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> Golden Bay, the top of the South Island
nztravelguide
post Sep 14 2009, 04:06 PM
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This is without a doubt one of the top areas we enjoy visiting a real hidden paradise. We begin our run to Golden Bay after passing through the small
town of Riwaka a few kms north of Motueka on Route # 60. After a curve in the road around the field of hops it is all go up the "Marble Mountain". Just on your left not too far up the hill are a couple of pull-offs so you can have a look at the stunning valley you just left and looking out across the Riwaka River Valley toward the Kahurangi National Park and the Arthur Mountain Range.

Up and up the road winds to the summit of 791 metres. The odd type of rock should be noted jutting out all over the place. Just prior to the summit are two places
you may wish to stop. There is the road to the Ngarua Cave next to the lookout stop and further on is an off road trip to Canaan country of 11 kilometres to the 183 metre deep Harwood's Hole. This is one of the deepest holes in the world and worth having a look at. We drove our 7 metre bus to it but I don't recommend it to anyone with a large vehicle except perhaps in the off season, very narrow gravel road with very few places to pass.

After the summit you begin the descent on a grand scale. Stop at Harwood's Lookout for a real look at Golden Bay from this height. As you
descend it seems the road goes on forever. You have a bird's eye look at the valley below. Some real twist and turns but the road is in excellent shape and no worries. You reach the valley floor near Upper Takaka and a picturesque land of milk and honey it appears. Gentle rolling farmland. To the left is the Cobb Valley and a 27km drive again not recommended for camper vans. A startling place to visit for the views of Mount Arthur, one of the Lord of the Rings sites and the Cobb reservoir.
This is the most popular access to the Kahurangi Park for walks.

Route 60 continues through the valley to the main centre of Takaka where you can enjoy top cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops. A place where it felt I had moved back in time to the hippy era of the 60’s with all its alternative lifestylers. A peaceful quiet community with the locals happy and offering smiling hello’s. This is artist and craftspeople country and every known art design options are everywhere. A tour of the countryside will attest to the fact this has more art and craft galleries, studios and shops than anywhere in New Zealand. Don't miss the opportunity to stop by the Golden Bay Museum and the attached Gallery. Oh by the way try the Golden Bay Salami and for a good meal and top coffee we recommend the Wholemeal Café. This is also a place to enjoy organic restaurants and food.

Take the Able Tasman Drive east from Takaka to Pohara (got a great coffee shop there that does Totally Roasted coffee), and on to Wainui Bay to enjoy the coastal area. You can go on but the road gets rough. To your right as you drive out this route is the Able Tasman National Park. This is an area of fabulous walks. Check at the Information Centre in Takaka for complete information. On the way to Pohara you may want to experience the Labrynth Rocks a maze-like limestone carved rock area nature has carved from the Karst rock.

The two most appealing attractions in Golden Bay are first, the Pupu Springs, a must visit. The world's clearest water and one of the largest in the world. A pleasant walk through the facility. It is free also. The other is to see the world's longest sandspit at Farewell Spit out from the visitor's Centre at Puponga. This requires a booking for the ride out but well worth it. The drive to Puponga is along Golden Bay. Lots of one way bridges and also several places to pull over and enjoy the Bay itself. The road going up to the Visitor's centre is a shocker for the amount of traffic that it has on it so be careful if you have a large vehicle. No place to give way. On the road out on the left is one fine cafe/restaurant the Mussel Inn we heartily recommend.


The end of the road for Route 60 is the town of Collingwood dead ending at a motor camp. We recommend a stop for a brew at the Collingwood Tavern. Believe it or not
this town was once in the running to become the nation's capital during the gold rush of the 1850's. Wonderful sleepy little town - thank goodness.


The Tasman District encourages freedom camping for self-contained vehicles. There are many wonderful quiet spots to spend the night and day if so desired. There is a very remote spot we enjoy at the outlet of the Anatori River many kilometres from the turnoff of Route Sixty to the south toward Mangarakau. The road is dirt and narrow most of the way but no problems. Definitely not much traffic. It is the home of New Zealand's largest wetlands. An interesting semi-isolated area to explore and enjoy for its wildness.

We will write more later. This area is where the world famous Heaphy
Track begins and also many of the other popular tracks of this country. Check it out.
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