Tahunanui Beach, the closest beach to downtown Nelson, is popular for a few of reasons. Obviously the first is its location – it’s in suburban Nelson and is very easy to get to – but it’s also loved for its calm waters and relaxing, laid-back atmosphere. Throw in a couple of bars, heaps of places to sleep and eat (including a KFC!) and you have a beach worth visiting.
Often shortened to Tahuna Beach by locals (who also shorten Kaiteriteri to Kaiteri), Tahunanui Beach is a popular Nelson hangout. It gets busy in the weekends and is especially popular with families. There’s a playground just behind the beach and also a library, so kids of all ages should find something to their liking (if not, just send them to KFC, that always worked when I was a kid).
We visited Tahunanui Beach a few times during our six weeks in Nelson and our favourite time to go was around sunset. We didn’t get amazing photos, but you can see what it’d be like when there is a really good sunset going on. Apart from that, there isn’t a whole lot to do at Tahunanui Beach. You can walk the length of the beach (which is quite long), do some stand up paddle boarding or walk around the footpath towards Nelson (you probably wouldn’t want to walk the whole way though!).
Eating and Drinking
I mentioned the KFC (the third time I’m mentioning it now) and it is a bit of a draw. We visited Tahunanui Beach the first time we were in Nelson (a couple of years ago) purely to eat KFC. We also had dinner and drinks at the Sprig and Fern close to the beach. There are lots of other food options on the streets back from the beach too – it’s like a little holiday town full of motels, shops and eateries.
How does it compare to other beaches near Nelson
Nelson is close to some of the best beaches in New Zealand, and I wouldn’t count Tahunanui Beach amongst them. An hour from Nelson you’ve got Kaiteriteri Beach (and Split Apple Rock), which in my opinion is infinitely nicer than Tahunanui Beach (better sand, clearer water, lots of viewpoints). Just past there you have Abel Tasman National Park – you’ll struggle to find nicer beaches anywhere in New Zealand (especially not in the South Island).
It does compare favourably to the beaches closer to Nelson though. Rabbit Island is probably a bit nicer but it’s further and there aren’t places to eat and drink (unless you head to nearby Mapua). It’s also way nicer than Ruby Bay and the other beaches of the Ruby Coast. Cable Bay is another beach close to Nelson but the appeal of that lies in the view from the track above the beach rather than the beach itself.
Planning a road trip around New Zealand? You’ll want to read our two-week South Island itinerary!
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