CHEAP CAR RENTAL NELSON AIRPORT
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* Some rental car suppliers may charge a credit card fee for amounts payable on arrival.
Nelson Airport Car Rental Tips
Nelson Airport is located about 8 km south of Nelson's city centre. A one-way taxi ride into town will cost you about $17, which means if you need to travel further or will be moving around then a rental car becomes a much more cost effective option.
Avis, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty and NZ Rent-a-Car all have counters within the airport terminal (just inside the entrance and opposite Air New Zealand). These are manned during flight arrivals and departures. Other rental operators, such as Omega, have depots located off the airport and will transfer you between the airport terminal and their depot. Not as convenient, but generally the rates for car rental firms with depots located off-airport tend to be cheaper because of lower overheads. Most off-airport depots are close to the airport and only a few minutes drive.
Budget, Hertz, Avis, Thrifty & NZ Rent-a-Car vehicles are conveniently located in designated car parks for rental cars just over the road from the terminal entrance. When returning your car the keys can be deposited in the drop-off boxes situated on the rental car counters if the offices are closed.
Remember you'll save money if you return your rental car with a full tank of petrol, rather than have the rental car company top it up after you've returned it (rental companies seem to have the highest petrol prices in the world!). There are petrol stations close to the airport, such as a 24 hour Mobil station at 28 Tahunanui Drive. Here's a Google Map showing locations of Nelson petrol stations.
Nelson is one of NZ's most popular holiday destinations. This means it's a good idea to book your rental car early, especially for travel during peak periods.
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Booking your Nelson rental car with Discount Car Rental is quick and painless. And saves you money!
Great value - thanks! Definitely will recommend you to my friends.
Jack Webber (Australia)
Great for backpackers like us on a tight budget. Got to do more of the amazing things NZ offers with the money we saved. Awesome!
Sue White (UK)
Was the best deal we could find and we looked hard. Very happy.
Matt Boser (USA)
Excellent value, We got what you promised. No hidden costs like the rip off we had in Cairns!
Mike Smith (UK)
A rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time exploring Nelson and surrounding areas. Here are a few of the many attractions you might like to consider checking out. The letters on the map match those below, where you'll find information about each attraction. For more ideas, check out the Nelson Tourism website.
A. World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum
The annual World of WearableArt fashion show may be held across the Cook Strait, in Wellington, but it’s in Nelson where you’ll find the permanent collection of avant garde garments. (Entries are also submitted in Nelson each year, then whittled down as part of the show selection process.)
A local icon, this museum combines two unique but very different attractions. The theatrical World of WearableArt gallery houses dozens of weird and wonderful artistic creations designed to be worn as well as admired. Some are inspired by nature and the outdoors, while others take inspiration from films and popular culture. The entire exhibit changes twice a year; the majority of pieces hail from the most recent season, as well as some representing historic exhibitions. The World of WearableArt was in fact pioneered by local sculptor Suzie Moncrieff, whose idea has blossomed into an international phenomenon.
Next door, the adjoining Classic Cars museum caters to gearheads, boasting one of the largest private classic car collections down under. The vehicles here have been sourced from all around the world, over the years. Here you’ll find some seriously sought after motors, many of which have been painstakingly restored.
You’ll also find a cafe with excellent coffee and food, along with a retail store featuring souvenirs such as books, crafts and jewellery. Art lovers will also appreciate the Reflections gallery, highlighting the world of contemporary Kiwi artists. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours exploring all there is to offer.
And the museum itself is a sight to behold. An aluminium ribbon wall, stretching to six metres high, is reminiscent of flowing silk. Open daily, the museum is just 10 minutes from the city centre, an easy drive with your rental car.
B. Abel Tasman National Park
It may be New Zealand's smallest national park but Abel Tasman National Park is among the most impressive of them all. There’s a myriad of ways to see the park’s mix of sunny beaches, stunning bays and lush greenery - cruising, kayaking, water taxi, snorkelling, swimming, and of course, walking. Along with the beautiful scenery, native wildlife completes the picture. Seals, penguins and gannets can be seen sunbathing and diving (you might even encounter playful dolphins) while the songs of tui and bellbird can be heard reverberating through the trees.
It’s home to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of the 9 Great Walks, which winds its way round cliffs, headlands, forest and beaches. Hikers take 3 to 5 days to complete the trail in full, staying at huts or camping along the way. Many people take it at their own pace, but guided tours are available too. (Note that the track is not a circuit, so you’ll need to organise transport at either end. There are lots of shuttles and water taxi services in operation.) However, you can choose to take on just part of the trail, as much or as little as you fancy. Kayak tours are another popular option - paddling through the crystal-clear waters and observing everything from a different perspective.
To really appreciate the beauty and magnificence on offer here, it’s best to allow a few days to explore. But never fear; if you’ve only got a day in Abel Tasman National Park, try arranging a day trip with a good mix of boating and track walking.
Abel Tasman National Park can be accessed either from Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the south (about an hour’s drive along the coast from Nelson), or from Golden Bay and Totaranui in the north (about 2.5 hours from Nelson in your rental car).
Small but perfectly formed, the Nelson region boasts dozens of boutique wineries, and all are top-notch. The Tasman district is famously sunny and warm, which makes it not just a delight to visit, but means this is premiere wine country ideal for grape growing. Here you’ll find some of New Zealand’s best sauvignon blanc, along with other varieties. To the west, the rich Moutere Hills yield strong pinot noirs and great chardonnay, while the drier Waimea region to the south produce lighter and brighter wines.
The thriving wine scene is complemented by a strong artistic culture. Many wineries display art collections at their cellar doors. In addition, the food in this region is another highlight, so cafes and restaurants are also often combined with vineyards. Fresh seafood and produce are the perfect partners to your day of wine tasting. (You may even stop and encounter local makers of everything from artisan breads and chocolates to salamis and pestos.)
Not sure where to begin your wine itinerary? Try Moutere Hills or Brightwater. Neudorf Vineyards is internationally renowned. Kaimira Estate has a full range of aromatics, as well as some specialty wines and drier styles - all fully certified organic. The cosy Rimu Grove is set in a rustic old bach. Award-winning Woolaston Estate also boasts an impressive collection of sculptures and artwork.
Hop into your hired car and journey through the picture-perfect hills and plains, mapping out your own delicious journey. The handy thing about the Nelson region is that it’s a fairly compact area, so you can reach a great number of different wineries in just a day. Note that not all will be open to the public year-round.
D. Farewell Spit
Located at the most northerly point of the South Island, windswept Farewell Spit stretches for a whopping 35km. Nearly 100 species of birds reside here among the ever-shifting sands - it’s a sanctuary for godwits, curlews, and many more (there’s even a gannet colony to be found here). An added bonus is the historic Cape Farewell lighthouse, originally built in 1869.
On one side of the spit you’ll face open sea, and on the other, enjoy calm sheltered waters. The Spit Track takes in both sides of the headland. Starting from the carpark you’ll cross farmland, head up through the pines, then descend on the other side to Ocean Beach. Continuing on will bring you to the rocks and cliffs of Fossil Point. 4WD safari tours are a popular way to see the spit, as well.
The Farewell Spit is truly unique - rugged and remote. For the intrepid, walking from end to end will take up most of a day.
At the other end of the spit is Wharariki Beach, a breathtaking natural spot. Here, the caves, sand dunes, and waves are all on a big scale! This particular beach is never too crowded, with the walk there taking you through pastures and manuka groves. Visit at low tide to maximise your time strolling along the sands. For those comfortable on horses, riding along the beach is an unforgettable experience - horse treks are another option here.
The route to Cape Farewell is a lovely drive from Nelson in your rental car; as you travel over Takaka Hill towards Golden Bay, vistas of mountains, valleys and coast open up before your eyes. The trip does take the better part of three hours, so you may prefer to base yourself in Collingwood or Takaka for overnight accommodation.
E. Rabbit Island
If you’re staying in Nelson, Rabbit Island is a convenient 20-minute journey west of the city centre in your rental car. It is the biggest of a group of sandy islands in the Waimea Estuary, at the Tasman Bay. Rabbit Island is also home to rich pine forests, which were planted nearly a century ago.
It’s linked to the mainland, and as you drive over the bridge you may see whitebaiters in action (they favour this particular area of the island!). There’s also a turnoff for Rough Island, where an equestrian park caters for horse riders - cross country as well as show jumping and dressage. Horses are allowed on the southern end of Rabbit Island’s beach, too.
With soft sands and safe, shallow waters, the beachfront on Rabbit Island is ideal for relaxing family picnics. There are BBQs here available for your use, and there are tables and seats (and, importantly, public toilets) as well. Just be sure to bring your own supplies as there are no shops to buy food from on the island itself. The public reserves are only open during daylight hours.
You’ll see lots of sea birds and waders like herons and shags as the tide ebbs and flows. And on the back beach, you’ll find a boat ramp as well as a water skiing area.
Keen riders should bring their bikes along. Adjacent to the picnic areas lies a veritable maze of mountain biking tracks to the west - Conifer Park caters for riders of all abilities.
So whether you’re after a laid back family day out, or an active getaway packed with watersports, horse riding or mountain biking, pack the car up and head out to Rabbit Island.