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Discover The 24 Best Things To Do In Golden Bay New Zealand

Welcome to New Zealand’s Golden Bay. This hidden paradise on the northwestern tip of New Zealand South Island is one of our favourite areas in New Zealand. With its dazzling landscapes and vibrant arts scene, Golden Bay is a haven for nature lovers, creative souls, and tranquillity seekers. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are waterfalls, springs, rock formations, towering sand dunes, national parks, beaches and much more to explore. Please keep reading as we share with you the 24 best things to do in Golden Bay New Zealand.

Rocky outcrop and natural sea arch seen from the Cape Farewell walk in Golden Bay.

What is Golden Bay Known For? 

Golden Bay is a large bay in the Nelson Tasman region. The area is known for its fantastic weather, stunning national parks and spectacular Golden Bay beaches. 

The bay is shielded by Farewell Spit, which is a 26 km long sandspit with fine golden sand. It is the longest sandspit in New Zealand.

Golden Bay is off the beaten path due to its one-way journey (you must return on the same route to get out of the area) on a windy road, deterring many tourists. However, we consider the drive to get there one of the best things to do in Golden Bay.

How to Get to Golden Bay

To reach Golden Bay, you’ll drive from Nelson on a scenic road trip along State Highway 60. 

The journey from Nelson to Golden Bay takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. However, there are many lookouts on the way that offer grand panoramic views. You will likely want to stop, so expect the trip to take longer.

The journey itself is an adventure, with an epic road trip traversing the windy and steep roads of Takaka Hill.

As you wind through picturesque countryside and lush forests, stunning coastal vistas come into view. 

Prominent Landmarks

Golden Bay, NZ, has many prominent landmarks showcasing its natural beauty and cultural heritage. Here are a few highlights and Golden Bay attractions to add to your itinerary.

Farewell Spit

Rocky outcrop and beach at Fossil Point at Cape Farewell.

At the northernmost tip of South Island, New Zealand lies Farewell Spit, a natural wonder stretching around 35 kilometres. 

Explore the captivating landscapes of Cape Farewell, an internationally recognised bird sanctuary and wetland. 

Take a guided tour to learn about the diverse birdlife, witness the stunning coastal formations, and discover the unique ecology that thrives in this protected area. Access to the spit for the public is restricted up to the first 4km. A Farewell Spit Golden Bay tour can take you further along the spit to the historic lighthouse.

Alternatively, take the Farewell Spit and Puponga Farm Park tracks. You can choose the length of your hike by selecting your route. 

We chose to walk through the farmland, which led through the coastal bush and to the beach and Fossil Point, where we saw fossilised shells and worms in the rocks. It was one of the more memorable walks we have taken.

Seals have been seen in the water here. However, we didn’t see any when we were there.

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Vibrant blue water surrounded by lush forest at Pupu Springs- known for the clearest water in New Zealand.

New Zealand Golden Bay is also home to one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural landmarks, Te Waikoropupu Springs. 

Known as “Pupu Springs” to the locals, Te Waikoropupu Springs are considered sacred by local Maori.

These crystal-clear springs are among the clearest in the world, with visibility exceeding 60 meters, and are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand.

The 45-minute Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs walk is one of our top things to do in Golden Bay, NZ. The nature trail surrounding the springs and the turquoise waters that bubble up from deep underground are mesmerising. It’s a place of tranquillity and serenity that will give you many Instagram-worthy photos.

Please note that swimming or touching the water is prohibited due to the sacred nature of the water.

Additionally, immerse yourself in Golden Bay’s history with the Pupu Hydro Walkway. Located just a short distance from the iconic Pupu Springs, this two-hour walk unveils the region’s engineering feats, complete with gold-mining relics and the restored Pupu Hydro Powerhouse, initially built in 1929.

Abel Tasman National Park

The huge trees and lush forests of Abel Tasman National Park

Explore the pristine beauty of Abel Tasman National Park, a coastal paradise renowned for its golden sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and lush native forests. 

Whether you hike along the iconic Abel Tasman Coast Track, kayak along the stunning coastline, or simply relax on the beach, the park offers endless outdoor adventure and tranquillity.

There are many stunning national parks in New Zealand, and if we had to pick a favourite, Abel Tasman National Park would be it.

Kahurangi National Park

For hiking fans, a visit to Kahurangi National Park is a must. 

This expansive wilderness area is a haven for hikers, offering trails leading you through ancient forests, rugged mountains, and stunning panoramic viewpoints. 

Keep an eye out for native bird species and unique flora as you traverse the diverse landscapes of this national park.

Towns and Villages to Visit in Golden Bay

Golden Bay is not only blessed with natural beauty but also home to charming towns and villages that offer unique experiences. Here are some must-visit places in Golden Bay.

Takaka

Street art mural of underwater world include sea life in Takaka

Takaka is the vibrant heart of Golden Bay, bustling with creativity and a laid-back atmosphere. 

Explore the local arts scene and the eclectic shops, galleries, and cafes, where you’ll find locally crafted art, pottery, jewellery and delicious treats. 

Don’t miss the Takaka Saturday Market, a bustling hub of fresh produce, arts, crafts, and live music that captures the essence of the region. You can also sample artisanal cheeses, fresh organic produce, and homemade treats.

Collingwood

View of Made cafe and the quirky main street of Collingwood.

Nestled at the mouth of the scenic Aorere River, Collingwood is a small, historic village with a rich gold-mining heritage. 

The charming small village is a hub of local culture, boasting two museums, galleries, quirky shops & cafes, and a pub with water views.

Immerse yourself in the local history at the Collingwood Museum, which showcases artifacts and stories from the area’s gold rush era and the Aorere Centre, which displays historic photos of the town.

Stroll along the banks of the Aorere River to the river mouth and look for the seals who sometimes laze on the banks. The last time we camped at Collingwood Holiday Park, which is at the river mouth, a large seal rested just a few meters away from our campervan.

Additionally, the magical sunsets from the Aorere River banks are not to be missed!

Read More about all the highlights in Collingwood. Click on the link.

Pohara, Golden Bay

A blue camp chair on a wooden platform overlooking the blue water at Pohara Beach.

Located on the stunning coastline of Golden Bay, Pohara is a popular holiday spot known for its long sandy beach and clear blue waters. It’s ideal for swimming, kayaking, or simply relaxing by the beach. 

Pohara has a campground offering campsites, cabins & motel rooms and several cafes and restaurants.

The Best Things To Do In Golden Bay

Besides visiting the towns and villages mentioned, Golden Bay things to do are diverse; there are activities and attractions to cater to all interests. 

You can enjoy some of the best adventures just by taking an exploratory drive along the coastline and stopping at remote beaches. Here are some recommendations for our favourite things to do in Golden Bay.

See the Best Waterfall in Golden Bay

Wainui Falls waterfall
Nope! Wainui Falls did not disappoint!

One of the best things to do in Golden Bay is take a scenic drive to Wainui Falls in Abel Tasman National Park, where you can hike through lush forest to reach a spectacular waterfall cascading into a picturesque pool.

We consider the spectacular Golden Bay waterfall one of the best waterfalls on the South Island. 

For our review and more detailed information on Wainui Falls, including photos of the walk and what you will see, please read our story –Travellers Love the Short Walk to Wainui Falls in Golden Bay, New Zealand.

Visit a Golden Bay Beach

Pohara Beach with bushclad hills in the background - one of the best things to do in Golden Bay.

You will no doubt want to visit the best beaches in Golden Bay. 

We love making a day of beach hopping, so here is a list of the best beaches Golden Bay is blessed with.

We consider Pohara Beach the best beach in Golden Bay. It has a beachfront Top 10 Holiday Park, shallow tidal appeal, and panoramic views of the sea and surrounding bush landscape.

From Pohara Beach, you can take a 15-minute scenic coastal drive to the golden sand beaches, Tata Beach & Ligar Bay, followed by Wainui Bay Golden Bay, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. This road will also lead you to Wainui Falls.

Totaranui Beach marks the end of the road with its deep golden sands, campground, and boat ramp for those eager to venture further. From here, you can walk along the Abel Tasman Track (in either direction.)

Golden Bay boasts many beautiful and secluded beaches for beach lovers, including Rangihaeata, Patons Rock, Parapara Beach and Collingwood.

For detailed information and photos, read next – Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Golden Bay Beaches.

Have a Wharariki Beach Golden Bay Adventure

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

Venture to Wharariki Beach, a hidden gem showcasing Golden Bay’s raw beauty and one of the do-not-miss things to do in Golden Bay.

This expansive beach is famous for its huge sand dunes, towering limestone arches, rock formations, caves and resident seal colony. (seasonal) 

Walk along the windswept coastline, feel the sand between your toes, and witness the dramatic landscapes that make Wharariki Beach a photographer’s dream.

There are several options for walks in the area, ranging from 10 minutes to 5 hours and from easy to more advanced hikes.

For more information on walks at Wharaki and Farewell Spit, please see the Department of Conversation website for a detailed list.

Please note that Wharariki has strong currents, and swimming is unsafe.

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide Tip

If you’re not a keen walker and prefer short walks, the Cape Farewell walk from the Cape Farewell carpark is the best and most rewarding walk for you.  

The shorter walk starts at the car park at the end of Cape Farewell Road. This 10-minute return walk is through a paddock to sweeping ocean and dramatic cliff views. You can also see an impressive natural arch. 

Go on a Fishing Tour

Fishing trips are offered year-round for small groups starting from Golden Bay. Better still, you can combine it with a sightseeing charter. Blue Cod, Gurnard, Kahawai, Tarakihi Perch, and Snapper are available.

Take a Scenic Flight

Treat yourself to a scenic sightseeing flight to view Farewell Spit, Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks from the air. 

Try Golden Bay Kayaking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding 

If you prefer more active things to do in Golden Bay, take a guided or independent kayaking or stand up paddle boarding tour of Abel Tasman. 

Tours start from Tata Beach and are less crowded than those from the southern end of Abel Tasman National Park.

Visit a Distillery

Tangelo and Boysenberry Liquer tasting in Kiwi Spirit tasting room.

If you are wondering what to do in Golden Bay New Zealand when you prefer bars and drinks, why not visit a tasting room and cellar door? 

Dancing Sands is a Golden Bay distillery crafting premium gin, vodka and rum.

You can pop in for a free tasting and learn about the distillation process. They also have a store selling gifts and merchandise.

Alternatively, Kiwi Spirit Distillery offers tastings of their whiskey, vodka, gin, lime, tangelo liqueurs, and sulphate-free honey mead.

Go Horse Riding at Onekaka

Visit Hack Farm for the ultimate camping holiday. Enjoy a guided horse trek or lessons. Additionally, they have cart rides along the beach.

You don’t have to stay there to book rides and lessons, but if you do, you will enjoy many camp activities such as Pizza Oven, Rope Swing, and their Climbing Wall.

Go Golfing With a View

Takaka Golf Club offers visitors their 9-hole Clifton course. The course is on a sand spit with panoramic views of Golden Bay.

Visit a Cave

For cave lovers, your Golden Bay to do list will be thrilling; Golden Bay boasts two cool caves. 

You can reach the epic Rawhiti Cave by a 2-hour moderately difficult walk. 

Alternatively, you can join a guided tour of Ngarau Cave and marvel at its stunning stalagmites and stalactites.

Do the Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, starting from Golden Bay and ending on the West Coast (or vice versa.) Experience stunning wild landscapes, lush forests and breathtaking ocean views on a 5-day walk with overnight stays in basic huts.

Take One of the Best Golden Bay Walks to Labyrinth Rocks

Labyrinth Rocks Park-Rock Landscapes

Labyrinth Rocks is one of those places you visit that leaves you feeling rejuvenated. The easy walk near Takaka takes you through a natural maze of lush bush and limestone rock formations.

The best thing about this walk is that you can choose how much of the path to walk.

Visit the Grove Scenic Reserve

Rock formations jutting out of the earth at The Grove Scenic Reserve, New Zealand.

Another easy short walk near Takaka, the Grove, Golden Bay is among the most incredible things to do in Golden Bay due to the towering rocky outcrops, lush bush and panoramic views out to sea from the lookout at the end of the track.

It takes only 20 minutes and is a Golden Bay must do activity.

Pop by Historic Langford Store

A 15-minute drive inland from Collingwood, visit this historic general store and post office, which has been trading since 1928.

The store has a gallery with a collection of Kiwi memorabilia and vintage items for sale.

The store serves coffee and scones.

Best Places to Eat In Golden Bay

After a day of exploration, indulge in the local culinary delights that Golden Bay has to offer.

The Mussel Inn Golden Bay

Timber building exterior of the Mussel Inn cafe.

This iconic establishment is a must-visit for craft beer enthusiasts and food lovers alike. 

Enjoy a range of handcrafted beers brewed on-site, accompanied by a menu using locally sourced and organic ingredients featuring fresh seafood, beef and vegetarian options. 

When in season, their specialties are fresh steamed mussels and mussel chowder.

They also produce their own ciders, wines and soft drinks.

Additionally, they often have live music.

Courthouse Cafe

The Courthouse Cafe, a historic light blue building in Collingwood, Golden Bay

This quaint cafe is housed in a historic courthouse (thus the name). They make a great cup of coffee and have seating in an outdoor garden. One of our favourite things to do in Golden Bay is to have a coffee and watch the street scene. Collingwood’s cafes offer this and more.

Anatoki Salmon Fishing & Cafe

Anatoki Salmon fishing farm lake surrounded by lush green bush.

Venture on a unique dining adventure at Anatoki Salmon, where you can catch your own fresh salmon from the pristine waters of their purpose-built ponds. 

After reeling in your catch, have it expertly prepared and served on-site. 

This interactive and delicious experience is perfect for seafood enthusiasts and those seeking a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Is Golden Bay worth a visit?

Golden Bay is a holiday destination that stimulates your senses with its natural wonders, from the lush landscapes, gorgeous beaches and captivating landmarks to the artistic spirit and culinary delights. 

Golden Bay activities provide outdoor adventures, creative inspiration, and serene beach getaways, making this paradise on New Zealand’s South Island a must-visit for those who love getting off the beaten track. Besides the 24 best things to do in Golden Bay, there are many more attractions to explore. Enjoy!

If you’re visiting the Nelson Tasman region, you may be interested in discovering a few of our favourite places. Read Next –

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