wharariki beach, golden Bay, New Zealand

A guide to exploring Golden Bay, New Zealand

Last Updated: 12th July, 2023

Welcome to Golden Bay in Nelson-Tasman, a breathtaking region on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Known for its stunning natural beauty, Golden Bay offers a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and cultural explorers alike. With its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, lush forests, and charming towns, this is a must-see destination for locals and travellers alike!

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    What is the best time to visit Golden Bay?

    The best time to visit Golden Bay largely depends on your preferences and the activities you want to do! We travelled around Golden Bay in March, which was perfect for us! The weather was warm and sunny, but there were less crowds and accommodation was cheaper than in the touristy summer months.  

    Summer (December to February): This is the peak tourist season due to the warm weather, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C! Summer is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and exploring the stunning beaches of Golden Bay. However, popular attractions may be crowded, and accommodations might be pricier during this period.

    Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May): These shoulder seasons offer pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C. The crowds are thinner compared to summer, making it a great time to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and engage in outdoor activities! 

    How to get to Golden Bay

    Map of Golden Bay, New Zealand

    By Car:

    From Nelson: Takaka is approximately a 2-hour drive from Nelson. Follow State Highway 60 towards Motueka, then take State Highway 60 over Takaka hill and down into Golden Bay.

    From Picton: If you’re arriving by ferry from the North Island to Picton, it takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Picton to Takaka. Take State Highway 1 south from Picton, then turn onto State Highway 6 towards Nelson. Once you reach Nelson, follow the directions mentioned above to reach Golden Bay.

    By Public Transport:

    By Bus: There are bus services that connect Takaka to Nelson and other nearby towns. The main bus service in the region is called Golden Bay Coachlines, which operates daily services between Nelson and Takaka. You can check their schedule and book tickets in advance.

    By Air: If you prefer a quicker option, you can fly from Wellington or Nelson to Takaka Airport. Flights are operated by Golden Bay Air and offer scenic views of the region.

    Getting around Golden Bay

    Car Rental: Renting a car is a convenient option for exploring Golden Bay at your own pace. There are car rental agencies available in Takaka, Nelson, and other nearby towns.

    Bus: Golden Bay Coachlines also operates local bus services within Golden Bay, connecting Takaka to other towns like Collingwood and Pohara. The bus services run on specific schedules, so it’s advisable to check the timetables in advance.

    Things to Do in Golden Bay

    There are a bunch of things to do and see in Golden Bay! The main highlights are the stunning beaches and scenery in the region, and so this is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise! There are also a number of small towns that offer incredible art shops, gardens, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.


    Takaka is a small town with a friendly and relaxed vibe, and it is one of the main towns in Golden Bay! We loved our stay in Takaka, as it felt incredibly laid-back and relaxed, with an awesome art scene to explore! The town center is filled with colourful buildings, boutiques, and quirky shops selling handmade crafts, jewelry, and organic products. There are also a number of art galleries and studios that showcase local designers which are worth a look!

    Takaka, Golden Bay, New Zealand

    If you are interested in spending some time in Takaka, and are looking for things to do and where to stay while you’re there, check out my post here!

    Exploring the Tata Islands

    From Tata Beach, you can hire a kayak and explore the beautiful Tata Islands Nature Reserve! These stunning islands – Ngawhiti and Motu – are found just a few kms off the coastline of Tata Beach, and are so cool to explore from the back of a kayak. They are a protected nature reserve (so landing on the islands is a big no-no), however they are amazing to check out up close. 

    The Tata Islands are known for their diverse and abundant marine and birdlife. They are a breeding ground for several bird species, and you might see Little Spotted Shags and Buller’s Shearwaters’! As you come close to the islands, you can definitely hear the huge numbers of birds who call these islands home. The crystal clear waters around the islands are filled with awesome marine life, including seals and plenty of fish!

    Te Waikoropupu Springs Scenic Reserve

    Te Waikoropupu Springs Scenic Reserve (or sometimes known as Pupu Springs) is a natural gem found just outside of Takaka in Golden Bay. These springs are incredibly special to see, as they have some of the clearest water in the world!  The reserve encompasses several individual springs, each with its own unique characteristics. Our favourite was spotting the ‘Dancing Sands’, where sand grains dance in the current of the spring! A walkway takes you around the springs, where viewing platforms give you a chance to admire the water and the deceptive 7 metre depth to the white sand and plants growing along the bottom. 

    Fun Facts:

    • The springs are renowned for their remarkable clarity, making them one of the clearest freshwater springs in the world!
    • The water is so clear, it allows for horizontal visibility of up to 63 meters (207 feet)!!! This is just amazing!
    • The springs’ clarity is due to the natural filtration process, as the water passes through an underground aquifer and emerges pure and transparent.
    • There are 8 main vents in the springs, which produce 14,000 liters of water per second. This is like 40 bathtubs worth. In a second. 

    Te Waikoropupu Springs hold significant cultural and spiritual value to the Maori people, who have a deep connection to the area. The name “Waikoropupu” translates to “the water that reflects the colors of the rainbow” in Maori. The springs are considered taonga (treasures) and are protected for their cultural and environmental importance. The Maori hold the springs in high regard as a site of ancestral and spiritual significance.

    Te Waikoropupu Springs , Golden Bay, New Zealand
    Can you believe that this spring is 7 meters deep?!

    Te Waikoropupu Springs Walkway:

    The Te Waikoropupu Springs Scenic Reserve features well-maintained walkways and viewing platforms that allow visitors to explore the area and appreciate its beauty. The walkways provide access to various viewpoints, allowing you to witness the springs and their pristine surroundings. The walk is a 1 km loop around the springs, which takes around 45 minutes and will return to the car park. 

    Getting to Te Waikoropupu Springs:

    Te Waikoropupu Springs Scenic Reserve is found only a short 8 minute (6km) drive from Takaka! Drive north out of Takaka along SH60, before turning left down Pupu Valley Road. This will lead you into the Nature Reserve, where you will find the walk to the springs!

    Abel Tasman Coast Track

    Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand

    Golden Bay is located near to the famous Abel Tasman Coast Track! This gorgeous multi-day hike winds it’s way along the stunning coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. It showcases golden sandy beaches, turquoise waters, native forests, and panoramic views. With options for multi-day hikes or shorter day walks, you can can admire the park’s distinctive formations, spot wildlife, and enjoy in the idyllic coastal scenery!

    For more information on this awesome hike, including our experiences and all the information you need to plan your own adventure, check out my post here!

    Labyrinth Rocks

    Just outside of Takaka is a cool natural attraction that is awesome for visitors of all ages! Labyrinth Rocks is a maze-like formation of limestone rocks that have been eroded by water over thousands of years. The rocks are arranged in intricate patterns, creating a labyrinthine network of paths, tunnels, and chambers to explore. It’s a unique and interactive experience that is often overlooked by tourists, however we loved it!

    Getting there:

    Labyrinth Rocks is a 4 minute drive from Takaka! Head out of town along Meihana Street, and follow it along as it becomes Abel Tasman Drive. From here, you should see signs leading the way towards this awesome natural maze!

    Golden Bay Beaches!

    I mean, you can’t visit Golden Bay and not visit at least one of the beaches, amiright? The beaches in Golden Bay are STUNNING. Think golden sand, no waves, crystal-clear water that is warm(ish). They are perfect for a swim, a kayak, or just a relax with a good book in the sun.

    1. Tata Beach

    A beautiful sandy beach with calm waters, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. This beach is the closest to the Abel Tasman, and gives you stunning views of the bay and the Tata Islands!

    Tata Beach with a view of Tata Islands, Golden Bay, New Zealand
    Kayaking to Tata Islands!

    2. Pohara Beach

    A long stretch of golden sand ideal for beach walks, picnics, and sunsets. Pohara Beach is known for its family-friendly vibe, shallow waters, and stunning views of Farewell Spit.

    3. Ligar Bay

    A scenic coastal spot nestled between Tata Beach and Pohara Beach. Ligar Bay offers a tranquil atmosphere, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and opportunities for swimming, fishing, and beachcombing.

    Wharariki Beach

    Yes, okay, you got me. Its another beach. This one is different, I swear! And if you see one beach in Golden Bay, it’s gotta be this one.

    Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay, New Zealand

    Wharariki Beach is rugged and dramatically beautiful. Clambering over tall white sand dunes from the carpark, you are greeted with a huge expanse of white sand, broken up with towering rock formations that create caves and ocean pools to explore!

    As you wander down the beach and around these incredible rocks, keep your eyes peeled for some classic New Zealand wildlife! We stumbled across a number of fur seals, basking on the rocks and playing in the surf. We even got to see a few seal pups, swimming and playing in a small ocean pool!

    Archway Islands, Wharariki Beach, New Zealand
    Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

    The most iconic feature of Wharariki Beach is the famous ‘Archway Islands’, two magnificent rock formations that stand just off the coast, and provide a pretty impressive backdrop (and a pretty impressive insta-post, if that’s your goal!)

    Getting there:

    Wharariki Beach is located right at the tippy-top of the South Island of New Zealand! It is about an hours drive (52km) from Takaka, around the coastline of Golden Bay.

    Down the end of Wharariki Road there is a fabulous car park, including a small cafe! From here, there is a 20 minute walk taking yo up through farmland and over the dunes onto the beach!

    Cape Farewell

    If you have made it to Wharariki Beach, then you might as well do the extra wee walk over to Cape Farewell – the very top point of the South Island! From the cape, you will be greeted with dramatic coastal cliffs and awesome views over the Tasman Sea. A stunning viewpoint that is well worth the walk!

    Cape Farewell also has some awesome history! It earned it’s name ‘Cape Farewell’ from the explorer Captain James Cook in 1770, as it is where they bid farewell to the South Island. It also has a rich history of Maori occuption and cultural significance, with the area being home to various tribes such as the Ngati Tumatakokiri and Ngati Rarua.

    Walk from Wharariki Beach to Cape Farewell, Golden Bay, New Zealand
    Walk to Cape Farewell

    Farewell Spit

    Farewell Spit stretches out from Cape Farewell into the waters of Golden Bay, with wild Tasman Sea on one side and calm bay on the other. It is 34km long, making it one of the longest natural sandspits in the world!

    Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, New Zealand

    Public access is restricted on the spit to the first 4km, where you can walk the Spit Track Circuit along the beach, before crossing over to the ocean beach and back to the car park.

    If you are interested in exploring more of the spit, your best bet is to hop on a 4WD tour that can drive you all the way down the spit! They usually depart from the nearby town of Collingwood, and include Cape Farewell and Fossil Point, as well as giving you heaps of interesting information about the area!

    Where to stay in Golden Bay!

    (hehe that rhymes).

    There are loads of awesome places to stay in Golden Bay, no matter if you want something luxurious or looking for cheap and cheerful! Here’s a few options for ya:

    Top 5 Boutique Hotels In Golden Bay

    1. Mohua Motels | Takaka

    Located in Takaka, Mohua Motels offers modern and comfortable accommodation with a boutique touch. The motel features stylishly decorated units with well-equipped kitchens, private courtyards, and convenient amenities for a pleasant stay.

    2. The Station House Motel Collingwood

    Situated in Collingwood, The Station House Motel is a charming boutique accommodation option. Housed in a historic building, it offers cozy rooms with unique character, friendly hospitality, and easy access to Collingwood’s attractions and natural beauty.

    3. Drift Off Grid | Tata Beach

    Just back from Tata Beach is Drift Off Grid Luxury Eco Camping! Featuring incredible views of the bay (that you can see from your private outside bath!) this will be an experience in itself!

    4. Ligar Bay Cottage | Ligar Bay

    Located in Ligar Bay, Ligar Bay Cottage is a boutique guesthouse offering panoramic views of the bay. The property provides comfortable rooms with tasteful decor, a communal lounge, and outdoor seating areas to soak in the beautiful surroundings.

    5. Parapara Boutique B&B | Parapara

    Situated on 10-acres of picturesque grounds, Boutique B&B features a spacious deck with native bush and garden views. This stylish, self-contained chalet offers exposed beams and an open-plan living area. The kitchenette has a refrigerator, a small oven and a stove-top. The bathroom features marble tiles and a hand-made basin.

    Top 5 Budget Accommodation Options In Golden Bay

    1. Golden Bay Motel | Takaka

    Located in Takaka, the Golden Bay Motel offers affordable and comfortable self-contained units with kitchenettes and private bathrooms. It provides convenient amenities and a central location for exploring Takaka and its surroundings.

    2. Pohara Beachfront Motel | Pohara

    Found in Tata Beach, the Pohara Beachfront Motel offers affordable accommodation with self-contained units, some featuring sea views. Guests can enjoy direct beach access, BBQ facilities, and a children’s playground.

    3. The Sandcastle | Pohara

    Located in Pohara, The Sandcastle is set on a tranquil valley overlooking the sea. It features self-contained cottages with a balcony offering sea and garden views. The property offers a lovely tranquil garden featuring an olive grove, a pond, sculptures and a small herb garden, free for the guests to pick fresh herbs. Other facilities include massage services and yoga classes.

    4. Collingwood Park Motel | Collingwood

    Situated in Collingwood, the Collingwood Park Motel is a budget-friendly option offering clean and comfortable rooms with kitchenettes and en-suite bathrooms. It provides easy access to Collingwood’s amenities and serves as a convenient base for exploration.

    5. Hack n Stay | Golden Bay

    This was my absolute favourite accommodation while in Golden Bay, hands down. Maybe because i’m a horsey girl, maybe because of having the beach so close… who knows? Either way it was awesome for us in our campervan! Good parking, a communal kitchen, good showers, and the chance to do a bit of work in exchange for a horse trek down Golden Bay beach! Winner right there!

    FAQs about Golden Bay!

    How do you get to Golden Bay New Zealand?

    Why is it called Golden Bay?

    How deep is Golden Bay?

    Is Golden Bay worth it?

    What is the closest airport to Golden Bay?

    What is the largest town in Golden Bay?

    Where is the Golden Bay?

    Thank you for reading my post on travelling Golden Bay! We spent around 5 days here, soaking up the sun and exploring all the region has to offer, and I wish it were more!

    If you like this post, awesome! If you want to see more of my stuff, even more awesome! <a href="https://kiwiandthekraut.com/category/newzealand/" target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="Check it out here! Check it out here! <3

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