If you’re looking for a fun, photogenic and informative place to visit in Nelson, look no further than Founders Park (also known as Founders Heritage Park). This open-air museum features heaps of cool old buildings with lots of information about what life was like in New Zealand back in the olden days.
The Main Street
My favourite part of Founders Park is the main street (Levien Way), which is lined with old buildings and has a very old-world vibe. The buildings there were either relocated or recreated and they’ve done a great job of making it look like an authentic old New Zealand street. If it was a real street, and not a recreation, I’d label it as New Zealand’s prettiest street.
You can enter most of the buildings – some of them feature displays (the old general store is a particular highlight) and there’s also a café where you can grab a coffee. The main street is close to the entrance – you’ll also notice the windmill as soon as you walk in (or before that, actually) and some other old buildings. Head straight for the church though and continue from there.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Two-Week South Island Itinerary
Other Things to See at Founders Park
The main street is definitely the highlight, but there is a lot more to see at Founders Park. There’s a bus station, complete with old buses and timetables, a train which chugs along a short section of track, an old plane which you can climb inside and heaps more old buildings. The whole site is great for a wander – there are even a couple of little lakes (probably ponds) if you want a bit of nature with your history.
READ MORE: Check out our post about the best things to do in Nelson (and the surrounding regions)
Eating at Founders Park
There’s a small café close to the entrance, but there’s also a larger café / bar / restaurant where you can grab some lunch (McCashins Hop Garden — closed in winter). We had the chicken wings and they were really good!
Founders Park is open 10 am – 4.30 pm and will cost you $10 to visit (Children are $2). It’s well worth the price (we actually only paid $2 because there was a big second-hand book sale inside). It quickly became one of my favourite museums in New Zealand – seeing and interacting with history like this is far more interesting than just reading lots of boards! Getting to Founders Park is easy – it’s located on Atawhai Drive and is a 5-minute drive (or 30-minute walk) from downtown Nelson.
Other Things to Do in Nelson
Nelson is perhaps better known as a gateway to interesting places rather than an interesting place in its own right. We lived there for 6 weeks recently and found it to be a nice little city, but the highlights are a decent drive away. In Nelson itself I’d recommend doing the Centre of New Zealand walk, hanging out Tahunanui Beach and eating a burger / donut / milkshake at Burger Culture.
Do you like the old-world vibe of Founders Park? Check out Oamaru, New Zealand’s nicest old town!
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