Rutherford Hotel Nelson was officially opened on 18 December 1972 by Prime Minister Norman E Kirk. Originally a Dominion Breweries Hotel it has since undergone major refurbishments and boasts a grand reception area complete with sweeping banister staircase and attractive water feature.

Rutherford Hotel Nelson pays tribute to Lord Earnest Rutherford (Physicist 1871-1937) who was born in the nearby town of Brightwater. Lord Rutherford was awarded a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1908 for his work in splitting the atom. Plaques relating to the life and achievements of Lord Rutherford are on display at the hotel entrance and throughout the hotel. A Memorial Reserve commemorating the famous physicist is located on Lord Rutherford Road at the junction of the Brightwater Deviation (State Highway 6).