When I arrived in Nelson, I had no idea what to do there. I crossed over to the South Island of New Zealand much sooner than I planned (July instead of September). I got off the Interislander ferry in Picton, and I only stayed there one night so I could meet up for a potential work-exchange position. The only idea in my head was to head west, and Nelson was the next big town in that direction. So I went.
After my first night in Nelson, I just wanted to walk. It had been so long since I’d done any hiking or walking (other than Cathedral Cove in Hahei), and my legs needed a stretch. My body needed fresh air and movement. I asked about local walks at my hostel and they gave me a short list of possibilities.
When I heard that “The Centre of New Zealand” was in Nelson, I knew that would be priority on my to-do list.
The Centre of New Zealand
The “Centre of New Zealand” is the most popular walk in Nelson, and it’s a good one! I began my journey from my hostel. I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I began walking in the general direction of the trail. After walking to the other side of town, I eventually found the starting point in the Botanic Reserve.
A simple dirt trail switchbacks up Botanical Hill. It’s quite steep, so it certainly makes for a good workout. It took me about 20-25 minutes to reach the top and I was totally out of breath. I’m stubbornly set on speed-walking though, so allow a little more time if you want to be more leisurely.
I feel it’s only fair that I tell you now: the point at the top of the hill is not actually the center of New Zealand. The true geographic center of New Zealand is located a little further south. This spot has been claimed as the Centre of New Zealand because of something to do with land surveys in the 1800’s…
No worries though, because once you reach the top of this track, you feel like you’re in the center of the country. Set on the northern shore of the South Island, Nelson is pretty centrally-located. The views from the top are absolutely stunning. It’s 360 degrees of beauty. In one direction you’ll see mountains and hills; in the other direction you’ll look over the town of Nelson and out to Tasman Bay.
The viewing platform also features a giant trig point to mark the spot.
Looking for more short walks around New Zealand? Check out 7 of the Best Short Hikes!
Walk: Centre of New Zealand
Starting Point: Botanic Reserve
Time: Allow 30 minutes each way