Ever wondered where the exact centre of New Zealand is? Well, wonder no longer! A trip to Nelson would not be complete with a wander to find the exact centre of New Zealand (well, that’s Nelson’s claim but more of that later). The Centre of New Zealand walk is a beautiful walk that ends with some stunning views looking down over the city and it’s one of our favourite things to do when we are in town.

Finding the centre of New Zealand

Every country in the world has an exact centre. Usually, it has no significant bearing but is mainly used by surveyors to take readings and in the early days, to help with the mapping of the Earth’s curvature. New Zealand’s centre point was mapped and chartered by Surveyor John Spence Browning who was based in Nelson and it has now become the focal point of a lovely walk that can be accessed from the city centre.

A marker identifying Botanical Hill as the Centre of New Zealand
A marker identifying Botanical Hill as the Centre of New Zealand

The Centre of New Zealand is situated on Botanical Hill and you can access the walk from a couple of different starting points. A lot of people set off from Botanical Reserve but you can also start from the Nelson Visitor Information Centre and follow the Maitai Valley Walkway to the Hardy Street Footbridge. On your way, you will find lots of information boards that will tell you about the history of the area as you climb up to the summit of Botanical Hill.

Walking to the centre of New Zealand

View looking down over Nelson from Botanical Hill
View looking down over Nelson from Botanical Hill

Depending on your age and fitness levels, the walk to the top of Botanical Hill can take anywhere from about 20-60 minutes. As well as being a great place to take in the stunning views, it’s also a popular place for runners carrying out intensive fitness training so if you fancy stretching your legs when you’re in Nelson, this is a great place to do it. The track is pretty good and can be accessed with pushchairs and buggies. At the top, you can take in the amazing views and learn more about the landscape from the helpful information panels.

Top tip: in the summer, we recommend taking your swimming togs and heading down the eastern side of Botanical Hill into Branford Park where you can take a refreshing dip in the ominous-sounding Black Hole.

Is Botanical Hill actually the centre of New Zealand?

Whilst Nelson likes to claim to be the Centre of New Zealand, later surveys have shown that, when you include Stewart Island into the reckoning, that the actual Centre of New Zealand can be found in the Spooners Range in the Golden Downs Forest which is about a 40-minute drive south from Nelson (and a pretty awesome place to go for a tramp!). Still, we love the history and the story behind Botanical Hill and in our mind, it is still very much the Centre of New Zealand and a great place to go for a walk.

Image of the Spooners Range - the real centre of New Zealand

Spooners Range Lookout. Photo credit: Paul Hart

Exploring Nelson

Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in Nelson if you don’t fancy a walk up Botanical Hill. Nelson is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations and whilst many visitors use it as a base for exploring the Abel Tasman National Park, those who stick around for a few days to explore the city and surrounding area are never left disappointed. If you need a set of wheels so you can explore more, make sure to check out our Nelson car hire location!

Some of the highlights for those who stick around to explore Nelson include:

  • Beer tasting – whilst New Zealand is famous for its wine, we also have an awesome craft brewing scene and Nelson is widely acknowledged as the craft brewing capital of New Zealand. You can sample plenty of local brews during your visit or head to one of the annual festivals such as Beervana and MarchFest
  • Skydiving – New Zealand has so many awesome options when it comes to skydiving and all bring their own unique attribute – cheapest, best views, highest – the list goes on. Nelson’s claim to fame when it comes to sky diving is that it’s one of the only places you can see both the North Island and South Island as you soar back down to earth – very cool.
  • Founder’s Heritage Park Museum – one of the best family-friendly activities in Nelson is the Founder’s Heritage Park Museum. Take a step back in time and explore the historic buildings and stunning gardens. The kids will love the railway train and there is also an awesome cafe and gift shop. Ticking all the boxes.
  • Nelson Lakes National Park – whilst the Abel Tasman National Park takes all the headlines, Nelson also has another amazing National Park on its doorstep – the Nelson Lakes National Park. The Park is about an hour and a half’s drive from Nelson but is well worth the trip out to explore the crystal clear waters – perfect for swimming in the summer months.
  • Nelson Classic Car Museum – if you’re a bit of a petrol head, then a trip to the Nelson Classic Car Museum is a must. With over 150 iconic cars on display, this is one of the best indoor activities in Nelson – perfect for a rainy day.

Hopefully, this gives you some great ideas for things to do in Nelson. The centre of New Zealand walk is one of our favourite activities but there is so much to choose from. Make sure you check out our guide to Nelson and Marlborough for even more ideas for things to do including places to stay and places to eat out.

Updated: 7 July 2021