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Exploring New Zealand's Cozy Artist Towns: Cable Bay and Nelson

Staying in Wellington means being centrally located within NZ, being close to an international airport, and having access to the ferry to the South Island. On a really clear day, the snowy peaks of the South's Marlborough Sounds can be seen from Wellington suburbs, Lyall Bay and Island Bay. I was fortunate enough to have a very welcoming American friend arrange a trip to Nelson soon after my arrival in Wellington.

Nelson is situated on the South's Tasman Bay, a relatively easy weekend getaway, depending on your mode of transport. By ferry, you're looking at over 3 hours from Wellington, leaving the beautiful harbour (below) and docking in Picton. It's then another couple of hours drive west to Nelson.

Wellington Harbour
Wellington Harbour

Alternatively, the plane is a quick 30 minutes, dropping you directly into Nelson. If you can swing a great deal through Grabaseat or another cheap flight-finder, it's a nice way make the most of your time. We took the quick (and cheap) plane option, which meant a Middle Earth-inspired airport visit and a wobbly puddle jumper.

After a slightly bumpy flight, my stomach was able to settle with an amazing lunch at the beautifully positioned and quaint Boat Shed Cafe. Boats sail by, and it's easy to spend the afternoon here.

Then, we made our way to the tucked away Tui Tree House B&B in unique Cable Bay, situated on mud flats. The time of day determines the view. When it's low-tide, almost all of the water disappears. I found that it took a little adjustment to appreciate the unique beauty of the mud flats, but they did become something I looked forward to seeing. Full of water, the bay offered a perfect view as I enjoyed my afternoon coffee.

Low tide Mud Flats

While sheep baa along the hillside, you can visit the Cable Bay Cafe, go for a swim, or attempt Cable Bay Walkway. I say attempt because the trail is difficult to find, and I ended up making my own path with the sheep and cows, until ultimately hitting a dead end. It's beautiful everywhere, so I decided to just appreciate my walk and head into Nelson.

Easily walkable Nelson is a decent size town with a fantastic farmers' market right in the center, so I'd recommend going for lunch. At the end of the main street is this beautiful church with lush grounds for a quick walk around it.

For a beach atmosphere, head back to the coast for a beautiful walk along the shore.

The snow-capped mountains are a stunning backdrop to the kite surfers flying through the water.

Yes, this visit may require renting a car, but if you're on the Kiwi Experience bus, you can simply get off in the middle of town, and be picked up on their next scheduled pick up/drop off. Check the timetable often as the bus doesn't always run every day.

There was quite a bit more to do and see around Nelson, so check out The Pear Orchard Lodge, 2 Days in Kaiteriteri as well as An Inexpensive Day in Kaiteriteri for other local ideas.

Helpful links and information:

Map from Wellington to Nelson.

Ferry booking choices.

Grabaseat flight-finder.

Tui Tree House B&B is an idyllic setting with wonderful hosts.

Boat Shed Cafe for a nice meal in Nelson.

Cable Bay Cafe tucked away in the bay. It's open seasonally, so check times.

Cable Bay Walkway is not obvious, but it's worth a try. Get lost in the beauty.

Farmers' Market is large, with a ton of variety. Check times.

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