City Travels - Nelson
While I was working in Picton, I took a day trip to Nelson. I stayed two nights, and was there the entirety of July 18th.
All prices are given in New Zealand dollars.
I booked another bus with Intercity for 1 dollar there and 24 on the way back. The bus runs to Nelson twice a day on the weekend, but only returns to Picton early in the morning, making a true day trip impossible and also making it difficult to make connecting busses the same day. I arrived in the city at 8:30PM, stayed a whole day, and had to catch the bus at 8AM to return home.
I did not use this service, but Aurora Backpackers does offer shuttle service to Nelson, Blenhiem and Picton as an alternative. Dollar bus fare for a few less hours in the city won for me, though.
A Place to Stay
I stayed at the Prince Albert Backpackers and Bar. This is a very cute hostel, and I would have loved to stay here in the summer to take more advantage of their patio. My room for two nights cost $58. I stayed in a four-bed dorm with an ensuite bathroom (all rooms are ensuite).
The dorm's beds were very sturdy and comfortable. The beds had a small shelf and a light in them, and a rod for a privacy curtain, but no actual curtain. There is a timer-based space heater in the room to keep it warm, and extra blankets on the bed. There was also a couch in the room! There was ample storage under the beds, and they even labeled the space for if you were in the top or bottom bunk. However, there was no way to lock up valuables.
The bathroom was especially clean and felt like a normal hotel bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet...except the lock was broken. In a dorm.
I don't know if I specifically stayed in an all-female dorm, but luckily there were only us girls in there. Actually, the first night I was there, I was all alone and it was amazing.
I did not use the kitchen, but it seemed well stocked, though it might feel cramped if multiple people were in there. There was also a TV Lounge and a separate Internet Lounge. But the best area was the patio. There are several tables and hammocks on the patio. This patio is separate from the bar's patio, which you also have access to if you so desire.
There is free, unlimited wi-fi at the hostel, but it can be pretty slow depending on how many people are using it. At one point, my roommate came into the room, and it just stopped working entirely for like 20 minutes. Then she left and it started working! Then she came back an hour later and it stopped worked again. Not because she was using it; she was just in the room. She may be giving off strange, interfering waves and should get that checked out.
The hostel provides an awesome, free breakfast from 8AM-9AM. This includes a make-your-own-waffle machine, syrup, cornflakes, cocoa, tea, coffee, orange juice, toast, and marmalade. I admittedly pigged out.
The best feature of the hostel is, however, the staff. They are very bubbly and friendly, and the guy that checked me in even remembered my name as I came in for breakfast and dinner. That was awesome.
I left at 8:30AM and got back the hostel at 6PM. This is how you see Nelson in a day:
I left my hostel and walked straight to the Queen's Gardens. This is a cute little Chinese-themed garden that takes maybe 10-15 minutes to walk through, but is worth it. Being there so early, I woke up all the ducks and they quacked at me all disgruntled. Truly, go there to disgruntle ducks.
I then made my way to the bus stop to catch the 9:30 bus to the World of WearableArt and Classic Car Museum. The museum opens at 10, so the 9:30 bus gets you there just in time. At first I was debating going. I am not a fashion person, and I like classic cars, but not for a $24 admission. But it was rated really highly not only as a thing to do in Nelson, but in New Zealand. It is worth it. The high fashion gallery is smaller than I would like, but it's really cool, especially because you never get to see things like that. I also enjoyed watching footage of the yearly show in the theater. There are many collectable cars on display, which are always fun to look at. $24 might still be a bit steep for a museum that only took an hour to go through, but I still had a much better time here than I expected.
From there, I walked half-an-hour to Tahunanui Beach. This beach is stunning. It goes on for a long, wide distance and you have the mountains in the background. It is a sandy beach, and I can imagine it is packed when the water is warmer. There were still many families hanging out on the beautiful Monday I was there. I ate lunch on the beach and went for a short walk, and then caught the 12:50 bus back to the center of the city.
From the city center I did some more walking. I stopped by the i-site, which has a neat display for every area on of the northern part of the south island. I then walked north from the i-site along a biking trail that runs past the Miyazu Japanese Gardens. These free gardens took only 10 minutes to walk through, but there was some good scenery within and is worth stopping in.
A few blocks away is Founders Park, which I got into for only $5 (student discount). I was unsure if this would be worth the money, but it was a fun little historical museum. The museum has old buildings and tools from the pasts, such as a doctor's office, brewery, train depo, and barn. It's fun to see all the old tools and technology, and well worth $5 and an hour of your time.
I then continued down the street until I saw the sign for the Centre of NZ. The Centre of NZ is a medium sized hill that gives a beautiful overview of Nelson and the surrounding area. It is the center of the country only by geographic divisions, but at least you can say you've been there. The entire walk took about 45 minutes, but that's because I wandered down side trails.
Afterwards, swung by the hostel, went to the grocery store, bought nothing and went to eat dinner. I started early in the day where if I didn't go on the bus or to WOW, it would have been a bit too cold to bum around. It was about 35-40 degrees when I left. But it warmed up to near 60 by the time I went to the beach and turned into a lovely day.
I rode public transportation! It's the first time since the scarring prices in Sydney. Luckily, the bus fair in Nelson is completely reasonable! You can download a PDF of the prices and day schedule here. There is also a nighttime Late Late Bus, which is more than Minneapolis/St. Paul even has...Good job, Nelson!
Breakfast was served at the hostel, as I described. However, I had to leave before breakfast to catch my bus home, so I ate of the dollar menu at Burger King, which is close to the bus stop. I got 3 hotcakes and a Egg NotAMcMuffin for $5.80. I had tried looking at Fresh Choice for a muffin for breakfast, and they were sold out, so...Burger King!
The hostel has a deal where the bar's chef will make a meal of his or her choice and dessert for $10. I ended up doing this, because I figured since the grocery store didn't have any easily prepared breakfasts or dinners that evening, I would end up spending that much anyways buying ingredients. I had Green Thai Curry with vegetables and a tasty raspberry creme-based dessert. The quality was excellent, but the meal you'll be served will probably not be the same. Worth the $10, especially if you haven't eaten in a proper restaurant for a long time.
For lunch, I got a $6 KFC popcorn chicken lunch to go and ate on the beach! It was awesome, but the seagulls were begging for some fries. I was then naughty and bought a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone from a vendor for $3.50. It was the weekend after my birthday, after all.
Nelson is an awesome little city, and I would have liked to stay another day. It's one of my favorite cities from this trip so far. I feel like I hit all to tourist points, but I could totally pull off a dedicated day at the beach.
That being said, I am ginger. I did not put sun screen on my face, because it was 35 degrees when I left. I got a bit sunburn after spending a whole day outside. I would recommend sunscreen; Nelson is, after all, notoriously sunny.