A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Taupo vs. Nelson for Hiking, Families, Couples, and Backpackers

Should you visit Taupo or Nelson?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Taupo or Nelson? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.


Taupo is a striking, stunning, and otherworldly town. It's a very nice small town not to be missed. It's a gorgeous place to visit. It's also known for skiing, nightlife, and food.


Nelson is a outdoorsy, adventure-filled, and natural city. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Taupo and Nelson: Pros and Cons

  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty

Is there more to do in Taupo or Nelson?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Nelson. Although Taupo and Nelson are popular destinations, Nelson has more sights and attractions for tourists. Nelson is very popular for its museums, beaches, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Taupo attracts visitors for its skiing and small town charm. Taupo is famous for its thermal hot springs, dramatic landscapes, and world class hikes. Nelson is famous for its stunning national parks, beautiful coastline, and outdoor adventures. It is also well known for Abel Tasman National Park.

How is Taupo different from Nelson?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Nelson and Taupo. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Skiing?


Taupo is renowned for snow skiing. However, Nelson is not a skiing destination.

Visitors will find world class skiing in Taupo. Nearby Mount Ruapehu offers access to the longest running ski season in both Australia and New Zealand. From June until October you can enjoy the largest commercial ski areas around. There are options for everyone from young beginners to experts. The two main ski resorts in the area are Whakapapa Ski Area and Tūroa Ski Area.

Nelson is not a skiing destination.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Taupo or Nelson?


Nelson is a popular place for its museums and landmarks. However, Taupo is a town with minimal options for its historical sights.

Nelson offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. While most people spend their time enjoying the nature-oriented activities, there are several museums in the area as well. Founder's Heritage Park Museum is a village-like setting that you can explore. There's also the Nelson Classic Car Museum and local art and craft galleries that are fun to walk through.

If you're looking to pass the time, head to a museum or historic sight in Taupo. Stunning natural beauty and adventure-filled activities are what Taupo is all about, but you won't find much in the form of museums.

Is the Food Better in Taupo or Nelson? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?


Both Taupo and Nelson offer a number of excellent restaurants to choose from.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Taupo. The town is filled with local restaurants that make use of local ingredients such as fresh caught trout, local produce, and wild game. The town also has many farmers markets and a strong cafe culture.

Nelson has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Local ingredients, vineyards, and craft breweries all make the foodie scene around town interesting. There are many great restaurants that offer seasonal menus that change with the season. Eating is an experience in town, and locals take pride in the food they produce.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Nightlife?


It's hard to distinguish whether Taupo or Nelson has a better nightlife scene.

Taupo has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. It's a small resort town that is active during the day and night. There are low key activities in the evening like soaking in the thermal hot pools or grabbing a drink at a bar.

If you're looking for night time activities Nelson has a few options to choose from. The city attracts a good tourist crowd, and there are bars and clubs that keep things interesting late into the evening.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Beaches?


Nelson is a must-visit destination for the beache. However, Taupo is not a beach destination.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Nelson. Beaches in the area are sandy and most are great for swimming. There are many water sports available as well such as kayaking, kite surfing, and paddleboarding. You'll find locals and tourists alike hanging out at the beach and enjoying a barbecue.

Taupo is not a beach destination.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Hiking?


Nelson is a must-visit destination for its hiking experiences. Also, Taupo is still popular, but not quite as popular for hiking.

People visit Nelson specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. The area is filled with walking and hiking trails that wander along the coast and soak up the spectacular views. There are also three national parks in the area that are filled with trails. Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Nelson Lakes National Park each have their own environments and scenery to explore.

Many visitors go to Taupo for the hiking trails. The area is filled with beautiful hikes that take you through the natural beauty. During the fall season you can enjoy the fall foliage and during the summer months the wildlife and waterfront setting is at a peak.

Is the Shopping Better in Taupo or Nelson?


Shopping is a popular activity in both Nelson and Taupo.

Taupo offers some nice shopping areas. The lakefront town has a nice, pedestrian-friendly stretch with boutique shops, fashion outlets, and souvenir vendors.

Nelson has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are weekly markets in the area and a variety of retail shops where you can pick up anything you might need.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Families?


Kids will enjoy a visit to either Taupo or Nelson.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Taupo is a very family-friendly destination. Set on the edge of Lake Taupo, there are many family-friendly activities in the area like swimming, boating, and hiking. There are also thermal hot springs and in the winter months skiing. Families who enjoy outdoor adventures will find no shortage of options year round.

Nelson is one of the most popular family destinations. Surrounded by family-friendly national parks, this city has a number of things for kids to do. In particularly, Abel Tasman National Park is a highlight for kids, with canoeing, sailing and other activities. Kids will also enjoy a visit to Cable Bay Adventure Park or seeing the historically themed Founders Park.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Couples?


With fun activities for couples, both Taupo and Nelson make for a terrific place to visit.

Taupo makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. Honeymooners and couples who enjoy romantic scenery, beautiful sunsets, and outdoor adventure will fall in love with this area. You can soak in thermal hot springs and picnic next to beautiful waterfalls. There are also breathtaking hikes and great water activities.

For those traveling as a couple, Nelson has plenty to offer. Wilderness, national parks, beaches, and mountain scenery make this a wonderful couples destination. The area also has beautiful vineyards and gardens as well hiking and outdoor adventures.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?


Taupo and Nelson are terrific places to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Taupo. There's plenty of backpacker and hostel accommodation in the area. There are also free outdoor activities and adrenaline-filled adventures that backpackers will enjoy.

A large number of backpackers visit Nelson, as it is a very popular town for budget travelers. There are many hostels in the area as well as outdoor activities and adventure sports that backpackers will love.

Is Taupo or Nelson Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?


Taupo is a town with good options for its public transit. However, Nelson is not a good city for times when you don't have a car.

Taupo has a few public transit options. There are local bus service, the Taupo Connector, that travels around the town center. If you want to get outside of town, you'll need to have a car.

Public transit is mostly limited in Nelson. The city has a local bus network, but to efficiently explore everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

Is Taupo or Nelson a more walkable city?


Nelson is a great destination for its high level of walkability. Also, Taupo is still popular, but not quite as popular for its ease of walking around.

Nelson is a very walkable city. There are many great walks in the area and its a wonderful way to get around.

Taupo is a somewhat walkable town. The town is fairly compact, but if you want to efficiently get around and experience everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

For even more information, also check out Is Taupo Worth Visiting? and Is Nelson Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Nelson or Taupo?

How long in Taupo or Nelson?

In either Taupo or Nelson, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Nelson than Taupo because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Taupo, and 3-5 days is enough time in Nelson.

Families should spend more time in Nelson than Taupo. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Nelson, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Nelson than Taupo. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Nelson that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Nelson than Taupo if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Nelson.

  • How many days in Taupo or Nelson? Ideal Length of Stay
    Taupo 2-3 
    Nelson 3-5

One day in Taupo or Nelson?

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and skiing when visiting the destination of Taupo. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

In Nelson, many people enjoy the shopping and museums that this beautiful destination offers. It's also a great beach destination, too. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

A weekend in Taupo or Nelson?

Taupo is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. Don't miss the skiing, as that's what most people do. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Nelson. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Five days in Taupo or Nelson?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Taupo. Don't miss the skiing, as that's what most people do. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Nelson is a fun place to experience. In Nelson, many people enjoy the nightlife and food that this destination offers. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This would be the perfect place to spend five days, as it has just the right amount of activities.

A week in Taupo or Nelson?

Travelers enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the striking destination of Taupo. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

You'll find food and shopping around the adventure-filled destination of Nelson. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best G Adventures Tours to New Zealand, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Auckland, The Best Family-Friendly Tours to New Zealand, and The Best Wildlife Tours to New Zealand.

Which place is cheaper, Nelson or Taupo?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Taupo is $111, while the average daily cost in Nelson is $94. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Taupo and Nelson in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Taupo $62
    Nelson $41
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Taupo $124
    Nelson $82
Compare Hotels in Taupo and Nelson

Looking for a hotel in Taupo or Nelson? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Taupo

Hotels in Nelson

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Taupo Hotel Prices and Nelson Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Taupo $25
    Nelson $28

Is it cheaper to fly into Taupo or Nelson?

Prices for flights to both Nelson and Taupo change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Taupo $24
    Nelson $27

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Taupo $35
    Nelson $24
Typical Entertainment Prices in Taupo

Here are a few typical costs in Taupo for activities, ticket prices, and tours that come from previous visitors:

  • Bungy Jumping
  • Jet Boating

Tours and Activities in Taupo

Here are a few actual costs in Taupo for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Taupo Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Candy Cottage: $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Marvelous Circus: $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - The Hunting Lodge: $22
  • Escape Room Experience Taupo - Cabin in the Woods: $22
  • Lake 1.5-Hour Maori Rock Carvings 5:00 PM Cruise: $26
  • Maori Rock Carvings Scenic Cruise: $27
  • Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave Entry Ticket: $29
  • Lake Maori Rock Carvings 8.30 AM 1.5-Hour Cruise: $29
  • Lake Maori Rock Carvings 10.30 AM 1.5-Hour Cruise: $29
  • Lake Māori Rock Carvings Scenic Boat Cruise: $29
  • Self-Guided Geothermal Tour in Orakei Korako: $30

Tours and Activities in Nelson

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Nelson are as follows:

  • Nelson City Walking Tour - Guided: $29
  • Cable Bay Adventure Park: E-bike hire: $56
  • Cable Bay Adventure Park Skywire Experience: $65
  • SKYWIRE Experience: $66
  • Nelson to Mapua: Full-Day Cycling Self-Guided Adventure: $70
  • Self-Guided Nelson to Mapua Cycle Adventure: $72
  • Magical Mapua Charms in off-summer Season Selfguided Cycle Tour: $75
  • Magical Mapua Self Guided One Day Cycle Tour: $75
  • Great Taste Beer Tour by Bicycle (Self-guided): $78
  • Guided Quad Biking Tour Through Forest and Farmland: $79
  • Spooners Tunnel to Nelson One Day Cycle Self Guided Tour: $81
  • Cruise, Walk, and Sail in Abel Tasman National Park: $112

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Taupo $13
    Nelson $13
Typical Alcohol Prices in Taupo

Here are a few samples of the prices for alcohol and nightlife in Taupo from other travelers:

  • Wine

Sample the Local Flavors in Nelson

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Nelson:

  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Nelson: $60
  • Self-guided E-bike cycle tour with private wine tasting : $96

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Taupo and Nelson, we can see that Taupo is more expensive. And not only is Nelson much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Nelson would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Nelson and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Taupo would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Taupo than you might in Nelson.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Taupo Expensive? and Is Nelson Expensive?.

Which is Bigger, Taupo or Nelson?

Nelson has a larger population, and is about 3 times larger than the population of Taupo. When comparing the sizes of Taupo and Nelson, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.