New Zealanders flock to Nelson, 270 mi/440 km north of Christchurch, because it has some of the South Island's best beaches and sunniest weather. As a result, this town offers a number of nice hotels and restaurants. Hundreds of artists and craftspeople live in the area, so it's also a good place to buy pottery, glass art, cheese, fresh olive oil and crafts such as Maori carvings, jewelry and weavings.
Sights include the Nelson Provincial Museum (Maori art, photography), Botanical Reserve (great views from Botanical Hill) and Founders Park (historic buildings). Nelson is also the nearest city to Abel Tasman National Park and a departure point for trips there. The surrounding region is noted for its good trout fishing and its wineries. And you'll want to visit the Moutere River eels—they're so tame, they will feed out of your hand.
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