A great part of Nelson’s charm lies on its doorstep, particularly the excellent wineries to the west. Here the vines appreciate the combination of New Zealand’s sunniest climate and either the free-draining alluvial gravels of the Waimea Plains or the clay gravels of the Moutere Hills. Wineries are interspersed with the studios of a number of contemporary artists working in the Nelson region, many of whom exhibit in their own small galleries, showcasing ceramics, glass-blowing, woodturning, textiles, sculpture, installations and painting.
Almost everywhere of interest is located on or just off the much straightened SH60, which runs north from Richmond towards Motueka through rural scenery and sea views. A couple of kilometres north along SH60, the Moutere Highway cuts left for Upper Moutere, while Redwood Road turns right past the Seifried winery and on to the picture-book-pretty Rabbit Island, one of Nelson’s most popular beaches.
You can sample the best of the region on an extended drive from Nelson to Motueka, but there’s enough on offer to warrant spending a couple of leisurely days. Equip yourself with the Nelson Wine Guide, Nelson Great Beer Trail, Nelson’s Creative Pathways and Nelson Potters leaflets, all free and available from visitor centres. A few kilometres further north, Motueka is the most practical base and provides the easiest access for trips into the Abel Tasman National Park.