Finding the Old Nelson at Founders Park

Life in the Tasman Bay Backpackers begins with free breakfast! We are surprised to see that this isn’t your normal Budget bread toast, jam and corn flakes for breakfast, but a good selection of breads, jams and plunger coffee! Honestly, since getting onto the South Island 10 days ago, we have not had to buy our own breakfast. Do you think we can keep this up for the entire South Island?!

We work are asses off until the afternoon, where we plan to walk to the Founders Heritage Park just up the road from Tasman Bay Backpackers, then to the Japanese gardens, Miyazu Garden. Little did we know that there is so much to see at the former that we don’t even have time to visit the latter…

Founders Heritage Park

About a 10-minute walk and we are here at Nelson’s Founders Heritage Park. At $7 entry fee, there’s not really a reason to not have a look around, especially as a huge windmill is enticing us in.

So what is Founders Park? Well, it’s like a museum on a village scale! Heritage buildings such as houses, shops, cafes, a train station and fire station all stand in the village like we are in the late 1800s-1900s right here. This is what New Zealand was like for the first Europeans who settled here.

The beginning of our trip back in time The beginning of our trip back in time
Laura talking some sass on the telephone Laura talking some sass on the telephone
Robin's punishment for making sexist jokes Robin's punishment for making sexist jokes
The most vintage-looking park in New Zealand! The most vintage-looking park in New Zealand!

Robin’s bad heritage jokes

We leave the information and entry building with its giant windmill and start going into every single building in the street in front of us: an old house then a church. Next, we spot two old telephone boxes that you can call each other from! After a few technical difficulties, we have a unclear conversation where Robin is mostly telling Laura to make him a sandwich to get into the heritage spirit. Laura wishes she had her smartphone right now to passively de-friend him on Facebook

Real people are making cookies in the heritage park!

Unsurprisingly, the old bank/gift shop is closed on a weekend. But we do see a small cafe that is open with the smell of freshly-baked cookies wafting out of it! We step into Ruck n’ Co, a working bakery in Founders Park! There is life in here! We are not just talking to mannequins, there is a real man called Ringo who is baking cookies and making coffees.

As Ringo has just taken a fresh batch of cookies out of the oven, we have to try some. There is nothing better than warm cookies. To give it that Founders feel, the bakery is decorated with an old oven built into the brick wall at the back of the store.

A fresh batch out of the oven

The adventure down the street continues!

Our surprise of seeing working businesses in the Founders Park continues when we see a sign for yoga classes above an old post office full of early printers and telephones.

Further down the street, Robin learns what a cobbler is. The mannequin cobbler doesn’t respond when we ask for our hiking shoes to be fixed. Then there’s the general store full of old food cans and even the most random stuff like vintage tennis rackets and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. Basically, this is all the stuff that you find lying around in your house that you should definitely throw away, but you don’t want to…

A modern traffic jam in a museum village?

At the fire station, Robin pretends to put out fires with a vintage fire truck, while Laura notices an actual traffic jam in Founders Park… What the hell?! We honestly thought this would be a sleepy heritage village, but with actual random businesses going on, it has succeeded to create a traffic jam somehow.

Laura stuffs herself with cookies! Laura stuffs herself with cookies!
Checking out those hops in the beer museum Checking out those hops in the beer museum
How the old backpackers used to do it How the old backpackers used to do it

Backpacking New Zealand like a founder

So how did backpackers get around New Zealand back in the good ol’ days? Well, there’s a stable full of New Zealand’s first national buses, Newman’s. Newman’s are still operating today on the South Island and have been for more than 100 years! We see some of the old buses back to the days of the horse-drawn carriage.

After a quick visit in the mini train station museum, we cross the railway line to the massive Bristol Freighter plane. This is terrifying. You can go inside the plane to see what people actually thought was safe to fly in: a tin can with doors that open at the front of the plane and two uncomfortable chairs.

Tasting beers at the Founders Brewery

By this point, we feel pretty heritaged-out, but luckily one of the running businesses of this heritage village is the Founders Brewery Cafe & Bar. It is buzzing on this late Saturday afternoon! Kiwis really dig their craft beer and it totally shows today.

We order ourselves a tasting tray – six different small-sized beers for $12. And join the rest of the crowd sitting outside in the Nelson sun.

We’re having such a relaxing time just chatting and chilling in the sun that we don’t really care that we are missing the opportunity to visit the Miyazu Gardens right now.

All good days end with free pudding!

Once we’re finished, we wander back to the Tasman Bay Backpackers for some dinner and, of course, the free hot chocolate pudding and ice cream!

Tomorrow, we explore more of the Nelson/Tasman region by driving all the way to Takaka, famous for its mysterious caves and extremely blue springs. Join us then for the ride!

Laura and Robin

Tasting the best thing the Founders found
Tasting the best thing the Founders found Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Let’s be honest. You probably do, you are just too afraid to say. Check out these articles… We won’t tell anyone…

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See you tomorrow!

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