What to Do in Golden Bay, the Top of the South
Get off the beaten track and discover the top of the South Island! Golden Bay is hidden from sight surrounded by the mountains of the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks, with your only access over the winding roads of the Takaka Hill. The journey is well worth the effort though, with unbelievable natural attractions, wildlife and quirky little towns that await on the other side. Sample a bit of all type of adventure the stunning coastal area has to offer with this list of things to do in Golden Bay.
1. See Rawhiti Cave
See a spectacular array of limestone stalactites at this must-see natural attraction in Golden Bay. It’s a one hour walk to Rawhiti Cave, where a viewing platform put you in the middle of this grand cave that has been millions of years in the making.
Location: Packard Road, Motupipi
2. Do the Heaphy Track
Yes, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks starts right here in Golden Bay. The Heaphy Track is the longest of the New Zealand Great Walks, taking four days to complete. The trail delves into the ancient forest, alpine tussock lands and the river valleys of the Kahurangi National Park before emerging on the wild West Coast and ending just north of Karamea. Find out what to do on the other side with our 7 Amazing Things to Do in Karamea.
Location: Aorere Valley Road, 28km (17 miles) from Collingwood.
3. Visit Takaka
The main hub of Golden Bay is best described as a quirky, funky and creative town, so it’s well worth stopping by. Visit eateries like Choco-Loco, the Mussell Inn, Takaka Infusion, the Wholemeal Cafe and more listed in The Foodie Guide to Takaka. The town is also brimming with art galleries and street art! So take a look around and see why Takaka is the top of the South Island’s cool little town. For more inspiration, see the 10 Amazing Things to Do in Takaka.
4. Check Out Te Waikoropupu Springs
See unbelievably clear water in a bush setting at Te Waikoropupu Springs. New Zealand’s largest freshwater spring is located just outside of Takaka, accessible via a short loop walk. The springs produce 14,000 litres (3,698 gallons) of water per second, discharging water with a visibility of 63 metres (207 feet). It’s definitely worth seeing for yourself!
Location: Pupu Springs Road, Takaka
5. Check Out the Walks at Farewell Spit
At the northwestern tip of the South Island lies one of the most protected areas in the country, Farewell Spit. New Zealand’s longest sandspit is an important habitat for wetland birds and other marine creatures. Access to the spit is limited to a marked point for hikers, whereas the rest of the spit is only accessible via bus tour (see below). The area has other stunning natural attraction, like the dramatic cliffs of Cape Farewell and the Archway Islands just of Wharariki Beach. Find out more about this area in our 7 Best Walks at Farewell Spit.
Location: Wharariki Road, Puponga
6. Do a Bus Tour up Farewell Spit
To see more of Farewell Spit and learn about the ecology and history of this important area, join bus tour with Farewell Spit Eco Tours. What started as a lighthouse mail delivery service 70 years ago is still continuing with tours to the lonely lighthouse on the spit. Climb the huge sand dunes on the spit and learn about how the dunes are ever-changing. Tour departures are dependant on the tide times.
Location: Tasman Street, Collingwood
7. Do a Scenic Flight Over Golden Bay
See Golden Bay from a different perspective with Golden Bay Air. Fly over the rugged peaks of the Kahurangi National Park, the azure waters of the Abel Tasman National Park, and see the magnificence of New Zealand’s longest sand spit. Learn more about Golden Bay Air on Viator and Tripadvisor. Additionally, see more activities like this in the 8 Luxury Activities in Takaka.
Location: Takaka Airport
8. Check Out Collingwood
Before venturing to the Heaphy Track or Farewell Spit, take the time to stop by Collingwood. This charming little town has fantastic little cafes, like the Courthouse Cafe and the MAD Cafe, museums (see below) and the interesting Estuary Art Gallery. Check out more activities here in the 8 Fun Things to Do in Collingwood.
9. Go Kayaking From Tata Beach
You know you’re heading to a special place when you drive through magnificent coastal tunnels on your way to Tata Beach. Tata Beach is one of the main access points to the northern Abel Tasman National Park, famous for its rugged coastal scenery separating golden sand beaches. Explore it for yourself by hiring kayaks or going on a kayak tour from Tata Beach. Highlights include kayaking through arch formations, seeing shag colonies and the possibility of seeing New Zealand fur seals.
Location: Tata Beach
10. Visit the Local Museums
Golden Bay is packed with fascinating history, from discoveries of extinct birds bones and fossils found in the region to the first Maori and European contact in New Zealand occurring right here. Discover the region’s heritage at the Golden Bay Museum in Takaka, as well as at the Collingwood Museum and Rockville Machinery and Settlers Museum in Collingwood.
Location: Golden Bay Museum – 73 Takaka Valley Highway, Takaka, Collingwood Museum – 2 Tasman Street, Collingwood, Rockville Machinery Museum –869 Collingwood-Bainham Main Rd, Rockville.