New Zealand: Full Nelson

Sep 24, 2008


At night, when his children are asleep, a lone glassblower twirls molten orbs in a streetside kiln. Anthony Holt Genet’s New Zealand, Nelson workshop opens onto the pavement, drawing curious throngs to the unexpected clank and glow of an inner-city furnace. This is the way art unfolds in Nelson.

It is astoundingly pervasive, appearing in unlikely corners of the small city at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Original sculpture adorns commercial buildings, springs from backyards or perches in the window of a travel agency. Visit the extraordinary number of galleries and boutique design stores supported by a population of some 43,000. Nelson even boasts a museum dedicated to wearable art and a gallery that showcases only recycled items.

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It is easy to see how artists might find inspiration in this region, with its temperate climate and iconic blue and green New Zealand scenery. The city boundaries skirt the shallow, rim of Tasman Bay before looping through the foothills of heavily forested ranges. What’s more, Nelson generally tops the charts in the nation’s annual tally of sunshine hours.

A couple of hours’ drive can place residents inside any one of three spectacular national parks. The safe swimming beach of Tahunanui is minutes from the low-rise downtown. Further on, suburbia gives way to olive groves and orchards, berry farms, organic producers, more than two dozen wineries and a coastline promising abundant seafood.

Thankfully, Nelsonians seem to approach culinary matters with the same kind of hands-on passion and creativity they apply to art. Visitors can buy hand-dipped chocolate truffles loaded with locally grown boysenberries, or meet the fifth-generation brewer who launched Australasia’s first certified organic brewery, using Nelson hops, of course. They can also just lounge in a seaside restaurant where the wine, jazz band and scallops are all homegrown. In this part of the world, parochialism is a fine thing.

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Consulate Apartments - Fabulous central location – quiet, but only a two-minute walk to town – with smart apartments ideal for the independent traveller. Your own kitchen, balcony and original Nelson artwork on the walls.
353 Trafalgar Square.

Grampian Villa
209 Collingwood Street.

The Last Straw Cottage

Mount Heslington Road, Brightwater.


Head to the western end of Bridge Street for a scattering of interesting, original boutiques. Start with Red Art Gallery where excellent contemporary New Zealand art is teamed with imported oriental rugs and furniture and monthly exhibitions. At Rome you may see one of the clothing designers hand-stitching a garment behind the counter. Next door, Shine is a must for magpies and a showcase for the jewellers who work upstairs. Across the road, Cooper & Rouge sells great NZ designer labels. And look out for Nelson fashion names Madcat and Go Clothing.

Sweet tooths should head to Kerstiens Chocolates to sample the boysenberry truffles. Visit the pink cottage that houses Rosy Glow Chocolate to try just about anything.

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Casa Del Vino - This downtown shop stocks more than a dozen local wines along with its national and international offerings.
214 Hardy Street.

Cooper & Rouge
56 Bridge Street.

Flame Daisy - Watch the artist in action, buy a piece and “blow your own bauble”.
324 Trafalgar Square.

Go Clothing

Shop 4, Bank Lane, 217 Trafalgar Street.

Jens Hansen  - A nondescript storefront houses the jewellers who fashioned the nation’s most famous ring – a gold band used in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy filmed in New Zealand.
320 Trafalgar Square.

Jewel Beetle - This funky contemporary jewellery store does great things with bugs, a modern take on greenstone pendants and nice cufflinks.
240 Trafalgar Street.

Kerstiens Chocolates

36 Gloucester Street.

121 Trafalgar Street.

Nelson Market - Quality is high and the atmosphere is lively at this institution showcasing the many and varied talents of its citizens. Enjoy chocolates, honey liqueur, extra virgin olive oil, smoked mussels, crusty sourdough, caramelised nuts cooked before your eyes and a divine artichoke and date dip. Listen to buskers and buy bonsai, organic produce, handmade hats, jewellery or corrugated-iron art. Bargain hunters will find local fashion designers, jewellers and ceramic artists selling discounted samples, seconds and end-of-line items.
Montgomery Square.

Red Art Gallery

1 Bridge Street.

55 Bridge Street.

Rosy Glow Chocolate
20 Harley Street.

53 Bridge Street.

Tozzetti Panetteria - Nelson is grateful Richard Brett long ago ditched an architectural drafting career for dough. The ardent artisan baker produces everything from naan to brioche – and the city’s favourite garlic loaf, studded with whole cloves.
41 Halifax Street.

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Eat & Drink

About two dozen wineries are dotted in the Moutere hills and the stony Waimea Plains. Many of the aromatic whites and pinots have won global acclaim. There are no corporate big boys here – the owner frequently doubles as winemaker and cellar master. Himmelsfeld Vineyard, for instance, is owned by a nurse turned winemaker, who recently scooped gold at the Vinalies Internationales wine competition in Paris. Other notable names include Neudorf Vineyards, Greenhough Vineyard, Brightwater Vineyards, Seifried Estate and Rimu Grove Winery. Woollaston Estates is one to watch. Most have cellar doors. Some are open by appointment only and many have limited winter hours.

Harry’s Bar - Meet friends for a cocktail or boutique beer, or dine on Asian-style dishes at this intimate evenings-only hangout. 
306 Hardy Street.

- No wonder savvy locals place this downtown restaurant at the top of their list. The chef knows exactly what to do with locally sourced organic vegetables, saffron, olive oil, wines and house-made breads. The decor is casually elegant with service to match.
284 Trafalgar Street.

Morrison Street Cafe
- Exhibitions, a community noticeboard and regular newsletters help foster the local following at this busy daytime eatery. Good counter fare and a cafe menu. Breakfast and lunch menu til 2:30pm, light bites til 3pm.
244 Hardy Street.

Saltwater Cafe and Bar
- Catch Sunday afternoon jazz by the water at Saltwater Cafe and Bar. Seek out dynamic owner Viv Fox for local tips.
272 Wakefield Quay.

See & Do

Get outdoors
Take a walk in the hills behind the city, to the Centre of New Zealand monument; mountain bike in the Maitai Valley; or stroll along the boulder bank breakwater to the 1861 lighthouse. See Nelson City Council for directions. The council also produces a walking map of the city’s public art and sculpture. Or set up a tailor-made adventure with the blokes at Simply Wild.

Tour an art gallery
Choose from about a dozen in the city includingThe Suter public gallery and the excellent Catchment Gallery.

Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum - Visit the World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum near the airport, for its spectacular wearable creations, gift gallery and classic cars exhibit.

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Day trip

*Many of these stops are seasonal. Call ahead for opening hours.

A favourite weekend drive for locals takes in the coastal State Highway 60 and a parallel inland route, with assorted byways crisscrossing between the two. Pass roadside honesty boxes selling flowers and fruit, cross one-lane bridges and encounter jaw-dropping water views – and plenty of wineries.
Monterey House is a charming daytime cafe run by two sisters. It is a long way from the nearest village and they don’t advertise, yet booking is essential. The outlook, beef salad and high teas are equally impressive.

Back towards Nelson, turn right onto Neudorf Road to find some fine wines at Neudorf Vineyards. A kilometre up the road, Neudorf Dairy sells award-winning, handcrafted sheep’s milk cheese. The signature Pyrenees-style cheese is wonderful.

In tiny Upper Moutere village, a rose-strewn cottage houses talented ceramic artists Owen Bartlett and Katie Gold. Across the road, in a converted post office building, Moutere Gold sells gourmet preserves.

Nearer the coast, celebrated ceramic artist Christine Boswijk has a workshop open by appointment only.
On the return trip to Nelson, save room for dinner at the wonderful Bouterey’s where chef-owner Matt Bouterey and his team showcase local produce and create wonders in a central open kitchen.

Artist, Christine Boswijk

251 Queen Street, Richmond.

Ceramic Artists, Owen Bartlett and Katie Gold
Upper Moutere village.

Monterey House
Orinoco Valley, Motueka.

Moutere Gold

Neudorf Dairy

Neudorf Vineyards


Brightwater Wine & Food Festival


Nelson Arts Festival

Nelson Jazz Festival

Source: Qantas The Australian Way July 2007
Updated: July 2008

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