Stadium: Trafalgar Park
Location: Trafalgar Street. Nelson is not a big place and the stadium is no more than a five-minute walk from the centre of town, well signposted.
Italy v Russia, Tuesday, September 20
Italy v USA, Tuesday, September 27
Australia v Russia, Saturday, October 1
Originally used mostly for cricket and athletics, the ground was given a grand opening in 1888 with a game of football. Cricket stayed the main sport until the 1950s, when the Tasman Rugby Union got hold of a renewable winter licence, producing collaborative efforts between the union and local council to get a pair of stands up, one covered, one not. The biggest event in its history was a match between Australia’s cricket team and a local XI shortly before World War II, which Australia won by ten wickets and was played in front of a huge crowd taking advantage of the half-day holiday declared by Nelson’s Mayor. There was scant attention to development after that until the 1990s, when floodlights arrived in 1997 on the back of the construction of the Trafalgar Park pavilion in 1996. Recent upgrades have transformed the ground to a superb little modern arena, including turf made from recycled glass, and the ground was thrust into the spotlight a little prematurely this year when the Crusaders declared it a temporary home in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, playing three Super Rugby matches there.
The rest of the city:
You might have picked up thus far that much of the city’s naming commemorates the battle of Trafalgar, but just to confirm, it is indeed named after Horatio himself. Nelson is all things good. It is a spectacular coastal city just north of Wellington, New Zealand’s second-oldest settlement, with the highest number of sunshine hours per year in the country, with seafood listed as one of the four main staples of the economy and surrounded by some of the country’s finest wineries. It has a harbour, beautiful beaches, and is surrounded by mountains on three sides. New Zealand’s geographical centre - the “zero, zero” point from which the first trigonometrical surveys were started in the 1870s by John Spence Browning, is on one of the hills above the city, boasting a 360° view. It’s not a bustling metropolis in any way, but for art, wine and nature lovers, Nelson is heaven.
Fun things to do and see:
In the city itself, there’s a fair bit of heritage simply in the old Victorian buildings around the place, including some pubs. But most of Nelson’s attractions lie in the land around. Wine-tasting and hiking are big deals, with 23 wineries close by and 22 designated walks going up, into, around and down the surrounding hills. Parachuting and paragliding are also nearby, while you can get away from it for days in Abel Tasman National Park and for a day on Tahunanui beach, weather permitting.
In town, and not that there’s a great deal to see there now bar a goalpost-shaped memorial, but the Botanic Garden is where the first-ever documented game of rugby in New Zealand took place and is just a short walk from that centre point. World Cup is the right time of year for the vibrant cherry blossoms in the Miyazu Japanese Gardens, while a walking tour of the Founders Park area and its historical buildings will give you an idea of the heritage of the place. Saturdays are market days, you’ll pick up some top-notch local produce - sleep in and you’ll miss the best.
Where to quench your thirst and fill your belly:
Do not miss out on the seafood, and you’d be mad not to wash it down with some of the local white wine. Guytons Fisheries on Wakefield Quay is reputed to be one of the best fish and chip merchants in the world. Tahunanui Beach bar is the cool place to hang out, although it’s a little out of town. There’s also a highly-recommended pizza/pasta joint right by it. In town, the main area is the Bridge Street area around the CBD. The Free House on Collingwood Street is a great pub, while the Oyster Bar serves oysters to be washed down with a cocktail or two. For a seafood extravaganza, head to the Oceano restaurant at the Rutherford Hotel. It’s terrific, but it’s not cheap.
Getting there and around:
Nelson is one of those places where you are encouraged to walk, or at least cycle. There’s a limited bus service around the city itself and there are direct bus connections to most south island centres. For a more relaxing trip in, take the ferry from Wellington to Picton and then the bus to Nelson. The airport is strangely busy, with connections all over the country, probably because there’s no train station (the nearest is Picton, an hour away) and only adequate road connections, along with limited road space in town. Fly in, and then soothe your environmental conscience by cycling round is by far the best way to do it.