A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Wellington vs. Nelson for Beaches, Hiking, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Wellington or Nelson?

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

Should I visit Wellington 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.

Wellington

Wellington is a funky, compact, and laid-back city. It's also known for nightlife, food, and beaches.

Nelson

Nelson is a beautiful, outdoorsy, and adventure-filled city. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the food, beaches, and hiking.

Wellington and Nelson: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
Things to Consider
  • Less hiking options
  • Less popular with couples
Pros
  • 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
Things to Consider
  • Public transit not as usable


Is there more to do in Wellington or Nelson?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Nelson than Wellington. While Wellington is larger than Nelson, Nelson has more sights and attractions for tourists. Nelson is very popular for its beaches, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Wellington attracts visitors for its nightlife and shopping. Wellington is famous for its waterfront promenade, quirky cafe culture, and relaxing beaches. 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 Wellington different from Nelson?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

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

Wellington
Nelson

Visiting museums and landmarks is a fun activity in both Wellington and Nelson.

Wellington offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. As the capital city, you'll find a number of museums and sights around town. Check out the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Beehive, the Wellington Museum, and the City Gallery.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Nelson. 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.


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

Wellington
Nelson

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

Wellington has a huge number of terrific restaurants. There are waterfront restaurants and a vibrant cafe scene around town. You'll also find local markets and many diverse eateries that you can explore.

Dining out in Nelson is an experience not to be missed. 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 Wellington or Nelson Better for Nightlife?

Wellington
Nelson

Wellington is a well-known place for nightlife. Also, Nelson is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for nightlife and partying.

Wellington offers plenty to do in the evening. The best nightlife scene is found along Courtenay Place. There you'll find nightclubs, pubs, and cocktail bars. Cuba Street is another fun area with a bit more of a local vibe, and the waterfront is another great nightlife district in the city.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Nelson. The city attracts a good tourist crowd, and there are bars and clubs that keep things interesting late into the evening.

Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Beaches?

Wellington
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for the beache. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for the beach.

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.

Wellington is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. There are nice beaches within walking distance of the city center. There are also beaches that are well worth the drive if you're looking to get a bit out of town. In the summer months, there are swimming beaches, and year around they have nice views and a good atmosphere.


Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Hiking?

Wellington
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for its hiking trails. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

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 people include a hike when visiting Wellington. The area has rolling hills and beautiful coastlines that are filled with walking trails and scenic views. Some of the more popular trails in the area are the Red Rocks walk and the City-to-Sea walk.

Is the Shopping Better in Wellington or Nelson?

Wellington
Nelson

Wellington is a well-known place for shopping. Also, Nelson is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its shopping opportunities.

Wellington is an extremely popular place for shoppers. For the city's best shopping, head to the "Golden Mile". This is the area defined by Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtenay Place. There are boutique designers and high end fashion outlets throughout the area. The city also has many great markets and local shopping areas.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Nelson. There are weekly markets in the area and a variety of retail shops where you can pick up anything you might need.

Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Families?

Wellington
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Nelson is a very family-friendly destination. 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.

Wellington is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. There's the Wellington Zoo as well as Island Bay Marine Education Centre, both of which are great for animal-lovers. Waitangi Park is a nice park where kids can run around and play, and if you're looking for something indoors, head to the Space Place at Carter Observatory. If everyone needs some down time, there's always the beach with is fun to hang out at.


Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Couples?

Wellington
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for its romantic activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for couples.

Nelson makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. 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.

Wellington is a good city for couples to visit. The botanical gardens are beautiful to explore, and there is also a bird sanctuary in the area as well. Couple's will also enjoy the many nice restaurants and beautiful outdoor space around town.

Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Wellington
Nelson

Nelson is a must-visit destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Nelson is extremely popular for backpackers. There are many hostels in the area as well as outdoor activities and adventure sports that backpackers will love.

Wellington is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. Located on the south side of the North Island, many backpackers use this city as a gateway to the South Island. There are many hostels around town and other fellow backpackers to hang out with.

Is Wellington or Nelson Better for Students?

Wellington
Nelson

Wellington is a city with good options for students. However, Nelson is not popular with students.

Wellington is a good city to visit for students. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere is a nice setting for students.

Nelson is not popular with students.


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

Wellington
Nelson

Wellington is a well-known place for its public transit. However, Nelson is not a good city for times when you don't have a car.

Visitors to Wellington can move around easily with public transportation. There are city buses, trains, and ferries that are popular with tourists and locals alike.

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 Wellington or Nelson a more walkable city?

Wellington
Nelson

Wellington and Nelson are excellent when it comes to walkability.

Wellington is a very walkable city. This is one of New Zealand's most walkable cities and it has a compact city center.

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

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

Should I spend more time in Nelson or Wellington?

How long in Wellington or Nelson?

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

Families should spend more time in Nelson than Wellington. 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 Wellington. 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 Wellington 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 Wellington or Nelson? Ideal Length of Stay
    Wellington 2-3 
    Nelson 3-5

One day in Wellington or Nelson?

Many travelers enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting the destination of Wellington. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

With museums and nightlife around the natural city of Nelson, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Wellington or Nelson?

Wellington is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

With nightlife and food around the destination of Nelson, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. It offers something for everyone. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.

Five days in Wellington or Nelson?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Wellington. Most people come for the beaches. 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, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. This is a popular place to visit for five days. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. In five days, you should have a good grasp of this city. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Wellington or Nelson?

Travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the funky destination of Wellington. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Nelson is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


Which place is cheaper, Nelson or Wellington?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Wellington is $107, while the average daily cost in Nelson is $98. 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 Wellington and Nelson in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Wellington $63
    Nelson $42
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Wellington $126
    Nelson $84
Compare Hotels in Wellington and Nelson

Looking for a hotel in Wellington 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 Wellington


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: Wellington Hotel Prices and Nelson Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Wellington $12
    Nelson $30

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Wellington

Also for Wellington, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Private Transfer from Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington Port: $11
  • Departure Transfer: Wellington Central City Centre Hotels to Wellington Airport: $13
  • Arrival Transfer: Wellington Airport to Central Wellington City Centre Hotels: $13
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Port to Wellington Airport (WLG): $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Cruise Port to Wellington Hotels: $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington hotels to Wellington Cruise Port: $26
  • Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington - Arrival Private Transfer: $29
  • Wellington to Wellington Airport(WLG)-Departure Private Transfer: $29
  • Wētā Workshop Experience with Guided Transfers: $57
  • Wellington Airport(WLG) to Wellington-Round-Trip Private Transfer: $57
  • Wellington Airport Transfer to Wellington Hotels and Vice versa: $78

Is it cheaper to fly into Wellington or Nelson?

Prices for flights to both Nelson and Wellington 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
  • Food Meals for one day
    Wellington $31
    Nelson $28
Typical Food Prices in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dinner
    $9.28

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Walking Food Tour Of Wellington: $156
  • Full Day Wellington Food Tour: $248

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Wellington $17
    Nelson $24

Tours and Activities in Wellington

For Wellington, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Return Cable Car Ticket: $6.72
  • Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa: Gallipoli Early Entry Ticket: $9.16
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: Mana Māori Tour: $12
  • Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa Twilight Express Tour: $12
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Guided Tour: $12
  • Wellington Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Mana Māori Tour: $14
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Small Group Guided Tour: $14
  • Wellington Self-Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Atlantis: $28
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Temple: $28
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Spaceship: $28

Tours and Activities in Nelson

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

  • Cable Bay Adventure Park: E-bike hire: $58
  • Cruise, Walk, and Sail in Abel Tasman National Park: $116
  • Full-Day Sailing Adventure in the Abel Tasman National Park: $153
  • Great Taste Beer Tour by Bicycle (Self-guided): $81
  • Nelson City Walking Tour - Guided: $30
  • Nelson to Mapua: Full-Day Cycling Self-Guided Adventure: $73
  • Abel Tasman Cruise-Fly Day Tour: $366
  • Cable Bay Adventure Park Skywire Experience: $67
  • Guided Quad Biking Tour Through Forest and Farmland: $82
  • Kahurangi National Park and Mt Owen Helicopter Tour: $2,002
  • SKYWIRE Experience: $69
  • Self-Guided Nelson to Mapua Cycle Adventure: $74

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Wellington $13
    Nelson $13

Sample the Local Flavors in Wellington

Also in Wellington, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half Day Tour: $96
  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half-Day Guided Tour with Tastings: $98
  • 5 hour Martinborough shared Chefs Wine Tour with Gourmet lunch: $143
  • Martinborough Full Day Wine Tour: $174
  • Full Day Martinborough Wine Tour: $174
  • Martinborough High Tea and Wine Tour in Tesla SUVs: $218
  • Private Martinborough Wine Tour in an Electric Vehicle - Tesla Model Y: $290
  • Chefs Private Martinborough wine tour with Gourmet Lunch: $824

Sample the Local Flavors in Nelson

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Nelson:

  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Nelson: $62
  • Self-guided E-bike cycle tour with private wine tasting : $100


When comparing the travel costs between Wellington and Nelson, we can see that Wellington is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Pacific, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

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


Which is Bigger, Wellington or Nelson?

Wellington has a larger population, and is about 6 times larger than the population of Nelson. When comparing the sizes of Wellington 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.