A Weekend Getaway in Nelson: Perfect Itinerary for 3 Days

We all know New Zealand is a country full of ‘wow’ factors, and the fabulous South Island city of Nelson is no different.

If you are planning a weekend getaway in Nelson, there are so many landmarks and attractions you can see. So, you’ll need to be organised to give yourself a chance of taking as much of it in as you can in 72 hours.

But don’t worry, we are here to help!

Here is our perfect itinerary for spending three days in ‘Sunny Nelson’.

Three Day Nelson Itinerary

This particular itinerary is based on your having access to a vehicle.

If you are travelling from overseas or the North Island, you will need to hire a car hire in Nelson to enable you to do it.

To help you find your way around the city, be sure to use an app like Waze or Google Maps.

Day One

On your first day in Nelson, it is a good idea to get your bearings in the city. One of the best ways to do this is to take The Centre of New Zealand Walk, which is an easy hike up to a lookout point that presents tremendous views of the surrounding area.

Weekend Getaway in Nelson

As the city centre is relatively compact, take the time to stroll around it. Within it, you can check out several art galleries and museums, including the quirky Peanut Butter World. There are also several streetside cafes where you can enjoy a latte and a big market with hundreds of stalls to browse.

Once you have had your fill of the main city centre, consider venturing out to Tahunanui Beach, Nelson’s main beach. The stretch of sand here is perfect for sunbathing and walking and giving yourself time to process the sites you’ve just seen. If you haven’t eaten yet, there is another good collection of eateries here.

If you fancy stretching your legs a bit more, jump in your car and head over to Cable Bay. Here, you will be able to hike a track directly above the scenic beach. You may even want to visit the Cable Bay Adventure Park, which accommodates the world’s longest skywire. Traversing this skywire is not for the faint-hearted. But it does convey tremendous views of the forest canopy.

Should that sound a bit too hair-raising for your liking, why not head to Founders Heritage Park? This stunning recreation of an old town is sure to fascinate you with its architecture and attention to detail.

Day Two

Having spent the first day in and around the city, it’s a good idea to venture further out on day two.

A good option is to embark on a day trip to Kaiteriteri and Abel Tasman National Park. Ideally, you should visit these separately over two or three days and possibly even include traversing the whole of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track within the trip.

Weekend Getaway in Nelson

During your day trip, you should visit the towns of Mapua and Motueka along the way. Both are blessed with lovely scenery, friendly locals, and several delightful places to eat.

Weekend Getaway in Nelson

Once in Kaiteriteri, make sure you enjoy some quality time at the beach on top of visiting the main sites in town.

Should you be so inclined, you can amble over to Little Kaiteriteri. Alternatively, drive further along the coast to the Abel Tasman National Park. Be sure you keep an eye out for the remarkable Split Apple Rock during the drive.

Just past it is the lovely village of Marahau, which is notable for its gorgeous beach and for being the gateway to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. 

Weekend Getaway in Nelson

You probably won’t be able to do that and see much of the national park in one day. So, if the latter is your preference, you can take a boat tour or drive to it via Golden Bay and Totaranui. While the latter chews up a fair chunk of time, it’s a great way to take in more of the gorgeous landscapes the area is known for.

Day Three

For your last day in Nelson, you have a few options.

If you love wine, you might want to check out some of the fantastic cellar doors close to the city. The region is a noted boutique wine producer, best known for its world-class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Neudorf Vineyards and Seifried Estate Cellar Door are two excellent venues to visit.

Should you prefer to get out and about, though, Nelson Lakes National Park is a terrific option.

It is located about an hour from Nelson and can be easily reached from the city or if you stay overnight near the Tasman National Park on day two.

Weekend Getaway in Nelson

Once there, you will be able to enjoy some spectacular walks, including the St Arnaud Range Track, Mount Robert Circuit and Whiskey Falls. All of which showcase superb scenery. You’ll find some lovely lakeside spots to visit near St Arnaud, as well as an iconic pier, which is very Insta-worthy.

If you have done enough walking over the previous two days, you may enjoy driving to the Marlborough Sounds instead. While it is a long drive, the jaw-dropping scenery is among the best in New Zealand, and you’ll be able to take much of it in while leisurely driving, as there isn’t much in the way of traffic on the road.