Daniel and I wake up on a Thursday morning to our travel app telling us there are severe weather warnings, expect delays and a message saying you can change your flight free of charge if you want to. Not really what you want to hear on the first day of your summer holiday.
I am a bit confused, the current weather is alright for Wellington and it’s pretty still. We head to the airport anyway, have a 10 minute delay and after a short, pretty smooth, 30 minute flight, the wheels touch down to a very wet tarmac. Water sprays everywhere. The rain is pretty heavy here.
Welcome to Sunny Nelson! It gets that name because it receives some of the highest hours of sunshine annually. Not today.
All up, we had about 2.5 days in Nelson (with another little excursion in between that I will share in the next post) This gave us lots of time to explore. Here is what we got up to:
After wandering the streets of Nelson for a few minutes in search of lunch we come across Hardy Street Eatery. It’s bright, simple decor is inviting and being able to see some of the food being prepared in the open kitchen is pretty cool. It’s busy and humming and has attracted a range of people, mums, workers, friends, travelers, retirees. It feels like a popular place. I loved the choice of vegetarian food on the menu. Usually I find the vegetarian choices at places a bit limited. Not here. My meal is colourful, creamy and delicious.
Arden Bar & Kitchen. Wow! This is right up there with one of my favorite meals ever! Again, I was spoiled for choice with lots of vegetarian options. We sat outside under the rain canopy. Outdoor lights dotted around the place, music playing and plants give the space a lovely vibe to sit back, relax and enjoy a great meal.
I’m a sucker for fresh bread. I know I shouldn’t, it fills me up so much, but when I saw homemade sourdough with shallot butter on the menu, I couldn’t help myself.
Totally worth it.
It was sensational. The shallots gave the butter a sweet, rich, caramelized flavour. Paired with the warm sourdough, oh, I could eat that every day!
This was followed by gnocchi. (Another, I probably shouldn’t because it’s so filling and I really want dessert, but I just can’t resist) It was gorgeous. Not melt in the mouth like I had in Florence, but this was pan fried and the caramlisation on it was so good. It was accompanied by grilled zucchini, fresh beans and a little zing from some chili. Comfort food at it’s finest.
Much to Daniel’s dislike, I asked to share the dessert. Tonka bean creme brulee. Never heard of tonka beans? Me either. A quick google search told me they are a small black bean, a bit like an almond and are found in Central and Northern South America. Also, they are illegal in the US!
Again, another outstanding dish, smooth and creamy with a delicate vanilla flavour and a hint of spice. This was all washed down with a sweet cocktail. If you are ever in Nelson, be sure to check out this place. It was incredible.
I always like to try and get out for walks when I am away, even if it means leaving Daniel at our accommodation with YouTube and going exploring on my own.
I didn’t spend long here but Queen’s Garden’s is well worth checking out. It’s very beautiful with water features, bridges, tall trees and a rose garden. It’s a perfect place to amble slowly through, have a picnic and smell the roses.
My main walk while I was here was to the Centre of New Zealand. It’s actually not the true centre of New Zealand, but it was given that name as it was the central survey point in the 1800’s. Once Stewart Island and small inshore islands were taken into account, the actual center of New Zealand is about an hour’s drive South West in Spooners Range. But there is a monument at the top and it’s pretty cool to be able to say you have been to the center of New Zealand.
The walk begins in the Botanical reserve. I had read that the walk is steep and can take 20 – 60 minutes depending on your fitness. I decided to time myself.
As soon as I entered the forest, the noise of the cicadas was overwhelming. They drown out all traffic sounds and the birds of the forest. They were singing their little hearts out. But after 10 minutes of climbing a steep hill, the only thing I could hear was the huffing and puffing of one very unfit Wellingtonian. (who was rather embarrassed when she was overtaken by a child jogging up the hill!) When I make it to the top, I am rewarded with cuddles from 2 energetic little dogs.
Once I have caught my breath, I take time to soak up the view. It’s cloudy but I can still see out across Nelson, the township, the harbour and what looks like a sandbar out in the ocean. I get my photo with the centre of New Zealand monument and then start the descent.
Now that I am not timing myself, I take time to appreciate the forest, to close my eyes and listen to the birds and the cicadas. Life is so sweet when you take time to enjoy moments like this.
It’s a steep track, but well maintained, and signposted. I myself am astounded at how easily I get lost. My navigation skills are pretty poor, but even I manage this walk without getting lost. And just in case you are wondering, I got to the top in 15 minutes!
I am not a big wine drinker, but I do like going on wine tours. I enjoy the wine culture, the pretty vineyard settings and getting to hear local artisans passionately talking about their products. The Nelson wine region is known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and something I didn’t know, Pinot Noir.
We get to explore this region with Nelson Tours & Travel. I was a little disappointed to find we were the only ones on the tour. It was great getting a private tour for the price of a regular one, but we do enjoy the opportunity to meet other people. I guess this is just how things are at the moment. Covid has wreaked havoc with the tourism industry so it’s nice to be able to support local businesses.
Our host CJ picks us up and he and Daniel hit it off, talking about music, motorbikes, travel and of course wine. We find out that CJ was in Italy at the same time as us and we spend time reminiscing about our time under the Tuscan sun.
Our first stop is Middle-Earth. (Not to be mistaken with Lord of the Rings) Of all the vineyards we visited, this was my favourite. While it had the known varieties of wine, they also produce wine from grape varieties I had never heard of. The very first one we tried, the albarino, was my favourite from the whole day. It had citrus notes finishing with a bit of saltiness. I have never tasted anything like this before and really loved it. Other varieties we tried that I had never heard of were, viognier, pinot meunier and petit verdot. It is here that we learn pinot noir (black) has unstable DNA and mutates into other varieties, pinot gris (grey) pinot blanc (white) and pinot meunier (miller)
We then move onto Heaphy Vineyard and Winery where we have some much needed lunch. Sourdough pizza and an incredible corn salad. At this vineyard we are able to choose our own sample selection from a list, including a bold flavour riesling made from grapes off the oldest vines in the South Island.
Our next 2 stops are Kina Cliffs and Kina Beach Vineyards which happen to be right next door to each other. As soon as I step out of the van, I can smell the ocean. We taste our wines while listening to it’s rhythmic sounds. I forget how lucky we are. No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never more than 3 hours from the coast.
I am a little bit wined out at this point, but Daniel is still enjoying the tastings. All and all, it was a great day and we did a great job of supporting the local wine economy by having rather a few bottles shipped back home to us.
Even if you don’t like cars, if you can appreciate beautiful aesthetics and design, you should check out the Nelson Classic Car Museum. With vehicles dating back as far as the early 1900’s there is bound to be something for everyone. Daniel was like a kid in a candy store, delighting at some rare and forgotten models.
I loved the early 20th century cars. They are so beautifully designed with their back seat carriages, old wooden spoke wheels and oil lit headlights. I was also quite taken with the little red vintage Jaguar convertible and I can’t help but drool over the 1960’s/70’s Stingrays. They are a head turner! There is a great collection of cars here that are nicely displayed. It’s well worth a look.
So, there you have it, some suggestions of what to do next time you are in sunny Nelson. Hopefully you will get to experience the sunny part!