Golden Bay is the north western part of Tasman Bay which lies under the protective arm of Farewell Spit at the very top end of South Island. The drive up there from Nelson takes about one and a half to two hours. It crosses Takaka Hill which is to all intents and purposes “going beyond the Pale”, leaving behind the civilised world and entering hippiedom.
Until twenty years ago Golden Bay was populated only by farmers and hippies with the occasional tourist from Nelson or Christchurch straying up there. As you cross the hills it does feel like you are entering a hidden kingdom, even in winter there is a magical quality to it. It was raining on the day we drove across. There was snow high on the hill tops but it was only visible when the clouds lifted. As we came down into the Takaka Valley a shaft of sunlight pierced through the clouds and lit up the meandering river like a silver ribbon.
These days many people have a bach (holiday home) in Golden Bay so there is a steady stream of visitors and tourists flood in during the summer months. We found a lovely studio on the beach just outside Takaka where we stayed the night, the place was called Adrift just in case you’re in the area! It was only a couple of kilometres up the road from the Mussel Inn, a local institution. We happened to be there on the night a Congolese musician was playing so we chowed down on a bowl of mussel chowder and listened to African rhythms by a roaring log fire – sublime!
The next day we drove up to Cape Farewell and walked across to Wharariki Beach on the west coast. We were very lucky as the skies cleared and the sun came out for the hour or so it took us to walk there and back. The beach was wildly remote with sand dunes, low cliffs and islands with sea stacks and arches. The strong wind was blowing loose sand across the surface of the beach and into our eyes, ears and noses! In the river behind the dunes we spotted seals playing. They were very curious and came over to check us out. Once they were used to us they rolled and tumbled in the river and generally showed off all their tricks, one even leaped out of the water like a dolphin.
As we drove back over the hills to Nelson the sun was fighting a loosing battle against the rain clouds. It did however produce a superb rainbow which was so close I swear I could see the pot of gold at the end of it.
Suzy and Neil