Nelson's central location at the top of the South Island makes the region very accessible from all points around New Zealand, whether arriving by air, by sea or by road. Within the region, visitors are well served by local bus, coach and taxi services, and many activity and accommodation providers offer transfers. Self-drive is the most popular mode of travel for visitors to this region. Most of the major national rental car companies have depots here, and there are local companies also providing vehicle rental services.
Arriving by Air
Nelson Airport is the fourth busiest commercial airport in New Zealand, and flights operate from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm daily with more than 66 arrivals and departures to and from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch aboard Q300 Bombardier 50-seater aircraft.
In addition, there are scheduled flights on light aircraft between Nelson and Paraparaumu, and between Takaka and Wellington, Palmerston North and Karamea.
Direct flight times
|Approximate direct flying times (mins)
|Auckland to Nelson City||80|
|Wellington to Nelson City||35|
|Christchurch to Nelson City||50|
|Paraparaumu to Nelson City||45|
|Wellington to Takaka||50|
|Palmerston North to Takaka (Dec-Apr)||65|
|Karamea to Takaka||40|
Arriving by sea
Regular Cook Strait ferries provide vehicle and passenger access between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. Two primary ferry companies are the Interislander and Bluebridge. Regular coach services connect Nelson and the inter-island ferry services at Picton.
|Ferry crossing times||approximate sailing times|
|Wellington to Picton (Interislander)||3 hours|
|Wellington to Picton (Bluebridge Service)||3 hours 20 min|
Arriving by road
Many visitors drive to Nelson as part of a South Island tour. Good roads connect Nelson to the West Coast via the Kahurangi National Park, Blenheim and Christchurch via the Lewis Pass. Whether you travel to Nelson through Murchison or follow the Kaikoura coast you will see some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Nelson Tasman region is well serviced by coaches operating into and around the region.
|Driving times||km||driving time|
|Blenheim to Nelson City||117||1 hr 45 mins|
|Picton to Nelson City||144||2 hrs|
|Westport to Nelson City||266||3 hrs 15 mins|
|Christchurch to Nelson City||424||6 hrs|
Getting Around Nelson Tasman
For the intrepid independent traveller, getting around the Nelson Tasman region is easy. However, one tip is to take care when driving over the amazing Takaka Hill between Motueka and Golden Bay.
The compact city of Nelson is located in the north-east corner of the region. From here, exploring the region is easy - whether you are heading west towards the Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay, south towards Murchison, or anywhere in between.
Three national parks are all within 90 minutes drive from the city. The Abel Tasman National Park may be accessed from the southern gateway of Marahau or at the northern gateways near Takaka in Golden Bay. Nelson Lakes National Park may be accessed from St. Arnaud. The vast Kahurangi National Park may be accessed from several points from Golden Bay to Murchison.
|km||driving time (mins)|
|Nelson city to Mapua||33||30|
|Nelson city to Motueka||51||50|
|Motueka to Kaiteriteri||14||20|
|Motueka to Marahau||18||30|
|Motueka to Takaka||58||60|
|Nelson city to Takaka||109||90|
|Takaka to Collingwood||27||35|
|Nelson city to St Arnaud||109||90|
|Nelson city to Murchison||129||90|