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Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Golden Bay Beaches

We have spent a lot of time exploring Golden Bay over the past few years. It’s one of our favourite areas in New Zealand. If you’re dreaming of sun-kissed shores and turquoise waters, the pristine beaches of Golden Bay in the Nelson Tasman region are the best in the South Island. Uncover the hidden gems and find your perfect beach as we explore the best Golden Bay beaches.

The best Golden Bay beaches with calm blue water and lined with lush bush.

Getting to Golden Bay

Golden Bay is nestled at the northwestern tip of the South Island in the Nelson Tasman Region. 

You can kick off your adventure by road, winding your way through scenic routes that showcase the region’s breathtaking landscapes. 

Alternatively, catch a quick regional flight to Takaka in Golden Bay and start your beachcombing expedition straightaway.

The Best Golden Bay Beaches

Pohara Beach Golden Bay

A man in distance on Pohara Beach at low tide during sunset.

First on our list is Pohara Beach, a laid-back paradise with a local charm. 

With its flat, long beach, Pohara Beach is perfect for beach walks at low tide and for swimming at high tide. 

Feeling adventurous? Kayak your way around the bay for a unique perspective.

Our favourite and best beach in Golden Bay offers stunning panoramas of the coast and surrounding bushclad hillside as well as phenomenal sunsets.

An additional bonus at this beach is staying beachfront at Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, which offers a camping experience with all the modern conveniences such as kitchens, BBQs and a lounge room.

Pohara Beach is close to Pohara’s cafes and restaurants.

Additionally, Pohara to Takaka is only 9 minute’s drive.

Ligar Bay

Bush and park reserve with sea views at Ligar Bay, one of the best Golden Bay beaches.

A few minute’s drive from Pohara Beach is Ligar Bay, a gem for nature enthusiasts and a favourite for swimming. The shallow beach makes it a great place to take young children. 

Moreover, the reserve at Ligar Bay is an ideal spot for picnics. We love having outdoor lunches with sea views at the beach.

Tata Beach Golden Bay

Blue sky, golden sand and blue ocean at Tata Beach.

The next beach after Ligar Bay, Tata Beach, is a haven for sunseekers. Picture golden sands meeting crystal-clear waters. It’s perfect for a lazy day of sunbathing.

For those who prefer more activity, there is a boat ramp for boaties, and Golden Bay Kayaks are based here. They offer independent hire of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and guided tours.

Stick around for sunset, as Golden Bay beaches have some of the most stunning sunsets on the South Island. Also, if you stay till dusk, look out for penguins.

Wainui Bay

The bright blue water at Wainui Bay in Nelson Tasman region

For a touch of wilderness, keep driving along Abel Tasman Drive to the next beach at Wainui Bay. The scenic coastal drive is a Golden Bay highlight.

Wainu Bay, nestled in the Abel Tasman National Park, is the last stop at the end of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. 

The beach is framed by lush native forests, making it a captivating spot for a stroll. You might even encounter some native birdlife along the way.

For those who enjoy walking trails, the walk to Taupo Point offers an hour’s walk with epic coastal views and natural rock formations.

Additionally, the best waterfall in Golden Bay, Wainui Falls, is just a short drive from here.

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide tip

Many Golden Bay beaches have extreme tidal ranges of several metres rise and fall daily. Be aware of this if taking a long beach walk during the incoming tide.

Totaranui Beach 

Totaranui Beach, a true jewel of Golden Bay, beckons with its expansive golden sands. 

Nestled within Abel Tasman National Park, it’s a gateway to the coastal trails and hidden coves of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. You can walk some of the track in either direction.

There is a campground for those who love getting off the beaten track, but bear in mind that there is limited data reception and no cafes/shops. 

For those who treasure remote places, this is one of the best beaches Golden Bay has.

Looking for short walks in Golden Bay? Read our story on the best short walks in Golden Bay.

Patons Rock 

View of sea and a wooden tabel at a Golden Bay beach.

In the other direction, head west to Patons Rock, which offers a safe and shallow beach with fine sand, making it an ideal swimming place.

The best thing we love about Patons Rock is the Patons Rock Reserve and its giant trees. They have picnic tables and benches among the trees, offering beautiful beach views. 

The beach boasts a 2.5-kilometre expanse with a breathtaking view of Golden Bay, making it a perfect spot for a long walk.

Patons Rock also has many holiday homes to rent, so you could easily base yourself there as a central point to explore Golden Bay. 

Patons Rock to Takaka is only a 9-minute drive. Collingwood to Patons Rock is a 16-minute drive.

Tukurua Beach 

Blue wooden tables with view to the calm sea and blue sky.

Another calm, isolated beach, Tukurua Beach, can only be accessed by staying at Golden Bay Holiday Park. 

The holiday park, with its own private beach, offers beachfront camping as well as cabins and villas for those who prefer luxury.

You can wake early to see the sunrise from the sea and experience the gorgeous colours of sunset at the end of the day. Besides, there are beach walks to enjoy the beauty of nature.

For those not staying at the holiday park, you can access the adjoining beach, Parapara Beach Golden Bay, off Parapara Beach Road.

Milnthorpe Beach Golden Bay

The beach at Milnthorpe provides a deserted island feeling. It’s another of our favourite Golden Bay beaches. 

The best part is where the Parapara Inlet meets the sea; there’s a cool concrete walkway that you can access at low tide that takes you to the beach.

Milnthorpe Beach has trails along the beach through regenerated forest. However, the main attraction of Milnthorpe is the Milnthorpe Park & Scenic Reserve, with its network of walking trails ranging from a few minutes to 3 hours. 

Collingwood Beach

Driftwood on the beach at Collingwood Beach

History buffs, this one’s for you. Collingwood Beach not only offers a relaxing escape but also a glimpse into the region’s past. 

Collingwood Beach is a perfect choice for those who want all the facilities, such as pubs, restaurants and galleries nearby.

You can explore remnants of the gold rush in the two museums, browse the shops and galleries, and have lunch at one of the cafes or the waterfront pub.

Collingwood Beach is just minutes from the village centre and offers epic coastline views framed by immense mountains. It’s also a great place to throw a fishing line or take a stroll on the beach.

For those who want to stay awhile, there are beach houses for rent (some adjacent to the beach), or there are motels.

The Collingwood Holiday Park, situated along the Aorere River and Collingwood Beach, offers phenomenal water views of the Aorere River mouth, Kahurangi National Park, and Farewell Spit. They offer waterfront camping sites and basic cabins.

Farewell Spit 

Rocky outcrop and beach at Fossil Point at Cape Farewell.

Farewell Spit, located at the westernmost point of Golden Bay, is the world’s longest natural sandbar.

Spend the day bird watching at one of New Zealand’s most important bird sanctuaries and looking out for penguins and seals. 

Farewell Spit has many walking trails ranging from minutes to hours. However, visitors are only permitted to explore the first four kilometres of Farewell Spit independently. The best way to experience the entire length of the spit is on a 4WD safari. 

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide tip

If you’re looking for a fun short walk in Golden Bay, check out the Puponga farm trail to Fossil Point (on the West Coast). It’s a 30-minute, one-way walk through a mix of farmland and bush leading to the wild coast. The rocks have fossils embedded, so it’s pretty cool to check out.

Wharariki Beach Golden Bay

Female walking on sand dunes at Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay.

Saving the best for last, Wharariki Beach is a must-visit. Many visitors consider it the best beach Golden Bay offers. 

Towering rock formations and vast stretches of sand make it a photographer’s dream. 

Explore the famous Archway Islands (try to get there at low tide) for a truly epic experience on your Golden Bay beach tour.

You need to walk along a 20-minute trail to visit this beach. However, the walk, which starts through paddocks and along a bushy hillside track, takes you through some stunning scenery to the remote Wharariki Beach.

Wharariki Beach is known for its rugged coastline and sand dunes, with wild winds and waves that have sculpted the rocks and cliffs over time.

The area is also well known for its seal population, and if you are lucky, you may see them sunning on the beach rocks.

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide tip

This beach has epic views and wild surf; your Instagram will love the photos. However, it is not safe to swim!

Experience the Best Beaches in Golden Bay   

So there you have it, beach enthusiasts! Golden Bay’s beaches offer diverse experiences, from tranquil sunbathing to adventurous explorations. If you love chasing the sun and exploring beaches as much as we do, let the Golden Bay beaches NZ adventure begin! 

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