Nelson embraces Cup fever

Darren Arthur
Rugby World Cup: Nelson

Nelson is the largest city in the north-west corner of New Zealand’s South Island and the second-oldest city in the entire country. It provides both a launch-pad for your exploration of the area’s natural wonders and a general snapshot of all that is good about New Zealand.

The magnificent Marlborough wine region lies just to the east of Nelson and the local restaurants not only make the most of the district’s world-famous wines but also it's fine local produce.

The site of the first game of rugby ever played in New Zealand, Nelson has well and truly embraced the Rugby World Cup fanfare. Hosting teams from Australia, Italy, Russia and the US for group matches, the city will be divided to give each country a share of support through displays of national colours and flags.

If you must escape the food, art, culture, rugby and partying, the region is also home to some of New Zealand’s most-famed natural wonders. The South Island is renowned for beautiful landscapes, with the majestic snow-covered Southern Alps and the fiord crowned by Milford Sound the jewels in the crown.

The Abel Tasman National Park, just a leisurely 45-minute drive from Nelson, is an area of spectacular golden beaches, rocky islands and stunning views.

Come for the rugby

Nelson’s Trafalgar Park has been the home-away-from-home for Super Rugby side Canterbury Crusaders ever since the second Christchurch earthquake rendered their home ground unplayable.

Christchurch’s inability to host Rugby World Cup matches sees Nelson hosting an additional fixture featuring the two-time champion Wallabies. Trafalgar Park has undergone extensive renovations to prepare for its moment on the world stage and the city is certainly buzzing in anticipation.

Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Tuesday September 20 – 7.30pm – Italy v Russia
Tuesday September 27 – 7.30pm – Italy v USA
Saturday October 1 – 3.30pm – Australia v Russia

Stay for the festivals

Nelson has a large Italian heritage with many of the original settlers hailing from the Mediterranean home of fine food and wine. To celebrate the arrival of the Italian rugby team, the 'Nelson Big Lunch' will see Trafalgar Street closed and a trestle table, which is several hundred metres long, erected down the centre.

The best of the city’s Italian cuisine and the region’s heralded wines and produce is guaranteed to be plentiful. The Italian theme will continue throughout the tournament with the 'New Zealand Italian Festival ', a two-day extravaganza held at the Air Nelson Hangar.

The festival celebrates the Italian lifestyle by showcasing not what you can eat and drink but also interior design, art and music.

Festival highlights
Tuesday 6 September – Nelson long lunch
Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 September – New Zealand Italian Festival
Saturday 17 September – Saturday 1 October – RugBeer HopFest
Tuesday 20 September – New Zealand's first-ever game of rugby re-enactment.
Sunday 25 – Wednesday 28 September – Nelson WineArt First XV Wine Competition
Friday 7 – Monday 24 October – Nelson Arts Festival

Before you leave

Nelson's Abel Tasman National Park is known for its sparkling waters and there is no better way to explore the kilometres of vast, beautiful coastline than to jump into a kayak for a paddling tour.

Enjoy a lunch on a secluded beach, explore the enchanting islands and mingle with the local wildlife which includes seals, stingrays and the occasional orca.

Check out this uplifting video of the region.

Have you been to Nelson? How does it compare to NZ's more widely-known cities?

Related articles: Get the most out of your Rugby World Cup visit to New Zealand
and Drinking guide to Marlborough, NZ
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