The thriving, small city of Nelson, set on the coast in a broad basin between the Arthur and Richmond ranges, is a beguiling place. Initially it is not much to look at, but on longer acquaintance it gets its hooks into you and the Nelson region has become one of the most popular visitor destinations in New Zealand. A warm, sunny climate, access to good beaches and a cluster of worthwhile wineries in the hinterland are powerful lures, but Nelson is also supremely placed for accessing Golden Bay and three national parks – Abel Tasman, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes. Over the years it has become a bit of a haven for painters and potters drawn by the sunlight, the landscape and the unique raw materials for ceramic art that lie beneath the rich green grass.
You'll initially spend much of your time in central Nelson, where the Suter Gallery and the lively Saturday Market are good diversions. But you'll soon want to venture further, notably to Tahunanui Beach and the western suburb of Stoke for the fascinating World of WearableArt museum. Further west, the satellite town of Richmond, 14km out, is the starting point for the arts, crafts and wine district to the north. To get further away from Nelson, on a short day-trip, head for Mapua Wharf or the beaches of Rabbit Island, accessible at low tide.