch to Nelson is about 5 hours, either via mid-island mountain roads, or via the east coast which provides stunning ocean views. We drove up through the mountains, and back via the beach.

Quick and dirty out the window drive-by scenery on the way to Nelson
Some rugged coastline near Kiakoura on the way home

For a 5 hour drive, it was a quick trip. We were picking up a friend who flew into Nelson. We arrived very late on Thursday night. If you’ll recall, I swore that I’d spent my last night in a backpacker’s hostel. As it turned out, booking accommodations in Nelson two weeks prior to our arrival during high season proved to be financially difficult. Thus, my 2nd experience (two nights this time) in a backpacker’s hostel since the new year.

This one actually had a bathroom en-suite, and a really nice pool, sauna, hot-tub and massive community kitchen. It would be an awesome place to be broke and 18. Everyone was lounging around  drinking beers and smoking cigarettes and being very european. It wound have been a cool vibe at a different time in my life, I think.

Anyways, on Friday morning we had a fantastic breakfast in downtown Nelson at the Strawberry Bakehouse (click on that link to be thoroughly jealous) and then set off on our adventure to Abel Tasman National Park.

Cheesy sign or not, this place is phenomenal
When they ask if you want butter, they really mean it.

Abel Tasman National park is about an hour’s drive from Nelson, in the Tasman region, on the northern tip of the southern island. Got that? The park is 22,530 hectares (or 86 square miles) of pristine beaches, aquamarine water, rainforest, and granite cliffs. Hopefully you all checked out a few pictures from my last post.

We hiked about 2 hours out, to a super long stretch of beach with barely any people on it. It’s amazing to be in a place so breathtaking with so few people. But that is New Zealand.

Scott and Alex hiking along the shore
Look at the crowds…
Rainforest encroaching on the beach

The hike out to the beach was through a few different microclimates, but mainly rainforest. In places the insects were so noisy, you could barely hear your own conversation.

Incredibly large tree ferns.
Boys will be boys.
Feeling so amazed to have this in my “backyard”
My favorite photo from Abel Tasman, I feel like it captures it all…

On our way home we saw some of the famous Nelson hops (for brewing beer) that we’ve heard about during our own brewing ventures (soon to be continued). I’m still searching for the properly hopped beer, but at least I can be assured that they exist here. We also hit up wine tasting at 4:50pm (they closed at 5), and had what I can only describe as the speediest wine tasting of my life. If wine sampling and speed dating were combined and perhaps turned into a sport… we experienced it. But wine tasting, express or not, is almost always free in New Zealand, so you’ll hear no complaints from me.


After a shower and food, we checked out “The Sprig & Fern” tap house for a couple of local brews. It was pretty cool, great ambiance. The beer was good, for New Zealand. Still not quite right. But about 100% better than Macs Gold and Monteiths, two common monstrosities they try to pass off as beer.

On Saturday before departing, we visited the Strawberry Bakehouse again and the boys went on a road ride. This gave me some much appreciated alone time, and time to explore Nelson properly. There was enough to see downtown to keep me entertained for the 4 hours they were away. I enjoyed shopping and flat whites (see previous post), visited their Saturday morning farmer’s market, and checked out the cathedral in the center of town. Oddly, it also bears the name Christ Church Cathedral. I did some internet research on this, looking for some parallel between Nelson’s cathedral and the one in our own disheveled state, but no luck. They just have the same, wildly popular English style name. But I guess we already knew the Brits aren’t very creative (New Zealand, New Hampshire, New Brighton, New Jersey, and on. …I wonder if Old Jersey is any classier than New Jersey?)

I also checked out some realty (future planning, sure, but I do this everywhere I go) and some cool little art galleries. Obviously, I highly recommend Nelson to those of you who come visit.

View looking down one of the main streets
Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson NZ
My view of the cathedral
An art piece I enjoyed, something different…
Super rad little bar, “The Free House”, in a converted church. Sorry about the inadequate photo.

By mid-afternoon we set off for home, via the east coast. The drive might not have been quite as scenic, but there were more towns to stop in for snacks, and I still found the ocean views to be lovely. We ate dinner in Kiakoura, a town I fully intend on visiting for more of a vacation in the future. It reminded me of Fort Bragg, Kiwi style. We also got to meet some locals:

Oh, hello!
Is that even comfortable?
They look friendlier than they smell

We’re looking forward to making it back to Nelson in 2 weeks for an enduro race. The drive is long, but so beautiful it goes quickly. The weather is usually quite nice, although unpredictable like anywhere in New Zealand. I hope to find more fantastic restaurants, and maybe that elusive perfect beer.

Anyways, the final 2 hour drive wasn’t so scenic in the dark, but Kiakoura didn’t let us go without a beautiful parting gift:

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Reply lolcat January 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    “I’m still searching for the properly hopped beer”

    I’m not sure if you’re deliberately trying to get your visa cancelled, or what man.

    Concerned Kiwi

  • Come on, you must want to tell me something!