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Golden Bay For The Weekend

Rebekah Joy
Rebekah Joy

Golden Bay, one of New Zealand's hidden gems, pity bout that bloody long Takaka Hill (apparently New Zealand's longest) that you have to traverse over to get to it. We went last weekend and they were doing road works upon it. Are there always road works in New Zealand on the weekend or is it just my imagination?

Anyway once you get over the marble mountain, Golden Bay sprawls out ahead of you full of fun things to do. Since we were short of time and slightly car sick we headed straight to our accommodation in Onekaka. Shambhala is one of those backpackers that is so much more than just a budget bed. Located opposite the Muscle Inn, but down a 1.7km drive, this seemed like the ideal place to lay. Its got a garden tea house, its own beach, sculptured gardens, a yoga studio ($5 evening classes), kayaks, log fire and uses rain water for showers and dishes....all this for $26 per person for a 4 share, they also have two share available or if your on more of a budget ask about WOOF (willing workers on organic farms).

As time was running short and the drive from Nelson was long, we headed straight to Wharariki Beach. The twenty minute walk across farmland was nice, but the baby seal cubs playing in the rock pools was even better. A crowd had gathered and these four pups were putting on a show. It was fantastic. The twenty minute walk back to the car was long.

After Wharariki we went to Farewell Spit, New Zealand's longest sandspit system. This is the place where thousands of whales have beached themselves in years gone by. We didn’t see any whales but we did see hundreds of wild black swans in the water. We went for a walk on the mudflats below the cafe. Turns out 12 000 black swans make a bit of a mess, if you've never seen swan feces before then be prepared.

Dinner was at the legendary Muscle Inn. This is the place where everybody knows your name (if your from Golden Bay), The bonfire was burning, live music was playing and the food was great. $11 for homemade pie and salad, the beers are brewed on site and check out the composting toilets. Go early to get a park, or rideshare with somebody else, everybody ends up there so its not difficult. Upon our return to Shambhala, we stopped for a peek at the backpackers very own glow worm grotto.

Sunday, another beautiful Golden Bay day. I wish I could say we woke early and used the beautiful tea house and did some yoga. But I cant. A possum had invaded the roof above us in the night and nobody slept. We left Shambhala and headed to Pupu springs, the worlds clearest water. This place is magnificent and the ten minute walk through native bush and stream is equally nice.

We took a detour at the town of Takaka and went to Tata beach. Golden sand, few people and an icy cold ocean. Tata is one of Golden Bays best. A few minutes down the road at the Golden Bay wharf (Tarakohe) is one of Jack Cousteau’s original boats. The old 19-metre fishing boat was built at Marseilles, in France, in 1957. We pulled in for a look and discovered its now somebody’s home as well as a make shift coffee bar. Good cappuccinos.

Next on the agenda was Anatoki Salmon Farm. Anatoki is free to enter and you only pay for what you catch. Thousands of salmon swarm as you throw out cat pellets (or whatever they are) and cast your rod. It doesnt take long to catch one, but it does take a while to have it gutted and cleaned. We watched enviously as a family munched on a picnic as they waited. By the time we got our salmon, Takaka was closed, we had to wait until we got to Motueka to eat.

Golden Bay is a great place to chill out, two days is not long enough.

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