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Get on the Road: Nelson Motorhome Hire

Nelson is the perfect starting point for a NZ campervan holiday, blessed with its location near a number of stunning landscapes and National Parks. With a small but busy domestic airport, it is easily reachable and has an adventurous, outdoorsy spirit which will get your road trip off to a great start.

Tucked away at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, Nelson’s claims to fame include wonderful weather and beautiful natural assets. If the city’s proximity to the marvellous Marlborough Sounds and amazing Abel Tasman National Park isn’t enough, it is an intimate and artsy urban centre which enjoys the most sunshine of any location in the country. Canterbury and its capital, Christchurch is another popular spot to visit whether you be finishing or beginning a roadtrip.

A visit to the Nelson region is incomplete without a trip to the incredible Abel Tasman Adventures National Park. 

Nelson, Natural Playground

Central Nelson is neatly laid out on the banks of the Maitai River and is the second-oldest settled city in the country, with a long history dating back to European settlement in 1841. With many Victorian-style houses and plentiful green areas, it is a good-looking place and home to boutiques, galleries, wonderful seafood restaurants and a buzzing cafe culture. Many Kiwis aspire to retire there, and it is the perfect location to begin an adventurous campervan holiday.

Lay Your Head

Nelson has the full range of accommodation options, from hotels to backpackers, bed and breakfasts, holiday homes, lodges and resorts. Hotels are mostly found in the central city, and around these are the more budget-friendly places to stay. Backpackers and hostels are very popular with young adventurers, who come to the area for the outdoor opportunities – while the more mature customer enjoys the character of Nelson’s bed and breakfast or homestay-style accommodation. Campgrounds in the suburbs and surrounding areas accommodate those with tents or motorhomes.

Social Calendar

Despite its relative small size, Nelson’s festivals and events are a major attraction. They include a vast array of music and arts festivals, outdoor sporting events such as golf, harness racing and skydiving and even beach yoga. The climate obviously helps dictate the goodies on offer. If you love getting out there, Nelson is the place for you. 

Eat Local

Fresh, local produce is a major selling point for Nelson’s dining scene! The city’s best restaurants make full use of the produce and meat from surrounding farmland, as well as the seafood which passes through the ports. These can also be hunted down at farmers’ markets – one of the top ten things to do. Fine dining is available, but casual, fresh and hearty fare is what Nelson does best - try the Beach Cafe and Bar, Gianni Pizza, the Playhouse Cafe and Paula’s Plate by New Zealand Masterchef contestant Paula Saengthian-Ngam.

Nelson and the surrounding areas are home to a number of boutique wineries, well known for their aromatic varieties.  A bit further afield is the world-renowned Marlborough wine region - a leader in Sauvignon Blanc production. The city also has perfect conditions for growing hops, and craft breweries abound. In fact, Nelson has more of these per head of population than anywhere else in the country. Spend a day visiting these in your campervan for an unforgettable holiday experience- just make sure you have a sober driver!

Who, What, Where

Located at the top of the South Island, Nelson is often referred to as the geographical “centre of New Zealand.” It is accessed by plane or car from Picton, where the inter-island ferries come in. If you’re driving, the sights are stunning - from the amazing coastlines of the Marlborough Sounds and Abel Tasman National Park, to the sweeping ocean beaches of Golden Bay, where the laid-back locals will make any visitor want to stay forever.
The city’s people are increasingly multicultural, as Nelson real estate becomes sought after for work-life balance and retirement thanks to the natural beauty of the area. Some even commute to Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin on a weekly basis to enjoy the lifestyle and career opportunities simultaneously. Festivals are big in Nelson, with a full events calendar ranging from the annual festivals to weekly markets and live music shows where visitors can get a taste of the culture and creativity of the city and surrounds.

What to Do In Nelson

There is a lot of art on offer in Nelson. A highlight is the World of Wearable Art Museum, which showcases the weird and wacky garments of this fashion festival now held in Wellington. The Sute Art Gallery is another famous place and one of the best places to visit. Wandering around the shops will also reveal many creations by local artisans and show you exactly ‘what to wear’.
A visit to the Nelson region is incomplete without a trip to the incredible Abel Tasman Adventures National Park. With inland forested mountains giving way to a coastline dotted with golden-sand coves, it is an area of great beauty and offers extensive recreation opportunities. Visitors enjoy kayaking tours, picnics, bushwalks and the much-loved Abel Tasman Coastal Track which takes 3-5 days to complete.
There are plenty of things to do in Nelson for a family with kids. Natureland is a small but charming zoo with low fences and a compact layout, perfect for the little ones.  Tahunanui Beach near the airport is excellent for safe swimming and is home to the Nelson Fun Park with hydroslides, bumper boats and mini golf. Older kids will likely enjoy horse trekking, paintball and quad bike tours offered by Happy Valley Adventures just out of town.

Get Around

Downtown Nelson is easily walkable, and also easily driveable for those who have a car or motorhome rental. City buses are called NBuses, and they run services to Richmond, an outlying town considered part of Nelson - as well as four routes around the city itself. Local routes operate on a “Hail and Ride” system, where the bus will stop when hailed when it is safe to do so. Taxis are another option for transport, and if you are heading out of Nelson, intercity buses can take you almost anywhere - these include Abel Tasman Coachlines, Golden Bay Coachlines, Intercity and Naked Bus. Of course, a rental campervan or car provides the most freedom of movement.

Sunshine City

Nelson’s temperate oceanic climate means cool winters and warm summers, and in practice Nelson has one of the best climates in New Zealand, with an annual average of over 2400 hours of sunshine. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, so winter has plenty of beautiful sunny days as well - perfect for those who like the cold.

Finding the Campervan For You

Rather than trawling through a dozen different websites, see all your options in one place with Motorhome Republic. It is the easiest way to track down the best campervan rental for your trip, offering great prices on a range of different rental companies on one simple site. There are many types of vehicles and brands available in Nelson- small sleeper vans to big RVs from companies including Discover NZ Motorhomes, Freedom Campers, Go Wild Campervan Rentals, Kahurangi Motorhomes, Sleepavanz and Tui Campers.

Tips for the Perfect Nelson Campervan Hire

Book and drive away in style and ease with these tips for campervanning in Nelson and surrounds.

  • Book well in advance to make sure you get the right camper for the right dates- they can sell out fast!

  • Keep in mind where you want to go. Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular spots are quite remote, so make sure your rental company allows travel on gravel roads if you want to get off the beaten track.

  • Do some research on DOC campsites in the region- these simple campsites are inexpensive and often in some beautiful spots.

  • A GPS is a good add-on to your rental, especially for rural South Island roads.