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10 of the Best Things to Do in Collingwood, Golden Bay

10 of the Best Things to Do in Collingwood, Golden Bay

Collingwood is a tiny town of around 300 residents all the way at the northwest tip of the South Island. If you’re travelling there it’s likely for Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell / Farewell Spit, but there are a few other fun things to do in Collingwood as well as some great places to eat. In this post I’ll start off with things in Collingwood village itself and branch out from there.

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Collingwood Beach

Collingwood Beach is a 5-minute walk from the town centre. A fairly typical rough New Zealand beach full of driftwood, with good views of the coastline towards Cape Farewell. Keep an eye out for the carvings between the road and the beach.

The Town Centre

You can walk the streets of Collingwood’s compact town centre in a few minutes. There are a few places to eat, a pub, a small museum and several other shops, while the inlet provides decent views. We had nice meals at both Collingwood Tavern and the Courthouse Café (more on that at the end of this post).

READ MORE: Check out our post about Tākaka, the other main town in Golden Bay

Relax By the Inlet

One side of Collingwood’s tiny town centre backs onto Rautaniwha Inlet. There are a few seats where you can bring some takeaways or your morning coffee and enjoy some peace and quiet (assuming the bar isn’t pumping). The motel we stayed at (Collingwood Park Motel) is right by the inlet in the heart of town.

Old Cemetery/ Viewpoint

I drove around Collingwood one morning in the hopes of finding a viewpoint overlooking town. I was excited when I stumbled on the old cemetery and viewpoint, but as I got to the top I realised the view was heavily obstructed.

There’s a lot of potential in this spot though so hopefully it gets cleared up sometime soon. The cemetery is kind of interesting if you’re into that kind of thing.

Aorere Goldfields Lookout

You’ll pass by this innocuous looking viewpoint when driving along the main road towards Collingwood. We drove right by it the first time thinking it was just a standard view of paddocks, but the second time the setting sun convinced us to stop. It looks out over the Aorere Goldfields, which according to the sign was the first major goldfield in New Zealand. There’s also a track to a cave nearby.

Museums

Collingwood Museum is on the main street — it’s tiny and free which is always nice. There’s also the Rockville Machinery and Settlers Museum — we had a quick look and it’s probably only suited to people who have an interest in old machinery.

Wharariki Beach

Wharariki Beach is one of the main reasons people make it all the way over to Collingwood — it’s one of New Zealand’s best beaches after all. Sunset is a great time to visit or go earlier in the day and do some hiking in the Pupanga Farm Track.

Cape Farewell / Farewell Spit

A short drive north from Wharariki Beach is Cape Farewell, the very top of the South Island. The main viewpoint is right next to the car park, but if you walk a short distance either side of it you’ll see even better views, including Farewell Spit.

Farewell Spit is a massive sandspit stretching out into the Tasman Sea. You can drive to the first part of it but if you want to explore it properly you’ll need to book a tour. My mum did it a few years ago and raved about it.

Puponga Farm Tracks

As I mentioned in the Cape Farewell section above, there are tracks along the cliffs either side of Cape Farewell. These are part of the Puponga Farm Track, a day walk linking the various sights in the area.

It takes around five hours to do the whole thing, although you’ll need someone to pick you up at one end. We’ve only done short sections but what we’ve seen is very impressive — we’ll get around to doing the whole thing one day!

Drive to Anatori

Head south from Collingwood along a winding gravel road and you’ll eventually reach the Anatori River. Not long after the road ends — it’s a whole lot of wilderness between there and Kohaihai, which is the end of the road from the south.

It’s a scenic, off the beaten path drive through rolling hills, limestone outcrops and grand coastal views. It takes around an hour to get there, and unless you’re keen to camp you’ll have to drive all the way back.

The scenic road to Anatori, New Zealand

Eating in Collingwood

We ate some memorable meals on our last trip to Collingwood, which was surprising for such a small place. First up was the Muscle Inn, a quirky bar / restaurant with a roaring fire and delicious food (we recommend the fish sandwich).

The seafood chowder at Old School Café, Bar and Restaurant (on the road to Wharariki Beach / Cape Farewell) was one of the best we’ve tried in New Zealand, and we had a surprisingly good fried chicken meal at the Collingwood Tavern (while watching the Warriors get a solid win). The Courthouse Café is another solid option.

Other Things to Do in Collingwood

Other things to do in Collingwood include walks on the Heaphy Track, exploring the windswept beaches on the road towards Wharariki Beach and a game of golf (at Onekaka Golf Links). 

Where to Stay in Collingwood

We stayed at Collingwood Park Motel in the heart of Collingwood. It backs onto Ruataniwha Inlet, with outdoor seating right by the water. Note: We paid our own way on this trip.

Check out some other hotels in Collingwood / Golden Bay

Getting There

It takes around two hours to drive from Nelson to Collingwood (80 minutes from Motueka). From Takaka it’s around 20 minutes — there isn’t a lot to see once past Te Waikoropupū Springs, but there’s a viewpoint or two to stop at.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.