If you’re looking for Nelson kids’ activities, you’ll find plenty of options to keep children of any age entertained. From mountain biking at Cable Bay Adventure Park to biking on Rabbit Island and kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, there are tons of adventures awaiting around Nelson. Learn about some of the best things to do with kids around Nelson, with indoor and outdoor options to suit any forecast.
1. Take a kayaking tour of Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is considered a must-visit for families in Nelson, offering untouched wilderness with clear turquoise waters and soft, white-sand beaches. The park is located on the northern side of New Zealand’s South Island and can be experienced in a number of different ways. Water taxis offer service back and forth to the park, while local tour companies offer everything from cultural canoe tours and kayaking to sailing, paddleboarding and guided hiking trips. Campsites are also offered for adventure-seeking families who want to spend longer amounts of time in the park.
2. Get an adrenaline rush at Cable Bay Adventure Park
Kids activities in Nelson are plentiful at Cable Bay Adventure Park, an adventure park with tons of family-friendly entertainment options. Located near Cable Bay in Nelson, park offerings range from quad bike tours and mountain biking to an archery range, an amphibious vehicle, animal attractions and children's play areas. You can also experience what it's like to ride on one of the longest Flying Foxes in the world, soaring high above the treetops.
3. Explore a Japanese garden at Miyazu Garden
Miyazu Garden is a Japanese-style public garden that offers a tranquil oasis on Nelson’s coast. Located near Founders Heritage Park, the garden offers scenic walking trails among bamboo and bonsai trees, a Dragon Pond and traditional pavilions. A Yen abstract garden features raked sand and rock formations, as well as cherry trees that blossom in the spring. Be sure to stop by the teahouse for refreshments during your visit to Miyazu Garden.
4. Take a train ride at Founders Heritage Park
Founders Heritage Park is one of Nelson’s popular family destinations, a museum exploring the culture and history of the region. Set in a charming old-fashioned village, the park offers a mix of workshops and artisan craftspeople, boutiques and shops, and historical exhibits. You can ride the rails on a trip with the Nelson Railroad Society, sit in the cockpit of a Bristol Freighter aircraft and stroll the park’s historic gardens. You’ll find gift items, crafts and souvenirs in the Windmill Gift Shop, as well as an on-site cafe.
5. See glow worms on an evening tour of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary is an ecological island-style sanctuary where flora and fauna are closely controlled to encourage the reintroduction of endemic species. A great place to start your journey is the visitors centre where you’ll find trail information, historical exhibits and wildlife displays. Within the eco-sanctuary, you can enjoy miles of scenic walking trails and wildlife spotting, as well as a variety of guided walks and tours. Adventure seekers can book an evening tour to see some of the park’s fascinating nighttime creatures and the sanctuary’s famed glow worms.
6. Play on the beach at Rabbit Island
Visiting Rabbit Island is one of the fun things to do with kids in Nelson, a public reserve on Moturoa just off the coast. You can reach the island’s family-friendly beach via a ferry from the Mapua Village, with most visitors exploring the island on bikes. This beach is popular with locals and visitors alike, often drawing crowds for beachside barbecues and holiday celebrations.
7. Learn about the region’s history at the Nelson Provincial Museum
The Nelson Provincial Museum is a cosy museum exploring the region’s history. The museum is located in downtown Nelson near the historic Christ Church Cathedral. Exhibits range from cultural and ethnological collections to 18th- and 19th-century furniture, photographs and negatives, artwork and historical documents. The museum also offers family-friendly facilities, including a cafe and coat check.
8. Picnic in the Queens Gardens
The Queens Gardens are a historic public garden in a classic Victorian ornamental style located between Bridge Street and Hardy Street in Nelson. The gardens offer scenic paths to explore amid lush greenery, statues, artwork and water features. Notable sculptures within the Queens Gardens include the Cupid Fountain with its 4 lion heads, a water wheel made from a 50,000-year-old kauri tree and the Boer War Memorial.
9. Experience local flavours on the Tasman Great Taste Trail
Nelson family activities include biking the Tasman Great Taste Trail, a self-guided cycling tour of some of the region’s best local flavours. This network of cycling trails winds inland and along the coast of Tasman, with stops at local breweries and wineries, restaurants, chocolatiers and bakeries. You can travel with your own bikes or hire them from local bike companies. This trail is also easily broken into shorter day trips or half-day trips to suit different family schedules.
10. Monkey around at Natureland Wildlife Trust
Natureland Wildlife Trust is a cosy animal sanctuary near Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson. This conservation centre houses domestic, native and exotic animals with a focus on conservation, rehabilitation and release. You can get up close with some of the park’s conservation ambassadors like meerkats, porcupines and primates, and meet mellow farm animals in the Heritage Breed Farmyard. You can also check out some of the animals in the Natureland breed-for-release program, and sit in on keeper talks and family-friendly events.
11. Tour a peanut butter factory at Pic’s Peanut Butter World
Touring Pic’s Peanut Butter World is one of the unusual places to go in Nelson with kids. This peanut butter company offers free tours of its factory where you’ll learn about the company’s history and see its production methods, as well as get a chance to make your own peanut butter. Tastings of some of their products are also offered, as is a gift shop with themed merchandise and tasty treats.
12. Ride thrill rides at the Nelson Fun Park in Tāhunanui
Popular kids activities in Nelson can always be found around Tāhunanui and Tāhunanui Beach. You can play in the surf and sand on one of Nelson’s most family-friendly beaches and rent paddleboards to get out on the water in style. A large beachside playground offers a rocket slide, climbing equipment and themed play spaces. The adjacent Nelson Fun Park provides even more family entertainment, with thrill rides, games and go-karts.
13. Go snorkelling in Cable Bay
Cable Bay is located just northeast of Nelson and is known for cosy family accommodation amongst a quiet coastal village. The pebbled beach at Cable Bay is a great spot to watch the sun set over the water in the evenings. A surrounding marine reserve is popular for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking, with kayak tours available from local companies. Don’t forget to stop at the Cable Bay Cafe for a meal, one of the oldest cafes in the region.