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With easy access from the North Island via ferry from Wellington, and incredible coastal views travelling from other areas of the South Island, Nelson and Marlborough make for an ideal campervan road trip destination. Marlborough and Nelson beaches are a major feature of these neighbouring regions, and boast an epic coastline including over 3,000km in the Marlborough Sounds alone.
Marlborough’s capital Blenheim, is in the heart of the Wairau Valley. Visiting the epicentre of the New Zealand wine industry is one of the best things to do in Marlborough, with cellar doors and restaurants generously sprinkled throughout a picturesque landscape.
Nelson is the region’s biggest metropolis, with top Nelson attractions including delving into the arts scene and enjoying the glorious rural and seaside surroundings. Neighbouring Motueka town is a pleasant gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, as well as Kahurangi and charming Golden Bay over Takaka Hill. At the southern boundary of Marlborough is salty Kaikoura, world famous for whales and other wildlife.
Top reasons to visit the region include mountains and crystal lakes, oceans and tumbling rivers, rolling hills and sandy beaches. Nelson and Marlborough are an adventure playground for those who love to get amongst the great outdoors.
Popular Nelson Road Trips & Itineraries
Nelson is located on the coast at the top of the South Island, and the head of Tasman Bay. If you are travelling from the North Island by ferry, Nelson is a 2 hour drive from the Picton port where you dock in the South Island. It’s a great place to start your South Island road trip, as it really does have a bit of everything from the stunning Nelson beaches, to forests and city splendour. It’s also a fantastic stopping point for travellers coming from more southern areas such as Kaikoura or Christchurch. Surrounded by mountain ranges, it is sheltered and sunny making it the perfect place for the growing of produce. Check out some of the most popular road trips and itineraries for Nelson and the South Island.
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Britz Campervan Branches
If you're after a long drive, starting your trip in Auckland will allow you to take in all the scenery of the North Island before setting sail across to the South Island to continue your adventure.
Pick up your Britz camper in Wellington and take it across the Cook Strait on the Ferry. No need to scramble when you get there, simply drive your vehicle off the ferry at Picton and head on to Nelson to start your adventure.
The drive from Britz Christchurch to Nelson offers a couple of different paths, whether you choose to stick to the coast to pass by Kaikoura and Blenheim over 6 hours, or head through the centre over 5 hours through Lewis Pass. Both give a different look at the South Island!
New Zealand's renowned adventure playground, Queenstown is an exhilarating, year-round alpine resort. With so many activities and natural delights to enjoy, no South Island campervan trip is complete without a trip to this hot spot.
Helpful Tips For Visiting Nelson & Marlborough
Climate and seasons in Nelson
Nelson is known for its great weather, and it is a top competitor for record numbers of sunny days in New Zealand most years.
The year-round temperate weather affords locals and visitors plenty of time for outdoor activities, and ensures a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy all the region has to offer.
Nelson does experience four seasons, however even the cooler months are still mild in comparison to cities further south.
Nearby attractions and day trips from Nelson
Farewell spit lies about 2 hours from Nelson and is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. The area is heavily protected, so access is by tour for most of the reserve. You can also see historic lighthouses and beautiful wetland areas.
Takaka is a small town known for its alternative style, and is filled with cafes and art shops. Near Kahurangi National Park, it’s a great pit stop for gathering refreshments. A top Takaka attraction to include is Te Waikoropupū Springs, the largest freshwater spring in NZ.
Rabbit Island is popular for its swimming beach, and there is a bridge that connects it to the mainland. The Island has pine plantations, and there are even BBQ’s to use for cooking up a family lunch.
What to pack
With such great weather no matter the time of year you visit, it’s an absolute must to pack for outdoor activities and adventuring in Nelson.
- Outdoor gear... Things like bikes, swimming gear and sturdy footwear for walking are a must for Nelson. If you have binoculars, bring them along for spotting wildlife!
- Campervan add-ons... If you are bringing a bike, the Auckland, Christchurch or Queenstown branches offer bike rack hire which you can add on to your campervan hire!
- Sun protection... For all the sunny days you will be experiencing in Nelson, remember to bring sunscreen, hats and sunglasses
Where to stay in Nelson & Marlborough with a campervan