Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park are some of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. There is only one road into Golden Bay, so as you reach the summit of Takaka Hill, you catch your first sight of the Bay. Few districts in NZ can have such a dramatic entrance. The climb from the pleasant town of Motueka reveals superb views over the Tasman Bay to Nelson and beyond, but once the summit of Takaka Hill is crossed, at 791 metres above sea level, Golden Bay lies before you with all it’s beauty. Not unsurprisingly, many areas in and around Golden Bay, have been the location for scenes filmed for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit.
With some of the highest annual sunshine hours in New Zealand and rainfall of between two and three metres per year, there is good quality grazing land for cattle and sheep as far as the eye can see.
Close to where we were staying in the pretty little town of Takaka, we marvelled at the clarity of the water at Te Waikoropupu Springs, as it emerges above ground. Te Waikoropupu is not only the largest freshwater springs in Australasia, but also reputedly the clearest freshwater in the world.
At Farewell Spit, a sand formation on the north-west tip of the South Island you can see the shifting effects of the wind on the sands and sea – with dunes up to 20 metres high and lots of trees and branches washed onto the beaches. Stretching 35 kilometres, this is NZ’s longest sandspit. Farewell Spit is a nature reserve with restricted access, though public walking access is permitted for 3kms down the inner beach and 4 kms along the outer beach.
You wont be surprised to learn that the beaches in Golden Bay have lovely golden sand. To visit the Abel Tasman Memorial and the popular Tata Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park, we followed the road beneath rugged limestone cliffs with steep forested hills and wonderful tree ferns. It’s a stunning drive.
On our final day in the Abel Tasman area, we hiked to Wainui Falls. We understood there had been considerable rain in the previous weeks and signs told of four landslips that needed to be negotiated along the way and that we would need “a sense of adventure” to proceed!
You know how we love a challenge – especially over a wibbly-wobbly wire bridge!