Golden Bay New Zealand is definitely a destination worth visiting on your South Island road trip. Golden Bay has a world of beauty that is waiting for you to discover. The great thing is there are hardly any people, endless activities, lots of untouched beauty and it’s warm ‘ish’.
Travelling to Golden Bay in the Tasman region. What you need to know
The most common way to get to Golden Bay is self-driving. This is because public transport is not very good. There is one bus that regularly drives to Takaka (the main town in Golden Bay) and other places in Golden Bay. Check out Golden Bay coachlines website here.
You can also fly direct to Takaka NZ with Golden Bay Air.
Golden bay weather
The weather in Golden Bay is moderate and usually quite pleasant. Temperatures in Summer range between 20 – 30 degrees and in winter between 11 – 15 degrees. It is a popular holiday destination for locals and has amazing swimming spots. In general, the weather is usually clear and sunny or raining. There aren’t too many over cast days! To learn more about the weather in Golden Bay head to Golden Bay weather NZ here.
Golden Bay New Zealand map
Golden bay is located in the Nelson/Tasman region of New Zealand’s South Island. As you can see below its Southern end is the Abel Tasman National Park and its northern end is Farewell Spit. The stunning Wharariki beach that I talk about in this post is not far from Puponga in the North.
Golden Bay accommodation
Golden Bay is home to some of the most picturesque and unique accommodation in NZ. Fancy staying in an Eco cabin? What about a yurt? Or a classic kiwi batch? If you are travelling in a van there are lots of Golden Bay camping options to choose from.
My favourite Takaka accommodation option is Kanuka Eco friendly cottage.
Sign up to Airbnb here to grab $69NZD off your first trip!
Below is a list of different types of accommodation in Golden Bay NZ to choose from.
Keep in mind this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them, I will get a small referral fee and you will be supporting me and my blog at no extra cost to you, so thank you!
Discover 6 of the best things to do in Golden Bay in the Nelson/Tasman region of NZ below
1. Pupu Springs
While I don’t normally recommend popular tourist attractions I had to add this to the list of things to do in Golden Bay because it is a stunning natural attraction.
Pupu Springs is a unique place to see some of the clearest water in the world. Yup, lil ol’ Nelson/Tasman region putting itself on the map. I can not tell you how tempting it is to jump into the pristine water! But, you better not because it is culturally significant to Maori as you will find out upon entering the walk.
Apparently, the amount of water that comes out of the springs per second is enough to full 40 bathtubs!
How to get to Pupu Springs Takaka
From Takaka (the first town of significance in Golden Bay) head north about 5 minutes until you see the sign for Pupu Valley Road. Take a left turn not long down the road and continue on until you reach the car park. For those who have a weak bladder like myself, rest assured there are toilets!
What you need to know about the walk
Okay, walk? Stroll whatever you call it there’s a couple of things to note.
1) You can walk the track in either direction as they both take you to the viewing platform.
2) You can wear jandals.
2. Wharariki Beach
Would you like to play fetch with baby seals? This is the place to do it! Seriously, they are so friendly. I have seen countless videos of people playing with baby seals here. As for me, I went on a super windy cold day and the seals were a bit shy and I didn’t have a tennis ball. But visiting the beach itself is one of the best things to do in Golden Bay.
The beach is located about 35 minutes drive from Collingwood, not too far from Farewell Spit. The road is nice and scenic so the 35 minutes is well spent. The last leg of the drive moves onto a gravel road (careful of the multiple potholes).
Follow the road up past the beach camp to the car park. From there you will see the walking distances and times. The walk to the beach should only take 15 minutes if you walk on the track to the right.
The walk is filled with luscious green rolling hills and amazing views which reminded me of the Teletubbies. Keep on going over the wee steps and venture on to the sand. Follow the track up a tiny hill and you’ve arrived!
But you must go zooming down the sand dunes for some ultimate fun. Nothing like sand in your undies.
Tip: 1) Be sure to check out the rock pools right in the middle of the beach next to the intense waves. Hopefully, you will catch a glimpse of baby seals playing in the water! There is also a cave to the right. While we were there a massive seal was having a snooze in the cave and it woke up and waddled towards us.
2) Watch out for the wind and mini sand storms. The sand storms calm down the closer to the beach you get. When we were there the sand was moving towards us in a trance on its journey to the dunes. It was a magical experience!
It honestly is a special place and one of my favourite things to do in Golden Bay.
If you’re keen to learn more about beautiful beaches in the area, check out my post about the best beaches in the Abel Tasman National Park here!
3. Labyrinth Rocks
This is possibly one of the weirdest places I’ve been.
It was nothing at all like I had expected. The rocks take up a lot of space filled with long stretching passageways that transform into a wonderful maze, featuring mossy trees and freaky little toys.
The rocks are located about 5 minutes out of Takaka on the way to Pohara Beach (a popular destination in Golden Bay), down Abel Tasman Drive – Make sure your eyes are peeled for the sign as it isn’t very noticeable.
Once you have found the turn off on Scott Road travel about 30 seconds and you have arrived. There is a small car park slightly past the entrance.
What you need to know about the walk
1) Definitely take a map because there is a high chance you will get confused or maybe even lost! Throughout the walk, there are creepy little toys situated in random spots. I was quite surprised by the effort someone had made…
The toys make the walk feel kind of airy and strange but add a little excitement. You will find you are immersed in a really cool part of nature between magnificent limestone rocks and canyons.
2) Make sure you venture down to the end of the walk as there are fun cave/tunnels that take you to a faraway land (If you have kids I definitely recommend taking them here).
3) You may be disappointed by some of the tunnel endings as some of the passages were closed off. I think they need to spend a few more dollars on the upkeep and then it may attract a few more people. I guess it was winter and far from peak season in Golden Bay. Nonetheless, it was a really great experience and probably not the weirdest thing to do in Takaka.
4. Tata Beach
Tata beach NZ is absolutely gorgeous and booming in summer but nowhere near as busy as the stunning golden bay Abel Tasman National Park. The golden sand definitely gives Golden Bay its name.
The attractions around the area are pretty sweet. Grab a kayak from golden bay kayaks and go out to Ngawhiti and Motu islands just off the shore to the right of the beach. If you are that way inclined, even go for a fish.
There is a kayak stand towards the far right side of the beach (heading away from the way you came). The water is usually very still and dreamlike which makes for an easy ride. If you don’t feel like getting in the water then no worries, the sand is soft and a great place to take an afternoon nap in the sun.
Also, there is a walk up to a wee lookout on the hill to the right of the beach. Just follow your nose to the bottom of the hill that connects to the beach and you will find it. It’s located just up a path heading off the car park with the kayak stand. The walk gives you great views over the bay and the surrounding mountains.
Tata Beach is located about 15-20 minutes from Takaka, down the scenic Abel Tasman Drive.
5. Rawhiti Caves
One of the most unique day walks in Golden Bay is a hike to Rawhiti Caves. They are situated up a secluded mountain, you won’t see many people!
There is also a pretty spectacular viewing platform that stretches out and over the cave, where you can get dripped on by the stalactite. You get to be right underneath the beautiful formations and feel as though you really are in the cave.
The caves are roughly 10-15 minutes south-east of Takaka. From Abel Tasman Drive head to Motupipi. Turn left onto Packard Road and follow it for a few corners until you see the sign for the caves.
Follow the road all the way up past the farmer’s gate, over the annoying potholes and continue through to the car park. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the big, ginger and fluffy cow just up the hill. Head on straight to the sign that marks your entrance to the cave walk.
To get to the caves you have to take a 45-minute walk up the tough hill… The walk starts rather cruisy next to a dried-up river bed but soon gets steep and muddy. (It will be better in summer).
You are welcomed by lovely green bush and views of the gigantic hill. The hill was kind of daunting and made me feel like an ant. I also felt as though I was far away from civilisation… which was rather nice.
Make sure you have good hiking boots, especially in winter as it was really slippery and muddy! (If you’re doing anything in Golden Bay then hiking boots are a key staple). They are particularly needed on the way down from these caves. However, I did see a few brave souls in sneakers, so don’t be too worried.
Other walks in the area
There are many golden bay walks to choose from. I am sure you are aware of the Abel Tasman track close by. But you could also try some walking options in the Kahurangi National Park, the Heaphy track great walk or head on over to the Golden Bay website here for more information on walking in the area.
6. Harwoods Hole
Harwoods Hole is the deepest vertical shaft or cave, in New Zealand on the way to Golden Bay. Many experienced cavers head down the extreme 183 metres to the bottom via the rope.
The area around Harwoods Hole was a filming location for some of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies!
Harwoods Hole is located at the top of the Takaka Hill in a place called Canaan Downs. To get to there you will need to take state highway 60 towards Takaka.
Keep your eyes peeled when you reach the top of the hill for the turnoff which states Harwoods Hole/Canan Downs/Abel Tasman Track. Beware, the drive is a bit rough. But stay patient. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the car park as it is gravel and rather windy.
Keep driving until you come to a cute little camping ground and the Canaan Downs car park.
The track doesn’t stay flat for very long as it soon narrows down into a rough rock jumping exploration that takes about 45 minutes return.
The entrance to the cave kind of just stumbles upon you! Unless you go onto the rock faces you won’t get much of a view. PLEASE make sure you are careful as there are many rocks you can slip and fall on! There are some handy tree branches to hold onto though, so definitely use them!
I would suggest a safer option is to walk up to the lookout. Just follow the sign because you don’t see much if you just head to the cave entrance!
Make sure you have good shoes as you are constantly walking on and over rocks and bolder jumping!
You will need about 4 hours to explore this area including the drive! To read more about Harwoods Hole check out my article here.
That wraps up a few reasons why you should spend time in the destination that is Golden Bay. Perhaps I have convinced you it’s a pretty neat place to explore.
To be honest I haven’t even covered all of the reasons to explore the area. There are plenty more including the gin distillery, hippy clothing stores and swimming spots. Maybe, I’ll have to make a part 2? If you’re keen to know more drop me a comment below. Or, check out my other posts from the mighty NZ!
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