Natural Attractions in Golden Bay That Will Blow Your Mind!
Over the Takaka Hill lies a land full of weird and wonderful natural features. Limestone rocks have created natural mazes. Caves exist with stalactites growing sideways. Not to mention a whole heap of breathtaking landscapes from the mountains to the sea. There are plenty of epic natural attractions in Golden Bay!
Golden Bay holds a selection of natural features that you just won’t believe until you see them. The best way to enjoy them is along the many hikes of Golden Bay, mountain biking or even rock climbing. Some of these natural featured can be accessed by short walks, while others are part of an all-round New Zealand wilderness hike.
So pop these awesome things to see in Golden Bay onto your New Zealand bucket list! Oh, and did we mention it’s all free?!
1. Te Waikoropupu Springs
Your visit to Te Waikoropupu Springs, or “Pupu Springs” starts with a big dose of culture in the form of grand Maori carvings at the entrance. Information panels tell you the legend of the springs before you take a short loop walk through the forest. You’ll emerge at various viewpoints looking out over the crystal clear blue springs of Te Waikroropupu.
Location: Take State Highway 60 north from Takaka and turn onto Pupu Valley Road then Pupu Springs Road.
2. The Grove Scenic Reserve
Towering limestone walls, quiet nikau palm forest and the sounds of native birds make The Grove Scenic Reserve or simply “The Grove” a definite must-see on our natural attractions in Golden Bay list. It’s only a 20-minute walk to make your way through the limestone blocks sculpted into an array of weird and wonderful shapes. The Grove Scenic Reserve truly is a mystical place!
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.
3. Wharariki Beach
Often described as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Wharariki Beach cannot be missed when travelling in Golden Bay. See the iconic Archway Islands from the coast and walk over rolling sand dunes. Access is via a 20-minute walk at the end of Warariki Road through farm paddocks, a small section of forest, then over sand dunes. Learn more in the 7 Best Walks at Farewell Spit.
Location: From Puponga, take the 7km (4 miles) gravel Whakariki Road to the end where the walk is signposted from the car park.
4. Rawhiti Cave
Delve into this unusual cave where stalactites defy the laws of gravity – thanks to a process called phytokarst. An hour walk leads to the Rawhiti Cave entrance where a viewing platform allows you to revel in its unusual features.
Location: From Takaka, take Abel Tasman Drive to Motopipi. Turn right onto Glenview Road then left onto Packard Road where the Rawhiti Cave is signposted.
5. Cobb Valley
For a true multi-day wilderness experience, go hiking in the Cobb Valley! Immerse yourself in mountain and forest scenery with some unusual geological and botanic features. Most adventures start from the Trilobite Hut on Takaka Hill. Get more information from the Department of Conservation website.
Location: The Trilobite Hut is about 60km (37 miles) from Takaka. On the Takaka Hill Road take the 28km (17 miles) narrow road to the Cobb Reservoir. Information can be found at a kiosk on the Cobb Ridge. Continue on the lakeside road to the Trilobite Hut.
6. Wainui Falls
What sort of New Zealand “natural attractions” list would this be without a waterfall?! Golden Bay’s largest waterfall can be accessed on a 30-minute track. The track goes through farmland for a short time before you make your steep ascent up into the forest. Enjoy the natural beauty of the nikau, fern and rata forest before crossing a swingbridge and seeing Wainui Falls (usually through a whole lot of spray). See more waterfalls at the 12 Most Wonderful Waterfalls in New Zealand.
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.
7. Harwoods Hole
New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft at 176m (577ft) is Harwoods Hole. Experienced cavers can abseil down the hill, but for the rest of us, a walk leading to the hole is the best way to experience it. The Harwoods Hole Track takes you through beech forest on a track famed by limestone formations. At the junction, take the time to check out the George Creek Lookout for spectacular views of the Takaka Valley then return to the junction and carry on to Harwoods Hole. There are no barriers at the hole so be careful.
Location: From the Takaka Hill Highway (State Highway 60) turn down Canaan Road (next to The Woolshed) and drive for 11km (7 miles) on the narrow unsealed road until you read the car park at the end of the road.
8. Ballroom Caves
Accessed on the Aorere Goldfields Track, the Stafford’s Cave and Ballroom Cave can be explored (providing you have a torch/flashlight). The track passes remnants of gold-mining history on the way to the Ballroom Cave, supposedly named because old miners used to host dances in here. The track continues beyond the caves leading to a dam. On a clear day, this section of the track rewards walkers with views of the Wakamarama and Burnett ranges, Ruataniwha Inlet and Farewell Spit.
Location: From Collingwood, follow the Collingwood-Bainham Road inland for about 7km (4 miles) then turn off the main road at Rockville where Aorere Goldfields and Devil’s Boots are signposted. Follow the road and rough gravel road to the Goldfields car park.
9. Devil’s Boots
On the way to the Aorere Goldfields, don’t miss this unusual limestone outcrop known as the Devil’s Boot! You’ll know it when you see it.
Location: From Collingwood, follow the Collingwood-Bainham Road inland for about 7km (4 miles) then turn off the main road at Rockville where Aorere Goldfields and Devil’s Boots are signposted.
10. Payne’s Ford
This one is especially for keen rock climbers. Payne’s Ford is decorated with a line of limestone bluffs perfect for challenging yourself with some vertical sheer rock faces. Otherwise, lesser mortals can enjoy the view of these beautiful natural attractions on the Payne’s Ford Track which follows an old tramline. There are plenty of swimming holes along the Takaka River if you are keen.
Location: Entrance to Payne’s Ford is 3km (2 miles) south of Takaka at 1886 State Highway 60.
11. Pupu Hydro Walkway
See how nature retakes the land on the Pupu Hydro Walkway with young beech forest taking over an old gold-mining water race. Climb a steep section of the track across Te Waikoropupu River to the power station. The track then passes Campbell Creek and zig-zagging up tot eh water race eventually leading to a lookout over the power station. It takes almost two hours to complete the walk.
Location: 9km (5.5 miles) from Takaka. Take State Highway 60 north of Takaka then follow Pupu Valley Road (almost) all the way to the end.
12. Kaituna Track
For a dose of natural native forest, then explore the Kaituna Valley along the Kaituna Track. Although the Kaituna Track is 8-9 hours long, most people take the shorter option of just walking to the old Kaituna gold workings (20 minutes) or to the Kaituna Forks, which is a 2-hour return trip. Beyond that, the track becomes a tramping route which means a less-obvious trail to follow.
Location: From Collingwood, follow the Collingwood-Bainham Road inland and onto Carters Road (on a tight corner). The car park for the Kaituna Track is at the end of the road. The track is about 15km (9 miles) from Collingwood.
13. Kaihoka Lakes
Landscape-lovers can’t miss the tranquil Kaihoka Lakes with its mix of farmland and nikau forest surrounds. The Kaihoka Lakes is a great place to picnic, get a few photos and walk from one lake to the other on a 10-minute track.
Location: From Pakawau, turn off the main road and over the Pakawau Saddle then turn onto the Kaihoka Road just before Whanganui Inlet. Follow the Kaihoka Road for about 6km (4 miles) to the lakes. (Don’t trust your GPS on this one. It will probably want you to swim over the Whanganui Inlet).
14. Labyrinth Rocks
Exactly as the name suggests, the Labyrinth Rocks is a maze of limestone rocks reflecting something out of a fantasy movie. Explore the nooks and cracks of this natural maze, along with the quirky and slightly creepy toys hung about the maze. The main walk isn’t that long itself, but you can have a lot of fun exploring this natural area. This is an excellent place to take little ones as featured in the 9 Things to Do in Takaka with Kids.
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 miles) from Takaka.
15. Washbourne Scenic reserve
For a quick experience of nature, take the 15-minute walk into the Washbourne Forest with the odd remnant of the gold-mining days. Return the same way.
Location: From Takaka, take State Highway 60 north for about 16km (10 miles) where the Washbourne Scenic Reserve is signposted.
16. Farewell Spit
New Zealand’s longest sandspit at 25km (15.5 miles) long is also one of the most protected areas of New Zealand thanks to it being a safe haven for birds, seals and more wildlife species. It is forbidden to go onto Farewell Spit unless you are will a certified tour operator or stick to the walks mentioned in the 7 Best Walks at Farewell Spit.
Location: From Takaka, follow State Highway 60 all the way north to Farewell Spit.
17. Cape Farewell
This coastal archway formation is just another stunning natural feature of the coast between Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. There are a number of hiking tracks along the coast that are well worth doing if you have the time and want to see some spectacular coastal scenery. Otherwise, just park up in the Cape Farewell car park and walk five minutes to the viewing platform.
Location: From Puponga, take the gravel Whakariki Road to where the Cape Farewell car park is signposted.
18. Heaphy Track
Soak in the rugged landscapes with mountain views, tussock downs, lush forests and the roaring seas of the West Coast. This Great Walk starts (or ends) in Golden Bay’s Aorere Valley at the Brown Hut then winds its way over to the West Coast, taking about 4-6 days to complete. For more information, check out the Guide to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand. There is also the option to bike the Heaphy Track at certain times of the year. See Mountain Biking in Nelson Tasman for more info.
Location: From Collingwood, follow the Collingwood-Bainham Road inland for about 7km (4 miles) then turn off the main road at Rockville where the Heaphy Track is signposted. Follow the road and rough gravel road to the end.
19. Westhaven (Whanganui Inlet)
Enjoy the scenery of this ecological haven. Westhaven or the Whanganui Inlet is home to a diverse range of wading birds and marine wildlife. Westhaven is a good place to stop and have a picnic, watch the birds and the tide coming in or out.
Location: From Pakawau, turn off the main road and over the Pakawau Saddle for 6km (4 miles). Follow Dry Road leading around the inlet to Mangarakau where you will find the wildlife management reserve.