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 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.

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.


Consulate Apartments
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.

Casa Del Vino
214 Hardy Street.
+64 3 548 0088.

Cooper & Rouge
56 Bridge Street.

Flame Daisy
324 Trafalgar Square.
+64 3 548 4475.

Go Clothing

Shop 4, Bank Lane, 217 Trafalgar Street.
+64 3 545 8988.

Jens Hansen
320 Trafalgar Square.
+64 3 548 0640.

Jewel Beetle
240 Trafalgar Street.
+64 3 548 0487.

Kerstiens Chocolates

36 Gloucester Street.
+64 3 546 6980.

121 Trafalgar Street.
+64 3 539 1355.

Nelson Market
Montgomery Square.

Red Art Gallery

1 Bridge Street.
+64 3 548 9101.

55 Bridge Street.

Rosy Glow Chocolate
20 Harley Street.
+64 3 548 3383.

53 Bridge Street.

Tozzetti Panetteria
41 Halifax Street.
+64 3 546 8484.

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
306 Hardy Street.
+64 3 539 0905.


284 Trafalgar Street.
+64 3 545 7191.

Morrison Street Cafe

244 Hardy Street.
+64 3 548 8110.

Saltwater Cafe and Bar

272 Wakefield Quay.
+64 3 548 3361.

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 including The Suter public gallery and the excellent Catchment Gallery.

Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum

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
+64 3 544 2600.

251 Queen Street, Richmond.
+64 3 544 1114.

Ceramic Artists, Owen Bartlett and Katie Gold
Upper Moutere village.
+64 3 543 2544.

Monterey House
Orinoco Valley, Motueka.
+64 3 526 8267.

Moutere Gold
+64 3 543 2780.

Neudorf Dairy
+64 3 543 2789.

Neudorf Vineyards
+64 3 543 2643.


Brightwater Wine & Food Festival
February 15, 2009.

August 15-16, 2009.

Nelson Arts Festival
October 16-27, 2008.

Nelson Jazz Festival
January 2-6, 2009.

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

comments powered by Disqus