Golden Bay, golden sand. Officially the bay spreads from its southern end at Separation Point in the Abel Tasman National Park to the northern end at Farewell Spit. It’s that spit that protects it to the north, the country’s longest sandspit, stretching like the beak of a kiwi out from Puponga, the South Island’s northernmost settlement, into the Tasman Sea. As much as you might think its name heralds from the gloriously golden sand beaches, it was gold finds in the goldfields at Aorere that gave rise to the name.
On the southern side and a little inland, there’s Takaka, the delightful, colourful, artistic, character filled town. The Takaka Hill separates Takaka and the Golden Bay region from the more populous Tasman Bay side, a little further south east. And once over that hill, you’ll find yourself winding north into Takaka, Golden Bay’s largest urban settlement. A fabulous place to call into as you venture into this beautiful and somewhat isolated part, at the far north of New Zealand’s south.
A storm has passed...
The region’s spent a lot of time in headlines recently. In February this year, ex-tropical cyclone Gita crossed New Zealand, sweeping through Takaka and Golden Bay. Her presence was well and truly felt in this glorious part of the country. The net effect - there are many, and right now, on your roadie, you’ll find it a bit trickier getting in and out of this wonderful part of New Zealand than it used to be, with the road over the Takaka Hill damaged in the cyclone.
But traffic convoys are operating over that hill to let travellers through. And when you get there and check out some of the Takaka and Golden Bay special spots, we think you’ll agree it’s worth the journey. Stock up the car with supplies for an ever so slightly longer trip. Or you might even find a traditional New Zealand woolshed - on the Takaka hilltop and open at times, for coffee, lunch, snacks… yes, and wool - to break the journey.
It’s just a hill, get over it…
And your patience will be rewarded.
On the northern side, in Takaka and further north into Golden Bay, you’ll be spoilt with beautiful beaches and golden sand that will knock your socks off. Here’s the country’s largest freshwater springs with some of the clearest water ever known. Short and long walks in parks and reserves that will amaze you. The spot that acknowledges the visit of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, the first recorded European siting of this country. His boats were met by local Māori, who’d been in situ quite a wee bit longer… it’s famously regarded as the first known European contact with New Zealand’s Māori. The European story runs that that encounter did not go altogether well. Earlier European names for this special spot - Murderers Bay and Massacre Bay - fill in the picture somewhat.
And then, to really take the cake, there’s those really good food finds, oodles of owner-operated businesses where the care and attention really shines through.
Takaka delivers up a deli with fresh baked goods, pies that look, well, delish indeed. Easter buns in full swing. Their angels on the wall say it all. The local farmers and growers really are Golden Bay heroes. There’s salmon farms to catch and cook your own. Eateries with murals to make you smile - especially if you’ve spent time in a big New Zealand city that rhymes with Dorkland. And the mushroom and cheese pies, and good for you snickers slice, and a spot of mint tea. And ice-cream just down the road. And fresh muffins. And further north there’s a rustic inn. And still more eclectic cafes.
Let’s sum it up. Mother Nature has delivered this magical region a few full-on wicked headwinds lately. But no matter. It steadfastly remains a place of outstanding food, laid-back hospitality, and extraordinary scenery. So that journey to the other side of the hill is definitely one worth making… here’s what they say - it’s just a hill, get over it. And that sounds like just the thing to do.