Family Activities in Nelson
Nelson offers the right balance of adventure, relaxation and education for families discovering the South Island. From wildlife sanctuaries to a peanut butter factory, you’ll find activities across a wide range of interests. Of course, the landscape is in the centre of most families’ minds when planning a New Zealand trip, and you’ll find plenty of that in the three surrounding national parks, but most options for kid-friendly tours are in the Abel Tasman National Park. We’ll explain further in this list of things to do in Nelson with kids.
For more family activities in Nelson and more travel tips, see The Guide to Nelson for Families.
1. Ride the World’s Longest Flying Fox and Much More at Cable Bay Adventure Park
An obvious go-to for family fun in Nelson is Cable Bay Adventure Park! Experience that famous New Zealand adrenaline on one of the rides like the Skywire Experience, suitable for kids over the height limit of 1.2m (3.9ft). The four-seater flying fox is the longest in the world soaring over the forest canopy! Kids can also learn how to shoot a longbow at the Archery Park, feed the eels, do family-friendly walks and play with the toy box at the cafe.
Location: 194 Cable Bay Road, Hira, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Nelson city centre.
2. Paddle a Maori Canoe in the Abel Tasman National Park
Be sure to explore the surrounding national parks of Nelson, such as Abel Tasman National Park! Here, your family can experience a perfect blend of coastal scenery and culture with Waka Abel Tasman, offering a down-to-earth way of exploring Abel Tasman and the iconic Split Apple Rock. The tour is suitable for ages two and above, where everyone will have the opportunity to paddle thanks to the mini-paddles for kids. Learn paddle commands, Maori traditions, a waka (canoe) salute in the Maori language and more. The tour takes place in the morning, lasting about three hours, so you’ll be back in time for lunch.
Location: Kaiteriteri Boat Ramp, Sandy Bay Road, Kaiteriteri, approximately 61km (38 miles) from Nelson city centre.
3. Do Some Sailing in the Abel Tasman National Park
An easy and relaxing way to experience to Abel Tasman National Park is on a sailing trip with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures. Suitable for the whole family, their full-day tour allows you to get as involved with the sailing or as relaxed as you like as you sail alongside some stunning beaches and islands. The catamaran yacht stops at Anchorage Beach for an hour so the family can swim, take a short walk or explore some caves. On the way back to Kaiteriteri, you’ll stop by a seal colony and Split Apple Rock. See more ways to experience the national park in the 10 Amazing Things to Do in the Abel Tasman National Park.
Location: 1 Inlet Road, Kaiteriteri, approximately 60km (37 miles) from Nelson city centre.
4. Visit the Old-timey Town of Founders Park
For a family-friendly attraction in the city, visit Founders Park – a historical themed village where the buidlings are home to working artisans and exhibitions. Things your family will discover along the way include the Nelson Railway offering train rides, a Bristol Freighter plane which you can go inside, many exhibitions between the fire station and the cycle museum, a cookie bakery, the Founders Cafe and much more!
Location: 87 Atawhai Drive, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Nelson city centre.
5. Check Out the Birds at Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
One of the largest fenced wildlife sanctuaries in the South Island, Brook Waimarama Sanctuary is a must for families wanting to educate children on environmental responsibility and, of course, see some amazing New Zealand birds. From the visitor centre, you’ll find a wealth of walks, such as the 45-minute Valley Floor Loop Track suitable for strollers. Check out New Zealand’s giant insects in the “Weta Hotels”, listen to birdsong and watch native bird species, and enjoy pleasant surroundings of streams and waterfalls among beech forest.
Location: 651 Brook Street, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Nelson city centre.
6. Ride Bikes to Rabbit Island
While there are some fantastic cycling trails around Nelson for families, one of the highlights is to Rabbit Island. Accessible by road from Richmond or by ferry from Mapua, Rabbit Island comprises of a long beach with safe swimming, picnic spots and barbecues. Companies like Gentle Cycling and Kiwi Journeys can organise bike hire for the whole family, along with route information, for making the most of this cycling haven.
Location: Ken Beck Drive, Richmond, approximately 26km (16 miles) from Nelson city centre. Mapua Ferry – Mapua Wharf, Mapua, approximately 33km (20 miles) from Nelson city centre.
7. Build Sandcastles at Tahunanui Beach
If you want more things to do in Nelson while sticking to your budget, you can also spend an afternoon at Tahunanui Beach. Your time here can be spent doing your usual beach traditions, whether it’s building sandcastles or paddling in the sea. Behind the beach, you’ll find an ice cream truck, as well as Fun Park, which has go-karts, trampolines, roller skating, mini golf, a mini train ride and more. Note that Fun Park has fees for its activities.
Location: Bisley Walk, Tahunanui, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Nelson city centre.
8. Explore Nelson’s Gardens
Another way to enjoy Nelson for free is by spending time in its picturesque gardens. The Queen’s Gardens is a popular option with walkways, bridges, sculptures and water fountains. Additionally, check out Miyazu Garden, a Japanese garden with reflective ponds, bonsai trees, stepping stones, bridges and much more. For more ideas like this, check out the 14 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nelson.
Location: Queen’s Gardens – Access off Bridge Street, Tasman Street and Hardy Street, Nelson city centre. Miyazu Garden – Atawhai Drive, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Nelson city centre.
9. Take a Tour of Pic’s Peanut Butter World
Pic’s Peanut Butter World is the home of one of New Zealand’s favourite peanut butter brands! Learn more about this delicious breakfast spread on a tour of the peanut butter factory. Kids can have a go at making their own peanut butter, while the whole family gets to watch the factory in action with conveyor belts whizzing glass jars to be filled with butter made from freshly-roasted peanuts. Tours of the factory are free but note that the factory doesn’t operate on Saturdays so Pic’s offers an alternative tour then. What’s more, this is an excellent rainy day option, along with the 10 Things to Do in Nelson on a Rainy Day.
Location: 49 Saxton Road, Stoke, approximately 11km (7 miles) from Nelson city centre.
10. Do a Family-friendly White Water Rafting Trip
An adventure for families with children aged five years and above, white water rafting on the Buller River on your way out of Nelson is well worth doing. The Buller Family Rafting trip with Ultimate Descents New Zealand is an excellent option for active families. Everyone gets the opportunity to paddle if they want to with custom-made child paddles to navigate over choppy rapids whilst among breathtaking river gorge scenery.
Location: 38 Waller Street, Murchison, approximately 125km (78 miles) from Nelson city centre.