Nelson Car Hire

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  • Established in 1841 and proclaimed a city by 1858, Nelson is the second oldest city in New Zealand.
  • Although a relatively small city, with a population of around 50k, Nelson offers a wealth of fantastic restaurants, bars and cultural venues. Be sure to check out its galleries, museums and even visit filming locations from the Lord of the Rings trilogy nearby.
  • The Nelson-Tasman region is a fantastic base for anyone wanting to get involved in adventure sports. There is everything from White-Water Kayaking to gentle or more challenging hikes within an hour of the city centre.
  • Nelson Airport (NSN) is the largest and busiest New Zealand airport which deals only with domestic flights. Located only 8km from the centre of Nelson it couldn’t be easier to get off the plane and into the city, especially if you’ve pre-booked your hire car through Enjoy Travel.
  • On open roads in New Zealand the speed limit is generally 100km/h and 50km/h in urban areas. There are further reductions in speed limits near schools and other busy places so be sure to always read and adhere to local signage.
  • The blood alcohol limit in New Zealand is 50mg per 100ml blood.
  • It is a legal requirement for everyone in the car to wear a seatbelt and children under seven must be secured in a child restraint which meets approved standards.

A simple introduction to Nelson

A brief introduction

Located on New Zealand’s South Island, around five hours drive from Wellington, Nelson looks out over the Tasman Bay. Nelson is the second oldest city in New Zealand and takes its name from Admiral Horatio Nelson. With streets such as Trafalgar Street, references to its namesake can be found throughout the city. The Māori name for Nelson is Whakatū, meaning raise or build. Nelson enjoys warm summers and mild winters with around 2400 hours of sunshine annually.

A little more history

Māori settlement in the area goes back at least 700 years. In an agreement between them and the New Zealand Company land was sold for European settlements to be established in the area. When this land was purchased, for less than NZ$1800 in today’s money, boundaries were not adequately agreed upon which resulted in future conflict.

Nelson today

According to the 2018 census, Nelson’s population sits at just over 50,000. The major industry is fishing with Australasia’s biggest fishing port being Port Nelson. Tourism is also an extremely important industry in the region, which has a vibrant and well-regarded arts and craft scene. The annual Nelson Arts Festival features a massive range of activities including music, dancing and art installations. Surrounded by stunning scenery and a wealth of adventure, Nelson straddles the worlds of 21st century convenience and pure wild nature perfectly.

Some things to do in Nelson

Adventure and Watersports

Take to the Tasman:

Get yourself over the Abel Tasman National Park and enjoy unrivalled connection to the nature of the region’s coastline. See native wildlife such as dolphins and seals from a sea level vantage point. Kayaking on the crystal-clear waters of this national park is an experience you will never forget. There are a several operators offering guided tours and kayak hire. We recommend Wilsons, who offer trips from as short as half a day to as long as six.

Get Wet on White Water:

An approximately one and a half hour drive will take you from Nelson to Murchison. Here you will find New Zealand’s white-water capital. A huge range of exciting opportunities await you on the rivers of Murchison, from gentle family rafting or kayaking experiences to extreme rapids for the more experienced adventurer. It’s important to use an experienced, reputable and highly rated provider for adventures such as these and we recommend Ultimate Descents.

Walk in the Wilderness:

The Nelson Tasman region has dozens of fantastic opportunities for hikers. For those who prefer the security of well-designed routes and trails head over to the Abel Tasman National Park where you will find several fantastic walking routes for people of all abilities. For people who prefer to walk the path less travelled, get yourselves over to the Kahurangi National Park, although there are specified hiking routes in this park a large part of it is untracked wilderness for more experienced hikers.

Arts and Culture

The Nelson Provincial Museum:

This museum explores the fascinating natural, social and cultural history of the region. Immerse yourself in the permanent displays on the lower floor and you’ll gain insight into the remarkable identity of the region through a remarkable collection of objects and interpretation. The upper gallery is used for education sessions and temporary changing exhibitions which in the past have included Rugby: Then and Now, Our Moon and Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Opening Times:
Open weekdays 10am – 5pm and weekends 10am – 4.30pm. The upper gallery closes 30 minutes earlier than the lower. The museum is closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Admission: Adults $5. Children over 3yrs $3. Family pass $15 (2 adults and up to 3 children.)
Address: Trafalgar & Hardy Streets, Nelson Central, Nelson
Telephone: +64 3 548 9588

The Suter Gallery:

Named after the second Bishop of Nelson, Andrew Burn Suter, this gallery has existed for over 100 years. The Suter has a significant collection of regional, national and international artworks making it a must-see for any art lover visiting the region. The collection includes the largest in New Zealand of watercolours by John Gully, who was a close friend of Bishop Suter. The gallery shop is a treasure trove in and of itself, featuring many locally produced craftworks, ceramics and carvings alongside items inspired by the gallery collection.

Opening Times:
Open every day 9.30am – 4.30pm though the fabulous café opens at 8am. The gallery is closed on Christmas Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.
Admission: Admission is free.
Address: 208 Bridge Street, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 548 4699

Lord of the Rings

Filming Locations:

With its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty, it’s no wonder Peter Jackson chose Nelson-Tasman for filming several elements of the Lords of the Rings and Hobbit movies. If you have to choose just one of these, we recommend you dip your feet in the waters of the Aorere River and see the Salisbury falls. It is here, in The Desolation of Smaug where Tauriel and Legolas meet, just over two-hours-drive from Nelson. It is a truly beautiful spot to chill and take in some of the region’s beauty whether you’re a fan of the movies or not.

The One Ring-maker:

Pay a visit to the studio and shop of Jens Hansen who crafted the ‘One Ring’ for the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, undoubtedly the most famous ring in the world. Although Jens Hansen died in 1999 his legacy continues through a team of marvellous artisan craftspeople. Take a look at some of the studio’s creations and perhaps even pick up your own Lord of the Rings replica.

What about car hire in Nelson airport?

Nelson Airport (NSN) is located around 8km from the centre of Nelson. The airport provides domestic services with routes to Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington as well as other New Zealand regional airports. Around one million passengers use the airport annually.

EnjoyTravel.com partners with Europcar, Right Cars, Alamo, Hertz and more. We work hard to secure fantastic rates so that we can offer you excellent deals. Booking your car hire through EnjoyTravel.com means you’ll have the ability to compare several hire companies and prices. Booking in advance also means you will have the best choice of vehicles, so you can rest easy knowing you’ve reserved the type of car you really need, rather than whatever is available when you arrive at the airport. In addition to this, all of our partners are signed up to our Fair Fuel policy, ensuring you only pay the fuel you actually use.

Eating out in Nelson

Although a relatively small city, Nelson has an excellent range of dining options as well as even more fantastic choice in the wider local region. When it comes to eating out, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Here are some of the most popular eateries we recommend.

The Urban Eatery:

With the bold motto “no pretentions, no reservations” the Urban Eatery invites the curious and open-minded diner to experience their current culinary passions. You’ll find an ever-changing menu made from locally sourced produce as well as a restaurant team with a mission to create an amazingly welcoming atmosphere. Lead chef Matt Bouterey has worked with some of the world’s greatest chefs including Gary Rhodes and Marco Pierre White and brings his knowledge, experience and passion to the fantastic menu at Urban.
Address: 278 Hardy Street, Nelson, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 546 7861

Yaza Café:

Located right next to The Nelson Sunday Market, Yaza offer a wide range of “food, drink and smiles” to locals and visitors. A cosy, friendly and buzzing venue the food and drink are complimented by displays of local art and regular evening performances. A great, good quality pit-stop for families, friends or solo visitors to refuel and recharge.
Address: Montgomery Sq, Nelson, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 548 2849

The Swedish Bakery:

Although New Zealand and Sweden are separated by about 17 thousand kilometres you can still enjoy a fantastic range of Scandinavian delights in Nelson. Serving fresh sourdough bread, organic espresso coffee and a wide range of pastries, including the classic Swedish cinnamon roll Kanelbulle, this place is wonderful whether you have a sweet tooth, a savoury craving or both!
Address: 54 Bridge Street, Nelson, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 546 8685

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FAQs about car hire in Nelson

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Nelson

To drive in New Zealand, you need to hold a current, valid overseas driving licence or an international driver permit. Licences must be in English or be accompanied by an accurate translation. After 12 months in New Zealand there are further requirements for visitors.
Depending on the type of vehicle you’re looking for and how far you book in advance, you can hire a car in Nelson airport from about NZ$25 (£16 / A$23).
It is legal to drive in New Zealand from age 16 but many car hire companies have their own, often higher, age requirements.
Yes, but you would have to change at Auckland (ALK), Wellington (WLG) or Christchurch (CHC). There are no direct flights from Melbourne to Nelson.
There are no direct flights frmo Sydney to Nelson, but you can fly via Auckland (ALK), Wellington (WLG) or Christchurch (CHC) and it takes at least 5 hours including the change over.
Nelson airport only handles domestic New Zealand flights meaning there are currently no direct international flights to the city. It is easy to connect to a flight to Nelson in larger cities such as Auckland. It’s also worth keeping in mind that it’s possible to drive to Nelson from Wellington in around five hours and driving in New Zealand is an amazing way to see the country.
Several car hire companies operate in and around Nelson airport and it’s important you make the choice which best suits your requirements. Use our search tool to compare what different companies have to offer and book with confidence through Enjoy Travel.
Yes, most car hire companies offer the ability to do this. You may need to pay a ‘one-way’ fee but it’s worth it for the flexibility to explore as much of this fantastic country as you can.
In New Zealand drive on the left. Always wear a seatbelt, whether you are the driver or a passenger. Take notice of local speed limits and never drink and drive. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list and you should make yourself aware of other rules and requirements before you drive in New Zealand.