Golden Bay and Nelson

by Johnny

After an amazing day at Fox Glacier we packed up Big Red and headed all the way to the northwest of the South Island, over Takaka Hill to the seldom visited Golden Bay, a place Lonely Planet describes as “laid back to near horizontal.”  Golden Bay’s tiny main town of Takaka is basically a one-lane street full of colorful cafes and craft shops and must be where 95% of New Zealand’s hippies call home.  I haven’t seen this many dreadlocks since my last Phish show.  We based ourselves about ten minutes down the road in Pohara at a little motel right on the beach.  After doing some serious driving over the previous couple of days, it was a perfect spot to chill out for a little bit.  We spent three nights there and easily could have spent a couple more.

Our beachfront motel in Pohara View from our deck…letting Big Red take a breather
Sunset over Farewell Spit
Driving around Pohara
Another night, another great sunset The empty beach at Pohara
“Downtown” Takaka Takaka’s cafes and shops
Takaka had cool murals everywhere

During one of our days in Golden Bay, we visited the wild, almost deserted Wharariki Beach, which required a 30-minute hike through some farmland to get to.  It’s definitely the most remote beach I’ve ever been to.  We navigated some deceptively steep sand dunes and found a perfect spot for a picnic.  Afterwards, we swung by Kaihoka Lakes, where the owner of our motel told us they filmed most of The Hobbit.

Hiking to Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach Just us and some birds
Archway islands off Wharariki Beach
Lunch time
Kaihoka Lakes
Hobbit land

Our main reason for visiting Golden Bay was to spend some time in Abel Tasman National Park, one of New Zealand’s top attractions and another one of the country’s nine Great Walks.  We planned on taking a taxi boat into the middle of the park and maybe doing some sea kayaking, but unfortunately due to a road closure from some recent flooding, we made a detour to the far north end of the park.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we got to explore a less visited, more remote area of Abel Tasman, and also because some really strong winds came in later that day that would have made kayaking impossible.  Anna and I did the four-hour hike from Wainui to Mutton Cove, and we must have only seen three or four other people the entire time.  The scenery was incredible and reminded us a lot of Kauai.  Hard to believe that we were just hiking to a glacier a couple days ago.

Abel Tasman National Park
The hiking path was a little treacherous after some recent flooding
Mutton Cove More Mutton Cove
We felt like castaways Perfect spot for a peanut butter and Manuka honey sandwich
Easy to find some solitude in New Zealand

Our next stop after Golden Bay was Nelson.  Nelson is often used as a jumping off point for the southern parts of Abel Tasman, but having just visited the northern part, Anna and I pretty much spent our time walking around the decent-sized downtown, saying farewell to Big Red, trying some of the areas many microbrews, going to the local market (where yours truly worked this morning), catching up on some laundry and our blog, and getting ready for our next WWOOF stint at Windsong Orchard.  Our favorite spot in Nelson had to be The Free House, an old wooden church that’s been converted into a neighborhood pub and houses some of the region’s more interesting brews.  To top it off, you can get some amazing Indian take-out across the street and eat it in the beer garden.  Yum.

Christ Church Cathedral in Nelson The hills around Nelson
Sampling some New Zealand craft Brew at The Free House Indian food and brew…mmmmm!
The yurt and garden at The Free House Don’t worry Anna, I’m know what I’m doing
Some breakfast crepes at the Nelson market Nelson Market
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