Golden Bay is one of the last frontiers of New Zealand. Somehow it has held onto the original New Zealand creative spit in one of the most beautiful valleys of New Zealand. A great climate, with amazing communities scattered throughout.
It’s one of our favorite spots for day trips or even overnight adventures! We have put together a few of the classic spots that you must visit if you are heading over the hill. There is alot to do, so an early start is required if you want to get everything in. Depending on your schedule, it might be worth doing an overnight mission!
The driver of the Takaka Hill is lovely, although it is windy and slow going. You can make serval detours over the hill including The Rewaka Resurgence, Harwoods Hole, The Takaka Hill walk and Ngarua limestone caves. These are only 10-25mins from Marahau, so if you are looking to do a Golden Bay short trip, maybe come back and do them on another day.
Coming into the top of the golden Bay Valley you will quickly come across Takaka. Being the largest township in Golden Bay, Takaka is a classic NZ town with a range of artisans, cafes, crafts and the local supermarket and essentials. Stock up and explore the shops here. It can be easiest to break Golden Bay into the North and East from here. If you are into Salmon, then Anatoki Salmon is just before you reach Takaka. you can head out to the farm, cast a rod in, catch a fish and have them smoke it for you then and there. Lots of salmon for your trips.
Heading North to Farewell Spit
Located at the most Northern point of Golden Bay, it is probably the most infamous feature. Most people have heard of ‘the giant kiwi on the map’, or the ‘massive sand spit’ or unfortunately the place where we get frequent whale strandings. Farewell spit is highly protected being a Nature Reserve, Bird Sanctuary and a Wetland of International Importance. To get here you will drive the Northern side of The Bay to Te Papa car park, the start of the walkout to the Spit.
The Spit is a massive 35km long, so if you are planning to do a little bit of exploring then this can easily take up half a day. Doing the walk to the Northern side of the spit is awesome as the dunes begin to unfold and the mighty Tasman Sea reveals itself. You can venture further in to discover the inland lakes, however, at that point, it might be good to get the professional tour. They are super knowledgeable and get transport you out to the furthest point of the spit, where there is accommodation and the Gannet Colony.
If you are heading North then Wharaiki Beach is a bit of a must. Just a 10 min drive from farewell Spit you will reach the Wharariki Beach Car Park. From here it is just a simple 20 min walk down to the beach. You will witness the landscape change from the lush Tasman environment, to the rugged west coast. Windswept Kanuka stands guard along the coast as you drop down to one of the most awe-inspiring beaches in NZ. Massive rock formations, caves, a vast expanse, and a scattering of baby seals playing in the rock pools. You can spend hours out these ways. It is so impressive that Apple used it as a desktop theme background. If you fall in love with this area, there are impressive walks from here to Farewell Spit along a wild and cliffy coastline.
This is one of those places that maybe best left unsaid. Hours along a gravel road down the west coast side of Golden Bay. Maybe one of the most remote places in New Zealand. Not for the amateur explorer. Recommend an overnight trip if you are inclined to visit.
Kaharangi National Park
This is a classic and one of NZ’s largest National Parks. Make sure you are adequately prepared with gear, food and the correct weather windows as it can quickly get wild out there. An absolute most do at some point.
Te Waikoropupū Spring (pupu)
Only 6 mins from Takaka when heading North, Pupu Spring is an easy side mission. Pulling into the Car Park, it is a simple 20-30 round trip over board walks and through some old forest to get to the main springs. They are beautiful and well worth a visit.
The Mussel Inn is a truly classic establishment in Golden Bay. Established in 92, it is a family-friendly cafe/bar / music venue in the heart of Golden Bay. Hosting live music with indoor and outdoor fires you might end up stumbling across this hidden gem and a great night out! The Mussel Inn is just 17km North of Takaka, a cafe not to miss it as it is tucked away in the bush.
The Grove is a cool little detour through some cool Nikau Palm Forests through a giant rock formation to a cool lookout over Golden Bay. An easy 20 min walk makes for good exploring! Also quick close to the Kiwi Spirit Distillery, a crowd favourite for the enthusiasts out there.
One of the coolest waterfalls in the area is about 30min East of Takaka just after Tata Beach. You will pull into the car park and from there is about a 30min walk up/ alongside the river until you reach the falls. It is a nice walk and the falls are awesome. Always refreshing to jump in for a dip in the pools rippling beneath.
Totaranui is the furthest East you can drive in Golden Bay being around 1hr from Takaka to the East. You will be driving through the Abel Tasman National Park for the last 20 mins along a windy gravel road. This is a great section as you pass through some of the old native forests. Upon dropping into the Totaranui valley you will round the corner down a driveway lined with some massive London Plane Trees, planted in 1865. It is a DOC-run campground, so the facilities are basic, but the experience is awesome. The golden-red sands stretch for km’s down the beach with a lagoon tucked around the back and ample camping space.
It is truly one of the classic golden beaches of New Zealand. We love that there is this beach to the furthest East of Golden Bay, and the wild west coast vibe of Wharariki Beach as far North as you can drive. Sums up the variety and options of Golden Bay perfectly. You can easily spend a night camping out here and can access the Northern Loop from here.
There are many great spots to visit along the drive over Takaka Hill. These are all pretty easy to get to from The Barn as they are only 20-40 minutes away. These include the Riwaka Resurgence, a freshwater spring up a lovely 5min walk through some old bush. Secondly, there is Harwoods Hole, The largest hole in the country, with a one-hour walk each way through some of the Old Abel Tasman Bush. Thirdly is the Takaka Hill Hike to the summit. Finally there is the Ngarua Caves, a series of limestone caves with stalactites and stalagmites and even the odd fosil!
These are easy things to visit from the Barn. Usually, if you are going over to Golden Bay for the Day, you can miss these things and see them on another day. That way you can make the most of Golden Bay, and visit the Takaka Hill attractions without being rushed!
The Sum Up
As you can see there is a good variety of things to explore in Golden Bay. If you only have one day, then we would strongly recommend heading North to Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. Its a classic spot at the end of the road that not enough people even know exisits. There are plenty of cool spots along the way for everyone to enjoy.