If there was ever a time to support fellow Kiwis, it’s now. With international travel restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, this is the opportunity to explore our own backyard, while helping our tourism industry to thrive. We’re not exactly impartial, but if you’re a fan of the Great Outdoors, Golden Bay (Mohua) is an incredibly special part of Aotearoa that’s worth a visit any time of the year...
HealthPost began 31 years ago from a kitchen table in a small coastal village called Collingwood, located in the beautiful Golden Bay. Renowned for its spectacular beaches and lush river valleys, this place we are proud to call ‘home’ has always been a huge part of who we are. We’re the largest employer in Golden Bay, with a team of over 80 people locally, and our Collingwood team has planted over 10,000 native trees to enhance the biodiversity in the area. We’ve also created the HealthPost Nature Trust to help restore biodiversity in our own back yard. The Wharariki-Onetahua Restoration creates safe habitat for seabirds and other threatened species through revegetation, wetland restoration, pest trapping and the creation of a predator proof ecosanctuary at Cape Farewell. But, like many parts of Aotearoa, local livelihoods depend on tourism, so if you’re planning a break, here’s a hint: there’s plenty to discover in our little slice of paradise.
Golden Bay is the crescent shaped north-west corner of the South Island and just over two hours’ drive from Nelson. And because you can enter Kahurangi National Park and the Heaphy Track by foot, or access Abel Tasman National Park with Golden Bay kayaks, plan to spend some time exploring the Nelson Tasman region if you’ve always wanted to tick some ‘great walks’ off your must-do list.
Accessing Golden Bay by road requires a steep and long road trip over the Takaka Hill, or ‘marble mountain’ as it is known as due to its unique landscape of marble outcrops and caves. At an elevation of 791 metres, it’s New Zealand’s longest hill, so take the steep and winding road slowly, but it’s well worth the drive, or simply relax and enjoy the view on a Golden Bay Coachline. You can also fly directly into Golden Bay from Wellington with Golden Bay Air, with flights starting up again from Monday 29th June this year.
At the summit of Takaka Hill your first adventure awaits: Ngarua Caves. Take a guided tour and be wowed by an array of stalagmites and stalactites, and if you’re keen for more cave exploration, you’re in luck. With its incredibly diverse limestone entrance and astonishing selection of flora and phytokarst formations, Rawhiti Cave Trail is also something to behold.
For more intrepid travellers, there’s also Harwoods Hole to check out. Harwoods Track rewards visitors with stunning views across the Takaka Valley and Gorge Creek. However, at 176 metres, the Hole (as seen in The Lord of the Rings films) is the deepest vertical shaft in the country and comes with a warning: don’t look if you’re afraid of heights. It’s very dangerous to approach the edge, so great care is required.
Te Waikoropupū Springs, fresh salmon and waterfalls
Located on the other side of Takaka Hill and just a hop, skip and a jump from the Takaka township is Te Waikoropupū Springs, the country’s largest freshwater springs blessed with some of the clearest water ever measured. While the rules are a firm ‘look but don’t touch’ in this wahitapu (sacred place), this taonga rewards visitors with a leisurely stroll around its walkways and the chance to observe the communities of eels and native fish thriving within its crystal waters.
If all the swarming fish whet your appetite, why not catch your own dinner? At Anatoki Salmon you can spend the afternoon casting your rod on the banks of the Anatoki River and if you pull up a Chinook salmon you can take it to the on-site cafe to enjoy it as sashimi, smoked or baked. The rods and bait are free to use - you only pay for the weight of your catch.
Another ever-popular way to while away an afternoon is with a visit to Wainui Falls. It’s an easy, family friendly one-hour return walk and includes a little suspension bridge. The serenity of the native bush and chorus of birdsong is only disrupted by the thundering 20 metre falls as they plummet into deep blue water beneath granite bedrock.
Farewell Spit, Wharariki Beach and HealthPost Nature Trust Eco Sanctuary
You’ll want a few days in Golden Bay as there’s still more picture-perfect sightseeing to be done. At an impressive 34km long, Farewell Spit wraps itself around the upper reaches of the bay and is home to over 90 wetland and migratory bird species as well as seal pups. As such, it is a highly protected bird sanctuary and wetland that can only be explored with Farewell Spit Eco Tours. Book in and they’ll take you to the historic lighthouse, gannet colony and to the northernmost point of the South Island, Cape Farewell. Here, we were proud to officially open our Wharariki Eco Sanctuary in January this year, after months of hard work and dedication by the HealthPost Nature Trust and our partners, the Department of Conservation and Manawhenuaki Mohua. This means you can now visit and witness our efforts to create a safe habitat, and rich and protected ecosystem that will allow threatened species to flourish.
On the Tasman Sea side of Cape Farewell, where the HealthPost Nature Trust’s Wharariki Eco Sanctuary is located, you can discover the breathtakingly stunning Wharariki Beach, where wild winds and waves have created massive rock and sand dune formations. It is little wonder this beach is now world famous as a Windows 10 screensaver. Its beauty will blow your mind. We think Wharariki is best explored cantering along the sand on horseback, but if you prefer to walk, access is just a 20-minute walk through undulating farmland and forest.
For other impressive rock formations, don’t miss the aptly named Labyrinth Rocks Park, where you will weave your way among limestone outcrops and lush native bush. A real highlight for kids, Labyrinth Rocks is sure to capture their imagination and they’ll have such fun pointing out the characters etched in the limestone or hunting for the small figurines hidden in rocky ledges and tucked behind leaves.
Crafts & markets
Part of Golden Bay’s charm is the creative community that have settled here. In fact, it's believed to house more artists and creatives per capita than any other part of the country. Alongside its quaint, heritage arts and crafts shops and hotels, the Takaka main street has colourful murals, art galleries, boutiques, jewellery stores and glassblowing studios. And with its handcrafted treats of both the edible and artistic kind, you’ll definitely want to spend some time at the Saturday Village Market too which runs on the first Saturday of the month over winter – you may even spot some of our favourite local brands! The well-known Tui Balm range are born and bred locals from the Golden Bay area, and are lovingly crafted by the residents of Tui Community – Golden Bay’s community village for holistic living. And our friends over at Clean Earth Soap, Golden Heart (makers of the most delicious organic chais) and Wildflower are also locals of the Takaka and Golden Bay area, carefully handcrafting their beautiful artisan ranges in our backyard.
If all the fresh air and sightseeing has worked up a hearty appetite, be sure to get your fill at The Mussel Inn, a world renowned eco-friendly craft brewery, cafe/bar, and music venue.
While Golden Bay owes its name to New Zealand’s first gold rush of 1857, the true treasures now waiting to be discovered are undoubtedly the natural and creative riches of this truly unique area. We hope you’ll visit soon.
To plan your trip, visit https://www.nelsontasman.nz/visit-nelson-tasman/destinations/takaka-and-golden-bay/