Many visitors to the Nelson region don’t make it over Takaka Hill up to Golden Bay, the northern tip of the South Island, but it is well worth a visit!! (Particularly if you are looking to go somewhere a little off the beaten track, and away from the mainstream of tourists at a busy time of year). State Highway 60 winds over and around the Takaka Hill, and there are some great photo stops along the way, with stunning views back over the plains towards Nelson.
I also made a lovely stop at the Te Waikoropupu Springs (known as the pupu springs by the locals!), which is about an hour and a half north of Motueka. There is a beautiful bushwalk to the largest spring in New Zealand, with some of the clearest water in the world. The waters are sacred to the Maori, and it is forbidden to swim or otherwise touch the water, but it is nonetheless a very peaceful place to stop and stretch your legs.
It is a short drive from Te Waikoropupu to Collingwood, where I checked in to my room at Zatori. Zatori stands on a hilltop overlooking the Collingwood Estuary and village, halfway between Takaka township and the Farewell Spit. The beautiful setting of this retreat is totally private, with stunning views over the gorgeous Aorere River mouth out to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park and the ocean beyond. There are paddle boards, kayaks and bikes available if you want to further explore the area without having to get back in your car. As my room wasn’t quite ready (I had arrived an hour earlier than expected!) Tracey brought me a pot of tea and I sat out on the deck admiring the view, and wishing I could just sit there for the rest of the day. My room was beautiful, with large sliding windows which I could open on to a deck, with views out over the gardens and the sea beyond. A lovely retreat.
I had a delicious lunch at the Courthouse Cafe in Collingwood, before heading out to explore Cape Farewell, and Farewell Spit.
Farewell Spit, at the northern tip of the South Island is New Zealand’s longest sand spit (35km) and a nature reserve. It is an internationally-renowned bird sanctuary with over 90 bird species recorded in the area. Every spring, thousands of wading birds arrive from the northern hemisphere. Other birds range from black swans and gannets to bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. Penguins also breed in the area.
Wharariki Beach is stunning. The crashing waves, huge cliffs, and sanddunes will blow you away. The caves, islands and arches of Wharariki Beach, where seals breed, are among the most dramatic in the country. There is a local horse trekking company with special concessions from the Department of Conservation to ride horses along Wharariki Beach – a unique way to explore this stunning part of New Zealand.
There are also lots of great walks you can do in this area, of various difficulty grades, across lush farmland, and with spectacular views of the rugged coastline. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes! You can walk from Wharariki Beach to Cape Farewell (which is about a 3 hour walk). Part of this path crosses the beach, and you will need to make sure it is low tide when you set out, otherwise this part of the walk will be under water. After crossing a small creek and walking through farmland, and along cliffs with amazing views, you will eventually come to Cape Farewell.
Cape Farewell is the most northerly point on the South Island and is located just west of Farewell Spit. First mapped by Abel Tasman, it was named by British explorer James Cook in 1770 – it was the last land seen by his crew as they departed on the ship’s homeward voyage. Due to its remote location, it is one of the less visited of New Zealand’s major capes. From here, the clifftop walk (3 hours one-way along the heights of the coast east of the Cape) joins the area with the beginning of Farewell Spit.
I had a magnificent 3 course dinner at Zatori that evening, and the lovely atmosphere in the stylish lounge area (complete with open fire) was the perfect setting for a delightful evening with delicious food and friendly locals. Tracey also recommended the perfect wines from the area to accompany the meal. A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend in Golden Bay.