Campervan Hire Nelson: History of Nelson

As you explore the Nelson region in your rental motorhome, your experience will be enhanced by understanding its rich Maori history.  The Europeans who settled here in the 1840s were newcomers as Maori had made the region their home in the 12 Century, mining and trading argillite, a locally-sourced hard rock used to make adzes, the principal tool of woodcarvers.

Back then argillite was a highly sought after stone and evidence of its trade has been found nationwide. The ongoing search for this sharp glass-like substance led to various groups including Ngai Tahu, establishing villages along the coast, and Whakatu, which was to later become the site of Nelson city, was a traditional fishing point.

From the mid 1600s onwards many European sailing ships sighted Tasman Bay - Abel Tasman in 1642; Captain James Cook in 1770; and Captain Dumont D’Urville in 1827; however it wasn’t until 1840 that an early Wellington settler named Frederick Moore, finally landed. He was exploring the region for settlement purposes and shortly after, the first European settlers began to arrive.

By 1850 Nelson was the second largest town in New Zealand with houses built all around Church Hill; some of which still stand today on South Street and Nile Street West. In 1842 Bishop Selwyn, New Zealand’s first bishop, proclaimed Church Hill ideal for a cathedral; a modest church was built in 1851 and after alterations it was consecrated as a cathedral in 1887. It was subsequently replaced in 1932 by the marble cathedral seen on the same site today.

Thanks to Tourism Radio for much of the content supplied about Nelson. Tourism Radio is like having your own tour guide - providing you with audio commentary of over 2000 points of interest in New Zealand. It is available for rental with any vehicle booked on

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