The attractive city of Nelson, at the top of the South Island, is renowned for being the sunniest place in New Zealand, and even if it failed to live up to that reputation on a cloudy day today, it was still looking pretty good.
Whilst many passengers went on tours to visit Nelson's winelands, or to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park by boat, we decided to stay in town to dig out what history we could find, and to explore some stunning nature within the city limits.
Aside from its imposing church and a couple of impressive colonial mansions, the architecture on offer in this low-rise city wasn't particularly historic or inspiring; but as with all these New Zealand towns, the atmosphere was wonderfully laid-back and the people supremely friendly. The town's main interest these days lies in its reputation as a centre of arts and crafts, and it boasts a disproportionate number of galleries, glassblowing studios, ceramics workshops and jewellers all around town. Of particular interest was the Jens Hansen jewellery workshop, where the jewellers were working as hard as elves to produce copies of the eponymous ring from Lord of the Rings – this was the place where Peter Jackson (rather than Saron) commissioned the "One Ring to Rule Them All" for the film after all.
But, for me, the best thing about Nelson is that it sits in amongst some beautiful unspoilt countryside, which can be explored on foot from the city centre. We trekked up the steep hill of the Botanical Reserve to visit the exact spot that marks the geographical centre of New Zealand – aside from its cartographical interest, the walk is a good work out and you get some great views of the city and across to the port in the distance.
Seeing as we didn't find that walk particularly difficult, we trekked from there across to the Sir Stanley Whitehead Park, where some rugged paths took us along the hill ranges that surround and look over the city – with beautiful nature like this right on its doorstep, we were beginning to understand why Nelson features at the top of all the New Zealand's "Most Liveable City" indexes.
But, having trailed around for over 10 miles, up, down and around Nelson, our tired feet were saying that enough was enough, so it was time to head back to the ship for a rest. This is our only stop on the South Island, but it made us keen to get back here on next year's World Cruise (which will be visiting Picton, Akaroa and Dunedin).