Though Nelson's a bustling city, it retains a rural quality. Overlooking Tasman Bay and the foothills of the Bryant and Richmond ranges behind, open farmland, national parks, and vineyards are within easy reach. State Highway 6 winds southwest from the city through the outlying suburb of Stoke and through to Richmond, a good-size neighboring town. The commercial and civic center of the Tasman District, Richmond, has a good library and a modest shopping mall.

Just beyond Richmond, State Highway 60 branches northwest off State Highway 6, heading coastward to Mapua, Motueka, and Golden Bay. There's a wealth of vineyards along the strip toward Motueka, plus small farm and coastal communities with craft galleries and serious art studios tucked into valleys that run inland. If on a day drive, detour back along the inland route through historic Upper Moutere, with its blackcurrant and hop gardens. If you carry on south without turning to Motueka, look out for the birthplace of scientist Ernest Rutherford, on the right as you're leaving the small town of Brightwater. Five minutes south of Richmond the elaborate, atom-shape monument remembers this local boy's contribution to the world of nuclear science.

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