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Pohara is one of the most popular holiday spots in Golden Bay.
Just a ten-minute drive from the wholesome hub of Takaka, this settlement swells in the summer to accommodate thousands of visitors, many of whom settle in for a week or two of seaside fun while others pass through on their way to Totaranui and Abel Tasman National Park.
Sitting at the far eastern end of the arc of Golden Bay, Pohara is getting pretty close to the end of the line, but offers so much it feels like the centre of everything.
It’s a truly beautiful place. A small township – ranging from board-and-batten baches through to flash new homes – lies on the foothills of the Pikikiruna Range which rise dramatically behind.
At one end, the Motupipi River flows out to the sea, while fertile pasture carpets the surrounds.
The star of the show is the vast beach, four kilometres of pristine sand with acres of shallows.
It’s an absolute cracker, fantastic for swimming and ideal for small children. At low tide we counted 350 paces between the high and low tide lines – that’s an enormous sandy playground for batdown, frisbee, fishing and kite-flying.
Even in the height of summer there’s plenty of room for everyone, and that’s not even counting the watery haven offshore, awash with kayakers, fisher folk and fizzboats.
Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park sits in the prime spot, its ten-acre grounds lying just beyond low dunes.
Half a kilometre long, and one hundred metres wide, this grassy strip is about as close to the beach as you can get and still hammer a tent peg.
As far as New Zealand’s holiday parks go, Pohara is at the larger end of the scale. At full capacity you’ll be shacked up with as many as 800 fellow campers, but when we visited in mid January, it never felt too busy or crowded.
Campsites are generous in size and never more than two deep. There are few large campervans and lengthy caravans, with many drivers disinclined to tackle Takaka Hill.
So this is a camp where canvas rules, where a swathe of colourful tents creates a pleasant, intimate environment where you’re highly likely to commune with your neighbour, share a bottle of wine or even trade some of the day’s catch.
As expected from a Top 10, Pohara delivers plenty of tip-top amenities, evenly spread throughout the park.
Keeping toilet blocks and kitchens clean in a campground full of sandy feet is no mean feat, and we applaud both the staff and the buildings’ architects – this is a particularly practical and hardwearing camp.
There’s no queuing for showers, kitchen sinks or stoves, and everything is spotless including the large fridges and freezers.
There’s a playground, too, and a TV/internet lounge that’ll keep most teenagers happy on rare rainy days.
At the far eastern end of the camp you’ll find most of the touring campervans and a range of roof-over-your-head accommodation.
Our pick are those that sit amongst the trees atop the dunes, commanding views out to sea.
One in particular is a candidate for ‘best cabin in NZ’, but if we told you which one we’d have to answer to the lovely lady from Blenheim whose family has been coming here for years… she didn’t want the secret let out!
Next to the camp office is the local shop, which does an admirable job of satisfying both local and visitors.
Besides a respectable range of groceries and produce, it has masses of ready-made meals, pies, lollies, ice cream, takeaways (with scallops in season), and the daily news. Also within the Pohara village are a café, bar and restaurant.
The story goes that ‘Pohara’ means ‘poor’, so-named by Maori – but no-one in their right mind’s going to fall for that.
Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park