Over the Marble Mountain to Shangri-la :Golden Bay

A gem of a place to be discovered on the drive from Nelson past Able Tasman and over the Marble Mountain. It is an almost unknown adventure spot to most.

Over the Mountain to Golden Bay

Ron Laughlin - On the Road

Our trip begins leaving Nelson and heading west for the ninety kilometre drive to the town of Takaka in Golden Bay. Turning on Route 60 at the crossroads with Route 6 in Richmond the drive takes us through the Tasman wine region where 23 boutique wineries produce some of New Zealand’s top wines. We took a quick detour this time to the left at the Richmond crossroads to Hart Road and visited the newly opened Fossil Ridge Winery cellar door. Had to purchase a nice bottle of chardonnay to have with dinner when we arrived in Golden Bay.

Returning to Route 60 the road takes you through the Waimea River Valley. On the right is McShane Road where a visit to the Grape Escape Gallery is a must. Another interesting place just down the road is the Hoglund Glass Works where their world famous glass designs are created. Next stop is the Mapua Harbour a spot you can enjoy a good meal and a coffee at the Smokehouse Cafe located right on the water plus poke around the galleries.

Back on the road again and we are heading toward Motueka. Three places to stay overnight along here for camper vanners, one, the DOC camp at Ruby Bay (no animals), right on the beach and the other, one of our favourites, Kina Beach Reserve, where for three dollars a night per person you can enjoy a very peaceful setting. Turn off onto the Kina Beach Road then to Cliff Road. It’s about 2 kms. The community of Motueka also provides a good spot for overnight stopping for self-contained vehicles at their Beach Reserve. Turn right a the traffic circle as you enter Motueka and you will end up at the Reserve. It is an honesty box pay of $5 per vehicle. Water and toilets available.

Leaving Motueka and after Riwaka, heading toward Golden Bay, you will pass by several fields of hops growing. Just beyond them the road to Kaiteriteri turns right. If you got the time you can drive through this area up to Marahau and circle back to Route 60. If you are interested in kayaking the Able Tasman Park region this is where you go. It is an interesting drive well worth the time spent. The Able Tasman, New Zealand’s smallest National Park, lies between Marahau on this side of Golden Bay and the Pohara area on the other side of the mountains with no roads between.
Check at the Information Centre in Marahau for the complete run down on what’s available.

Now it is time to cross the Takaka Hill over to Golden Bay. Make sure you have checked your vehicle’s water levels. This is a steep and twisting road all the way up to the crest of 791 metres and the same on the other side going down. Needless to say the drive is spectacular with vistas overlooking the mountains of the Kahurangi National Park, Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. Stop at the parking area provided at the entrance to the Ngarua Caves to get a bird’s eye view of Tasman Bay and a close look at the eerie style of marble and limestone outcroppings here on “Marble Mountain”.

Just a short drive past here on the right is the entrance to Harwood’s Hole where serious speleologists explore the 183 metre open hole. Worth a visit but be warned the eleven kilometre dirt road is twisting and narrow for vans and buses. We gave it a go several years ago and haven’t had the nerve to do it since.

To us the drive down the other side of the mountain and stopping at the Harwood Lookout over the valley and Golden Bay is one of our favourite stops in the country. It feels as if you have left the rest of the world and dropped into a Shangri-la. I note the vast majority of Kiwi’s I meet have never been to Golden Bay.

At the base of the hill is Upper Takaka and the road to Cobb Reservoir. We have been told that it would not be wise to take our bus on the road to the Reservoir so we haven’t. From here it is 22 kilometres to Takaka, the heart of Golden Bay. A small community lining one street with lots of alternative shops, cafes and galleries and friendly people.

Golden Bay is reknowned for its craftspeople. It would take days if not weeks to see them all. The town has a very laid back style reminiscent of the 60’s with a lot of European visitors who begin their trek of the world famous Heaphy Track on this end. It is a four to six day tramp across the Kahurangi National Park to end up north of Karamea on the West Coast.

A major attraction to visit is where the purest water in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world exists, Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs. Great place to meander through the bush on raised wooden tracks crossing the waters flowing from the spring.

A place where we have enjoyed staying the past two Christmas holidays is the Pohara Beach Holiday Park. Five hectares on a wide expanse of Golden Bay beach front. One of the last remaining beach front parks filled with Kiwi families enjoying their holidays.

Two kilometres past the camp you will find the Pohara Boating Club (POP).
On the cliff tops and up the valley you will discover the remains of the old cement plant and beyond you pass through a hole in the cliff to gain access to Wainui Bay. Stop at the signposted car park and take the 300 metre walk up the cliff to have a look at the Able Tasman Memorial plus get a beautiful picturesque outlook of the bay for the trouble.

Returning to Takaka let’s head on to Collingwood once touted during the busy gold rush days as becoming the capital of New Zealand. Today it is a quiet little town of around 300 residents. Route 60 ends here at the Collingwood Motor Camp where we have enjoyed a few stays. The Courthouse Cafe is the place to stop for a decent cup of coffee. This is also where you can hire a ride out onto Farewell Spit.

From Collingwood it is 22 kilometres to the Puponga Farm Park where you can get a great view from the cafe overlooking Golden Bay and Farewell Spit. Several walks available one of which is to the lighthouse and a gannet colony. If you don’t plan to hire a ride out to Farewell Spit this will be the closest you can get by vehicle.

Two very interesting side trips while in this area is the road south out along the Whanganui Inlet. After Collingwood turn left at Seaford. The road becomes metal a short way in but easily travelled. We have gone in as far as at the head of the Paturau River where there is a great place to park overnight. You will pass through Mangarakau on the way where they can boast a small but fabulous cafe during season. Ths drive is a great adventure very few people ever take the time to enjoy.

Another place to explore is the road out of Collinwood toward Aorere. This is the area where the Heaphy Track begins and where the location of the Aorere Gold Field is and where you can park under the Devil’s Boots. There is a very fascinating restaurant and gallery along the way to visit called the Naked Possum just down a sign posted country side road.

The trip to Golden Bay is unique from the marble strewn mountain entrance, the beautiful bays and shorelines, Farewell Spit, the towns along the way, plus the many interesting galleries and craft shops scattered throughout the region. To us it represents a peaceful place far removed from everyday life and one not to miss.

More information on the New Zealand Travel Guide website - www.newzealandtravelguide.net