Golden Bay

28 04 2010

As we haven’t been anywhere for a while we decided to go on holiday for a week up to Golden Bay in the North-West corner of the South Island. We’d initially planned to do an Orienteering race on the way but I’d pulled my hamstring the day before playing hockey and despite plenty of R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice-Cream, Elevation), I was in no shape to run around in the woods. Instead our first day was a leisurely drive up the coast and over the massive Takaka hill, the unavoidable gateway to Golden Bay.

Takaka is home to the Te Waikoropupu, or ‘Pupu’, Springs – the worlds clearest fresh water with a horizontal visibility of over 60 metres, which is about as clear as water can get. Unfortunately you can no longer dive in the springs which must be pretty spectacular. We settled for a view from the edge before heading back into town for an evening at the movies.

Pupu springs, Golden Bay, NZ

Takaka was hosting it’s annual International Film Festival at the Village Cinema, a quirky little place that mirrored the laid-back lifestyle over here. We arrived just in time to get a seat – a battered old sofa at the front of the cinema. Latecomers settled for the giant beanbags spread all over the floor in front of the screen with their mugs of tea and bowls of nibbles brought in from home!

It seemed like the whole town had come out to see the kiwi film This Way of Life, highly recommended if you get a chance to see it as is Boy, the other film we’d seen earlier in the week.

The following day we made our way up to the far North-West corner and Wharariki Beach. This must be one of the finest beaches in New Zealand, and as usual was pretty much deserted! We walked through the surrounding farmland until we emerged on silky soft sand dunes at the back of the beach and waited for the sun to go down. I was in my element taking photo’s of what I’d say was one of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen. The light was surreal as we walked back up the dunes, as if a vivid pink mist had descended all around us.

Wharariki Beach sunset panorama

Now that there’s a camp right at the start of the track it was pretty easy for me to return for sunrise the next morning. Thankfully NZ summertime is over now so it wasn’t too early a start. Having left at 6am I returned to find Zoë ready to send out a search party, unable to comprehend how I’d been taking photo’s of the same beach for 3 and half hours!

From here it was a short drive to Cape Farewell, the Northernmost point on the South Island. From here we could watch seals on the beach below, ignoring their yapping pups while they entertained themselves doing belly skids across the wet sand! A little further around the coast is Farewell spit, a huge 26km long sandbar that stretches out into the sea. The area serves as a bird sanctuary, particularly popular with Black Swans of which there were thousands! I always thought they were rare – turns out they’ve just been hiding in Golden Bay all this time.

Cape Farewell, NZ

We’d returned to Takaka for the night and went on a short hike the next day to Rawhiti Cave. I think the access track used to be pretty shoddy which maybe why it only gets a brief mention in the guide books. Access was still quite remote and subtly signposted but is now an easy walk through goblin inhabited forests to the incredible cave mouth. Huge stalactites drip from the entrance ceiling with thousands more lining the cave walls and roof inside. It’s as impressive as many of the other sights we’ve seen in NZ so strange to find it so hidden away.

Our next stop was Kaiteriteri, one of the gateways to Abel Tasman National Park. We booked a water taxi to take us up to Anchorage the next morning so we could walk a section of the Abel Tasman track. The views all along the track are awesome, and it’s much more pleasant now summer is over and the bulk of the holiday-makers have gone. We watched enviously as kayakers paddled up the coast and in and out of the calm bays. I think a sea-kayak is now rivalling a yacht at the top of Zoë’s wishlist!

Te Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman NP


Our final day was spent inland at the other local National Park, Kahurangi, New Zealands second largest. This was quite different terrain to the beachside Abel Tasman, and cooler too as we were now walking into the clouds! We’d got up a little too late to attempt the 16km return trek to the summit of Mount Arthur and so settled for Mount Lodestone, a shorter but almost certainly much steeper trek! After climbing through the forest to the summit we were rewarded with no view whatsoever and hurriedly got ourselves down the other side back below the bushline before we died of exposure. The steep descent was pretty treacherous and saw me on my backside twice, proving once again that Paragliding off the top of hills is a much better option than walking down!

Before long we were back in Nelson, glad of a proper bed and our own kitchen again. We had a great week though and it’s good to see how much fantastic stuff is on our doorstep!

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