Nelson, New Zealand: A Photo Diary From The South Island

Birthday In New Zealand
Planning a trip to New Zealand? Be sure to visit Nelson! 

When I was planning my round the world trip I decided to start my round the world trip in New Zealand. One of my dearest friends, Helen, who I went to high school lives there. My thought was to mix new places as well as familiar faces on this extended trip from home. Helen, her husband Gary, and their kids live in Nelson on the South Island, so I added it to my trip plans.




  • Flights: Find a cheap flight using Skyscanner or Momondo. I like these two booking sites because they both search all websites and airlines around the globe including budget airlines.
  • Accommodations: I use or Tripadvisor to find the best rates on hotels. offers a free night after booking 10 nights
  • Get up to $40 off your first Air Bnb stay by using this code!
  • Travel Insurance: Having gotten sick on my travels in the past, I never travel without being insured. You never know when something may happen. For my round the world trip and extended long-term travel, I use World Nomads. For other trips, I have used Roam Right and they cover activities like extreme sports.

Check rates here for your Nelson accommodations


After flying over a dozen hours to New Zealand from Los Angeles, I spent a night in Auckland before moving on. Flying to Nelson was not an option for me because the tickets were pricy. Flying to Christchurch and then backtracking to Nelson also seemed like a waste of my time since I was trying to go south to Queenstown and Milford Sound.

Since I was taking a bus to Nelson from Auckland, I stopped in Wellington for a night.  From Wellington I took a bus and ferry to Picton and then from Picton, I took the Intercity bus to Nelson. My birthday was coming up so I zipped through these places so I could spend it with Helen. 

Booking my bus tickets on the internet was pretty easy. I wasn’t particular about which buses I was taking, I would just choose which bus had the lowest price. In New Zealand, the buses I rode were Intercity and the Naked Bus (now defunct). As much as I’d like to have rented a van and camped throughout the country, I was travelling solo. Budget-wise it was going to be too expensive. Since New Zealand was my first stop on my round the world trip, I was pretty strict about not squandering my funds.  

Read more here: Exploring New Zealand’s South Island

Nelson Town, New Zealand

Here’s a photo of the downtown area of Nelson

My friend Helen picked me up from the city center when I arrived in Nelson. Helen, her husband Gary, and their two kids live just outside of Nelson in an area called Upper Moutere. They have a large property with a vineyard. Pretty rad and lucky me!

Helen and I hadn’t seen each other in years. We were part of the same crew at our very small all-girls private school in Vancouver, Canada. The last time I had seen Helen was at her wedding to Gary in our hometown of Vancouver a few years prior to my trip. Before the wedding, I hadn’t seen much of Helen because she moved to the UK after university. We had so much to catch up on!!

Helen and Gary's Home In Upper Moutere Nelson

Helen and Gary’s home

Ruby In Nelson


Eamon In Nelson

Eamon was a bit shy at first

Stella the dog in Nelson New Zealand

Can’t forget about the family dog, Stella!

New Zealand is all about nature. On my first day in town, Helen took me on a hike to Cable Bay. It’s not far from where Helen and Gary live. The scenery was gorgeous and we caught up on the years that passed as we hiked. The hike was pretty mellow and was about 8 km long.

Cable Bay Hike in Nelson New Zealand

Of course some sheep and their shepherd

Cable Bay Hike

I almost got run over by a herd of stampeding cows

Cable Bay Hike

Stampeding cows

Cable Bay Hike

We’re still super goofy after knowing each other since we were 13 – There’s me going into an outhouse.

Cable Bay Hike

Beautiful views

Cable Bay Hike in Nelson New Zealand

Cable Bay Hike

More cows on the hike

The best part about the hike was our post-hike meal at the Cable Bay Cafe (I wrote about it in more detail here). The food was so fresh and delicious. This place is only open in the summer so I was pretty lucky to eat here.

Cable Bay Cafe

Green-lipped local mussels with arrabbiata sauce

While I was in Nelson, Helen also took me to experience some local wineries. Prior to my trip to New Zealand, I drink much white wine. My time in New Zealand changed that and now I love a good Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. A few people told me about Neudorf Winery. It’s known to be one of the best wineries in the country. It’s not far from where Helen lives so we spent the day there sampling amazing wines and walking around the property. If you happen to come across Neudorf wines outside of New Zealand, buy as much as you can!

Neudorf Vineyards In Nelson New Zealand


Neudorf Vineyards In Nelson New Zealand


Neudorf Vineyards In Nelson New Zealand

One day Helen and Gary took me out to Abel Tasman National Park. They have a boat and we went to a beach that is only accessible by boat or a multi-day hike. It was pretty amazing!

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

I was on a boat! In New Zealand!

Abel Tasman National Park |

See! On a boat for real!

Split Apple Rock Abel Tasman National Park

Split Apple Rock

When I was in Nelson, I celebrated my birthday with Helen and her family. It was nice to celebrate with an old friend across the world.

Rainbow Nelson


A massive rainbow appeared on my birthday!

Victoria Sponge Cake

Helen baked me a local favorite, a Victoria Sponge Cake

Birthday In New Zealand

The kids were more thrilled about my birthday I think!

Birthday In New Zealand

Eamon loved my cake!

Birthday In New Zealand

Ruby gave me tomatoes (and a courgette) from their garden

Sadly, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d like in Nelson. We were hoping to get to a place Rabbit Island but I didn’t have enough time. One of the places I do remember visiting was a great restaurant called the Boatshed, which is right on the water and owned by a friend of Helen and Gary. Trying out local food was amazing, like whitebait. 

Having friends who live far away and host you on your travels is amazing. I’m forever grateful for having the chance to see Helen and her family on my round the world trip. 

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