Golden Bay: Adventure playground for all

July 19, 2019

by TeresaGlobalTravels Teresa Lynch

Panorama of Golden Bay from Tata Beach

A little history of Golden Bay

On a frosty winters morning, we set out to drive, via the Lewis Pass, to Golden Bay. Abel Tasman first came across this circularly indented bay area in 1642, and in the 1770s Captain Cook visited this area. Names such as Murderer’s Bay and Massacre Bay—due to the death of sailors in a fight with the local Maori—and Coal Bay lasted between the visits of the various explorers such as Tasman, Cook and D’Urville. However, it was during the gold digging days, around 1857, Golden Bay was given its name. Google map – Golden Bay

On the road towards the Lews Pass

Despite the bay being very shallow, several harbours were established for the transport of coal, cement, local produce and timber. The geology of the region comprising sinkholes on Takaka hill and the underground cave complex below are fascinating. During the creation of this land, 16-23 million years ago, the rocks of this area were formally adjacent to Fiordland in the south. At the time of activation of the ‘Alpine Fault’ on the Southern Alps, which forms the division between the east and west coast of the South Island, many disruptions to the land occurred. Takaka Hill was formed and separates Golden Bay from Tasman Bay. The road over the hill is the only road in and out of the region.

Golden Bay map

The road trip

Passing through the Wiapara wine region we turned inland toward the beech forests at the foothills of the Southern Alps.

Beech forest in the Southern Alps foothills near Lewis Pass


Tussock, bush and mountains towards Cannibal Gorge and the St James Track, Lewis Pass

We continued towards Maruia where we stopped at the 9m waterfall created in 1929 during the Murchison earthquake. A challenge to white water kayakers, many enjoy the thrill of ‘going over Maruia’.

Maruia Falls

The ‘Dangerous Kitchen’ – for great food!

Arriving in the early evening at Takaka, we ate pizza and salad at the ‘Dangerous Kitchen’ to the sound of a young Irishman playing the flute, a ‘hank tank’ and foot drums.

Our delicious pizza and salad at the ‘Dangerous Kitchen’

Young Irish musician

To everyone’s delight, on this night of Golden Bay’s ‘festival of lights’, held to celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year, three ‘muses’ performed a belly dance.

Belly dancers at the ‘Dangerous Kitchen’

Sans Souci Inn – B&B

Sans Souci Inn Street sign

Built between 1992 and 1994, our Mediterranean style eco-accommodation in Pohara at the beautiful ‘Sans Souci’ was superb. The complex uses solar power for sustainable heating and comprises 9,500 mud bricks, that were handmade from clay, straw and water in a commercial yard near Nelson before the 161+ tons worth were transported to the site for the final assembly.

Niki Jimenez art in the lounge at Sans Souci

Lounge and dining room at Sans Souci

The units are spacious and cosy with a central bathroom, and a well equipped central kitchen is available for guest use.

A relaxing corner in our room at Sans Souci

Morning frost and winter vines out of our room window at Sans Souci


The indoor garden in the shared bathrooms

In summer, the restaurant is open to the public. Vera and Reto, who built Sans Souci, keep it in the fine style which was their vision in the early ’90s when they arrived from Switzerland to make New Zealand home.

Frosty morning winter light on Sans Souci


San Souci units

Coffee, cake and Rawhiti Cave

Totally Roasted Cafe, Pohara, Golden Bay

Coffee and cake at ‘Totally Roasted Care’ Pohara, Golden Bay

The next day, following cake and coffee at Pohara’s iconic ‘Totally Roasted Cafe’, we walked about 30 minutes up ‘Dry River’ before steeply ascending for about 40-minutes to reach Rawhiti Cave.

Starting the walk to Rawhiti Cave

Dry River track to Rawhiti Cave and Nikau Palm

Nikau Palms and native bush above Golden Bay from the track to Rawhiti Cave

The wide entrance, which has extensive stalactites, is a hidden gem in this area of geological wonder.

Manfred dwarfed by the stalactites on the walkway to the viewing platform in Rawhiti cave

A viewing platform is provided to keep visitors off the delicate rocks which slope to the cave floor far below.

The viewing platform and information boards in Rawhiti Cave


A photo of visitors to the cave in April 1913 (as seen on the info board)


The entrance to Rawhiti Cave


From inside Rawhiti cave looking towards the entrance up the walkway


With Manfred in the Rawhiti Cave


Light beams (only seen in winter) hitting the back of the Rawhiti cave

Looking deep into Rawhiti Cave

Manfred almost back at the car after the lovely walk to Rawhiti cave

Tata Beach and Pupu Springs

The following morning, sitting alone on the golden sands of Tata beach, we were awed by the absolute calmness of the day, the sea birds flying low above the water and the surrounding beauty. The beach in summer is usually packed with locals and visitors.

From Tata Beach across the yacht harbour, Takaka and towards the southern hills

The Wholemeal cafe, Takaka

Wholemeal cafe Takaka

After lunch at the ‘Wholemeal Cafe’, we drove west out of Takaka, and into the bush following the Takaka River.

The entrance way to Pupu Springs

An information board about ‘life’ in Pupu springs

We arrived at the entrance to Pupu Springs (Te Waikoropupu Springs) and walked the 30-minute track to where the water bubbles up from within deep pools. At a depth of about 7m, you can see through the clear water to the bottom of the pool.

Pupu springs deep water and bubbling cold water


Pupu springs deep clear water

Pupu Springs are the largest cold water springs in the southern hemisphere and the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. Back in Takaka we again enjoyed the ‘Dangerous Kitchen’ for dinner.

The ‘Dangerous Kitchen’ at Takaka, Golden Bay

The following morning we drove to Nelson on our way back to Christchurch.

A ‘Fantail’ near Pupu springs

Farewell Spit

Golden Bay has much to offer nature lovers, the artistically inclined, fishermen, organic foodies, sports enthusiasts and travellers. There is the iconic ‘Mussel Inn’ for good food and entertainment before heading towards Farewell Spit which arches 34km beyond Cape Farewell on the west coast end of the Bay. One of the largest sand spits in the world, it has been recognised as a bird sanctuary since the 1930s. An important wetland area, the ecosystem is carefully maintained to support the migratory birds.

Golden Bay Art on the walls of the Sans Souci units

Art by Niki Jimenez 1992 on the walls within the Sans Souci Units

Hiking in Golden Bay

The two most famous hiking trails are the Abel Tasman and the Heaphy track. The Abel Tasman can be walked or kayaked from Totaranui to Marahau and is popular all year round. The Heaphy track starts inland from Collingwood and is a 4-6 day hike through tussock downs and lush forests with nikau palms towards Karamea on the west coast. Between May and November, it can be traversed on a mountain bike.

Cape Farewell’s lighthouse

In 1869 a wooden lighthouse was built at about the 27km mark. When the harsh conditions deteriorated the lighthouse, a steel structure was built in 1890. It became fully automated in 1984 but the buildings are still maintained for use by the department of conservation, Maritime New Zealand and organised tour groups.

Whanganui Inlet

Wanganui Inlet has been described as a ‘hauntingly secluded area’ and one of the best preserved tidal estuaries which contains a 13km wildlife and marine reserve. Flax mills, saw-mills, coal and gold were the former industries; whilst today, fishing and secluded holidaying make this one of the area’s best-kept secrets.

Beautiful Golden Bay just before Sunset from Pohara

Wharariki Beach

Wharariki beach near Cape Farewell offers a great number of windswept forest and nature walks, horse riding, rock caverns, mountain biking and remote natural surroundings. Given all that is on offer, I suggest if you are visiting New Zealand, you allow plenty of time for your Golden Bay experience.

Sunset from Pohara beach, Golden Bay

TeresaGlobalTravels Teresa Lynch

By TeresaGlobalTravels Teresa Lynch

As a young adult, I wanted to travel and write - I now get to do both. In the interim, I became a registered nurse and gained a Masters in Health Science and bought up a family of 4 children - who live scattered around the world, providing me with destinations and stories. I also practice and teach Accunect, a holistic healing practice based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I practice meditation and enjoy my collective and extended family of Oneness and Buddhist friends. My husband loves to cook and we explore the food of the world, particularly Mediterranean cuisine. This myriad of experiences feeds and inspires my writing. We are always researching and planning the next trip.


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