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Golden days

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December 2018 Issue

A weekend exploring Golden Bay is a journey of discovery and adventure

It’s the hill that does it. The massive barrier of limestone and marble of Takaka Hill, between Motueka and Golden Bay, acts as a filter, dissuading many travellers from entering the secluded haven of the bay despite the fact that SH60 cuts across the hilltop with relative ease.

Yet from the hill’s summit, after all those hairpins, where the first snapshot of the bay is revealed, there is a tangible sense that this truly is a special slice of New Zealand. Sandwiched between the forested hinterland of Kahurangi National Park to the west and tiny but world-renowned Abel Tasman National Park to the east, Golden Bay curls out into the Tasman Sea, its unique northern boundary formed by the ‘kiwi-beak’ barrier of Farewell Spit.

Coming here for a weekend of exploration is a journey of discovery, history and adventure. From wild windswept ocean beaches and more sheltered coves, luxuriant rainforest, high rambling mountain tops that reach into the remote confines of Kahurangi National Park, bubbling springs and mighty rivers, Golden Bay offers a wealth of outings.

For a series of day trips, some of the best places to stay, as a base, would be either Pohara, Tukurua, or Pakawau motor camps. Distances are not huge here and who knows, maybe you will find some other tantalising attractions en-route.

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Families can enjoy the Pupu Walkway. Photo: Pat Barrett
Pupu Springs and Pupu Walkway

These walks near Takaka are distinctly different and both can be visited in the course of a day.

The freshwater springs are remarkable and New Zealand’s largest. Ranked 90th in volume on a world scale, easy paths allow exploration and excellent views of the creeks which flow swiftly from the outflows which measure between seven and 21 cubic metres a second. The sapphire blue depths of the main spring can be seen from a viewing deck above it. Note, DOC closely monitors the streams and prohibits all swimming.

Pupu Walkway, a little farther up Pupu Valley Road, is a walk through a historic site, though special care is required on the narrow airy gantry suspended in the forest above the streambed.

The raceway and fluming were constructed in 1901 to provide water pressure for sluicing work on the goldfields. It is now operated by the Golden Bay Hydro Society and is regarded as an engineering masterpiece. The slender, twisting catwalk that guards the edge of the raceway is a delight to walk along, especially if young children are with you. If you look closely, you might also spot koura (native crayfish) in the raceway waters. A round trip can be made back through the forested terraces below.

Together these two walks will fill half a day.

Track to the gold workings on the Kaituna Track. Photo: Pat Barrett
Kaituna Track

This Track is one of the most popular walks in Golden Bay.

It is flat for the first 2km as it winds through magnificent rainforest and past some truly huge trees, particularly southern rata.

Approximately halfway to Kaituna Forks, a short side trail leads to the river and site of the Kaituna Goldfield which was worked until the late 1800s. You are still able to see the remains of the gold-sluicing operation, water races, tailing piles and a small cave. The track follows the original packhorse track.

There are some fine swimming holes here and Kaituna Forks make an ideal picnic spot. The track beyond has closed after severe storms earlier this year, but a community group is working to reopen it in the near future.

Allow a half or full day to explore Kaituna Track.

Massive sea caves viewed from Cape Farewell. Photo: Pat Barrett
Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell

Wharariki Beach, located west of Farewell Spit, is a stunner. Raw energy, huge sand dunes, massive sea stacks, sea caves and seals compliment this hidden cove. Sunset on a clear evening here is surreal.

Nearby Cape Farewell, the South Island’s most northerly point, should not be missed. It’s a short drive off the road to Wharariki Beach, and even shorter walk to the outstanding viewing platform perched on the cliff edge above a jaw-dropping cliff and coastal cavern. Feel the power of those rollers.

It will take at least half a day to explore these two.

Coastal archway en-route to Taupo Point. Photo: Pat Barrett
Taupo Point pa

For an easy short walk to an historic Maori pa site and grand views of Golden Bay, Taupo Point is a rewarding coastal wander. It goes along the northern tip of Abel Tasman

National Park and is best done at low to mid-tide. The trip takes in the pa site which is reached through dense bush, offering some appreciation of what the marauding warriors of Te Rauparaha would have encountered when they sacked this headland pa in 1828.

It’s possible to explore the coast beyond Taupo Point, but dead low tide and good agility will be required if you plan to go far. Otherwise, if the sea conditions are favourable, you could take a cooling dip back at the sandy beach where the track first reaches the coast.

This walk takes 2-3hr.