The Must-Dos 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 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 some of the adventures the stunning coastal area has to offer with this list of the best things to do in Golden Bay.
For more Golden Bay must-dos, head over to The Complete Travel Guide to Takaka and plan the ideal trip to Golden Bay’s main town.
1. Horse Trek, Run, Walk or Whatever You Want on Wharariki Beach!
With so many rock formations in one place, Wharariki Beach could be the most adventurous beach in New Zealand. You can discover caves and stacks, all while taking in the views of the Archway Islands seen just off the coast. Check out the walks to Wharariki Beach in the 7 Best Walks at Farewell Spit. Or experience horse riding on the beach with Cape Farewell Horse Treks.
Location: From Puponga, take the 7km (4-mile) gravel Whakariki Road to the end where walks are signposted from the car park.
2. See Some of the Clearest Water in the World at Te Waikoropupu Springs
Water doesn’t get much clearer than Te Waikoropupu Springs, known for short as “Pupu 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: Take State Highway 60 north from Takaka and turn onto Pupu Valley Road then Pupu Springs Road.
3. Walk to Wainui Falls
Venture through farmland, forest and riverside on this 30-minute walk to the majestic Wainui Falls. The waterfall is one of the lesser-visited yet stunning attractions of the Abel Tasman National Park. Start this walk from the Wainui Bay car park.
Location: Wainui Falls is about 20km (12 miles) from Takaka. Head to Wainui Bay on Abel Tasman Drive and turn only Wainui Falls Road which is well-signposted.
4. Discover The Grove
The Grove Scenic Reserve, or as the locals know it, “The Grove”, is a small forested area hidden high above Golden Bay with strange limestone features to discover. There’s also a lookout to get another perspective of Golden Bay. To find The Grove, from Takaka take Abel Tasman Drive and turn right onto Clifton Road and climb the hills.
Location: From Takaka, take the Abel Tasman Drive to Clifton then take Clifton Road to the signposted The Grove Scenic Reserve. 8.5km (5 miles) from Takaka.
5. Go Rock Climbing in Paynes Ford
Choose from 240 routes on this limestone crag climbing area near Takaka. Gear hire, guides and transport are available from Takaka, so there’s no reason not to make the most of Paynes Ford.
Location: Entrance to Paynes Ford is 3km (2 miles) south of Takaka at 1886 State Highway 60.
6. 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, seals 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). Find out more about visiting the area independently in our 7 Best Walks at Farewell Spit.
Location: From Takaka, follow State Highway 60 all the way north to Wharariki Road and Farewell Spit.
7. 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.
8. Kayak in Abel Tasman National Park
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 with Golden Kay Kayaks. Highlights include kayaking through arch formations, seeing shag colonies and the possibility of seeing New Zealand fur seals.
Location: Tata Beach.
9. Run Around Like a Child at the Labyrinth Rocks Park
Let your imagination run wild while you run wild through the maze-like limestone formations of Labyrinth Rocks. Natural rock sculptures and forest make up a 3km (2-mile) journey through this whimsical piece of Golden Bay.
Location: From Takaka, take Abel Tasman Drive and turn off down Scott Road where the entrance to the Labyrinth Rocks is pretty obvious. 4km (2.4 miles) from Takaka.
10. Ride the Rameka Track
A mountain bike trail that is well worth doing in the Golden Bay and Abel Tasman area is the Rameka Track. Discover hidden forests and limestone features in the Abel Tasman National Park. Emerge into Takaka on this one-day single track. You can get transport and bike hire from Takaka. Find out more in our guide to Mountain Biking in Nelson Tasman.
Location: On Takaka Hill, take the Canaan Downs Road for 11km (7 miles) until you reach the car park. From there, follow the track for about 1km (0.6 miles) until you reach a sign for the Rameka Track.
11. Fish and Feast at Anatoki Salmon
Fish for fresh salmon at Anatoki Salmon and have it prepared any way you like right on the spot in their cafe. You’ll be given all the gear to fish in their salmon ponds before having your catch prepared as sushi, fish and chips, smoked or vacuumed packed to take home. See more experiences like this in the 7 Things to Do in Takaka for Foodies.
Location: McCallum Road, Takaka.
12. Check Out the Awesome Stalactites of 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 puts you in the middle of this grand cave that has been millions of years in the making.
Location: Packard Road, Motupipi.
13. Hike 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. Delve 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.
14. Explore the Town of 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.
15. 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
16. Check Out Collingwood
Before venturing to the highlights we’ve mentioned, such as 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.
17. 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.