Golden Bay Visit

Visit Golden Bay

Golden Bay has had various names over the centuries: -
Te Taitapu (Maori), Murderer's Bay (Abel Tasman), Blind Bay (Capt. Cook), Massacre Bay (D'Urville), Coal Bay (early European settlers) and finally (so far) Golden Bay (which sounds a lot better and matches the sand rather than the gold which came out of the area).


Over the hill to Takaka.
Off we go from Richmond; through Motueka and over the Takaka hill road, the only land connection between Golden Bay and the rest of The South Island. A long, snakey climb up and a long, steep snakey descent, past the site of The Rat Catcher Hotel into Takaka township.
There are more stories about the origin of the name, Rat Catcher, than there are rats in the area. The hotel came into it's own during the building of The Cobb Hydro Dam. A high mountain tarn was dammed to form a lake at about 3500ft altitude, in order to supply a power station; 2500 ft below in a very deep narrow valley where the sun rises above the horizon for about two hours a day in mid-winter. A delightful place to work if you don't mind frostbite. The dam-builders made good use of the Rat Catcher, about 10km down the road, out in the main Takaka Valley sunshine.
For generations travellers descending into the Valley have looked straight down on the bright "RAT CATCHER" label painted on the hotel roof. Several times in the past centuary, fires have gutted the hotel and,each time, it has been rebuilt bigger and better than before. Each time but the last, about 15(?) years ago, the owner gave up on it and now, like Flanders and Swan's french horn, it's gorn!
Andrew lives a few km. out of Takaka at the foot of the Anatoki ranges in the Nelson National Park. His home is a do-it-yourself "Lockwood" house situated on a ten acre block. Far from the madding crowd, he has built a hydro generator to provide his own electricity and communicates with the outside world via cell-phone.
We stayed at a little "bach" in Pakawau, right on the seafront,between Puponga and Collingwood, close to an old established camping ground, which has now, unfortunately, been sold to a developer to turn into seaside sections. Property prices have rocketed so much that the owners of such camping grounds are being made "offers they can't refuse"!
What used to be the kiwi norm, a cheap, family camping holiday by the sea is gradually getting beyond the means of the locals.
These are some of the beaches around the bay. In the bottom right you see Pohara, the site of a very popular, council-owned camping ground which caters for thousands of visitors each summer; many of them foreign tourists in their "camper vans". We have camped and caravanned there many times in the past.

Beyond Pohara beach is a limestone area, for many years the source of "Golden Bay Cement". The factory closed when several major roading and a number of other construction projects were completed. The port is being transformed into a marina and all the big machinery and silos have gone, but the spectacular rocky landscape remains.



One of our favourite walks starts from the visitor centre at the base of Farewell Spit.
Quite often there are whale strandings on the South side of the spit; usually pilot whales in need of a better pilot. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we have never coincided with one. They always seem to happen the week before we go or the week after we leave! Lots of publicity; TV, radio and papers. A band of regulars turns out, augmented by tourists galore. I'm sure it's one of the highlights for lots of our overseas visitors.
We walk across the DOC (Department of Conservation) farm across to Fossil Point on the northern coast where there are often fur seals on the beach, always oystercatchers parading their wares and occasionally other people to be seen.
Across the farm through the cattle and sheep; follow the red triangles up through the bush; past the remains of an old homestead; down to Fossil Point where the locals greet us at the base of the spit.
An hour or so pottering about and then it's home again.


A few kilometres along the northern coast, heading west from the visitor centre is Wharariki Beach. A 3km walk, over farm land from the end of the road , brings you to isolated Wharariki Beach. Immediately off-shore are steep, rocky islands populated by seals and sea-birds. The beach is in three sections separated by rocky peninsulas; impassable at high tide, but penetrated by caves which give access from beach to beach at low tide.

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