Great views found for free

06:52, Jul 17 2012
Centre of New Zealand
PLACE WITH A VIEW: Looking across the city from the Centre of New Zealand.

Lots of real estate and accommodation advertisements use the phrase "best views in Nelson" to entice custom. But what if you don't want to buy a house or stay in someone else's accommodation? What if you want to simply go out and marvel?

What makes a great vista is a personal thing and can be any place or moment: perhaps a sunset over mountains, a panorama from a tall building, or the morning sun on an empty street.

My list of Nelson's best views is divided into three categories. First, there are those that require a little sweat. Then there are views that you can drive to. And finally, there are views from commercial premises.

I like grand vistas and to get these I don walking shoes and indulge in some light exercise. The reward is often an overwhelming mosaic of the hills, city, plains and sea, such as from the top of the Richmond Hills. Or there are the majestic panoramas of the marina, city and Boulder Bank from the top of the Grampians.

The Centre of New Zealand, at the top of Botanical Hill, is my all-time favourite. This well-graded walk takes half an hour and at the summit you can have a seat and enjoy the stunning view. Using the information panels you can identify local hills and town features; picking out your house is fun. If you're feeling energetic, head along the hillside to Walter's Bluff and enjoy more of Tasman Bay.

In case you are wondering, this spot is not actually the centre of New Zealand. The name reflects the work of the chief surveyor for Nelson in the 1870s who used the top of the hill as a point for doing New Zealand's first geodetic survey. The actual centre of New Zealand (excluding the Chathams) is in the Spooner Range in the Golden Downs Forest.


My mountainbiking friends tell me that the best place for marvelling is Fringe Hill. Its summit is 793 metres above sea level, compared with the top of the Centre of New Zealand at around 150m. To get to this view requires a 7km climb from the Brook Valley. A lot of sweating, but worth it, I am told.

I am tempted, but at nearly 800m, I will have to be prepared to sweat a lot, or wait until a gondola is put in.

I have spent a lot of time in the Brook Valley, specifically at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary. Rather than a majestic "looking-out", this is a "looking-into" scene of fantastic native bush. Just 4 kilometres from the city centre, the sanctuary has a faraway, out-of-town feeling and is a paradise for birds and me. Walking options are being continually added as volunteers upgrade the network of over 70km of track.

Views that you can drive to abound. My husband has been known to invite himself to the houses of friends who live on hills with sea vistas. His favourites are anywhere along Princes Dr, Moana and Bisley avenues and Walter's Bluff. I am sure that he also enjoys the company of friends and their conversation as he sits drinking their wine and gazing out over the water. Be slightly suspicious next time he invites himself to lunch.

Other views that I never tire of include standing at the intersection of Brougham and Collingwood streets and staring straight down Collingwood to town and the water. Or looking down Trafalgar St from the Church Steps, or watching the Maitai River from one of the bridges that cross it.

Smart commercial operators whose businesses make the most of Nelson's beauty include the Boat House, the Boat Shed and Harbour Light Bistro in Rocks Rd. These restaurants all offer waterfront dining at its best.

Melrose House is a grand old historic home situated in beautiful gardens that you are free to walk around. But if you wish to sit and enjoy a moment or two, or maybe an afternoon, there is an excellent cafe.

Another place to enjoy the moment is Fellworth House, an imposing two-storeyed Victorian mansion that watches over Nelson and the harbour from the hillside in Milton St. Fellworth offers accommodation, but you can also enjoy the view if there for a wedding, yoga class or professional group get-together.

In Nelson you can get million-dollar views without talking to real estate agents. My husband's favourites are walking around the Nelson marina looking at boats and dreaming of his next trip, or those vistas from friends' decks. Maybe he's dreaming about getting a bigger boat.

My son's favourite sight is the inside of my fridge after a trip to the supermarket, and my daughter's favourite view is of the library, Founders Book Fair or anywhere with books. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.