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Golden Bay Itinerary: Day Trips from Nelson + a Longer Stay

Golden Bay Itinerary: Day Trips from Nelson + a Longer Stay

Sitting just close enough to Nelson to be a viable day trip destination, Golden Bay is full of natural wonders, great beaches and some surprisingly good food. In this Golden Bay itinerary I’ll show you some of the things you can see on a day trip as well as tips for spending a few days in the region (hint — stay a night or two if you can!).

Golden Bay Itinerary: Day Trip

It takes around two hours to drive from Nelson to Tākaka, the main town in Golden Bay. There’s heaps to explore near Tākaka, including Rawhiti Cave, Tata Beach, The Grove and Te Waikoropupū Springs. The drive from Nelson takes you through Motueka (stop for donuts) and over Tākaka Hill. There’s a bit to explore up there including Ngarua Caves and Harwoods Hole. Also check out the Riuwaka Resurgence which is just outside of Motueka.

A relaxed Golden Bay day trip would include a stop or two on Tākaka Hill (the Ngarua Caves tour is fun) and then head into Tākaka, maybe grab a bite to eat before checking out Rawhiti Cave, Labyrinth Rocks or The Grove.

READ MORE: 8 of the Best Things to Do in Tākaka

Make sure to visit Te Waikoropupū Springs (some of the clearest water you’ll ever see) and then maybe head to Tata Beach, or drive back from Golden Bay a little earlier and hang out in Kaiteriteri for the rest of the day — it’s not technically in Golden Bay but it’s close and it’s our favourite beach town in New Zealand — definitely worth a look if you haven’t been there.

READ MORE: Top 12 Beaches in the South Island

Tata Beach, golden Bay, New Zealand

A more rushed day trip could involve driving over to the western side of Golden Bay and seeing Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell. You could also drive from Tākaka to Abel Tasman National Park (Totaranui) — I’ll talk more about that in the section below.

Two Days in Golden Bay

A more relaxed Golden Bay itinerary would see you spending a night in Tākaka or Collingwood, the other proper town in Golden Bay. That’d give you plenty of time to see the highlights. You could also spend a night camping in Abel Tasman National Park — you can drive to Totaranui and sleep in tents or in your vehicle.

READ MORE: 10 of the Best Things to Do in Collingwood

A two-day Golden Bay itinerary could look something like this: Drive from Nelson, see some of the sights near Tākaka before driving to Collingwood and visiting Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell. Wharariki Beach is a popular sunset spot if you’re into that kind of thing. Grab a meal in Collingwood (try the Muscle Inn) and either stay in either Collingwood or Tākaka.

Wharariki Beach sunset, Golden Bay, New Zealand


The next day see anything you missed the previous day. You could also visit Abel Tasman National Park or consider the scenic drive to Anatori. You could do most of that on a long day trip as well (I’d skip Anatori and Abel Tasman though). Go straight to Cape Farewell and Wharariki Beach and then pick the sights you want to see on the way back.

The scenic road to Anatori, New Zealand

Three Days in Golden Bay

If you stay two nights in Golden Bay it’d make sense to spend one night in Tākaka and one night in Collingwood. Also consider a night at Totaranui — we loved camping there and the walks to nearby beaches are stunning (easy walks to Goat Bay and Anapai Bay).

Hiking to Goat Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

It depends on how busy you want to be, but spending two nights in Golden Bay will give you a chance to see most of the best bits. You could also consider doing the Puponga Farm day walk — it links Wharariki Beach, Cape Farewell and several other points of interest. We did short sections either side of Cape Farewell and the views were awesome.

The drive to Anatori is well off the beaten path, taking you to a part of the South Island’s West Coast not many people get to see. There’s more to explore on Tākaka Hill too for people with more time.

READ MORE: 15 of the Best Things to Do in Golden Bay

Longer Stays

These Golden Bay itineraries are quite short, but if you’ve got time on your hands it’d be a good place to relax for a few days. Tākaka and Collingwood are interesting small towns to hang out in (with plenty of good food and places to stay) and you’re never far away from beautiful scenery.

Spend a few days by the beach (Tata Beach or Totaranui), shop in the quirky stores of Tākaka or do some of the many walks in the region. You could also spend more time in Kaiteriteri or Motueka, places you’ll pass through (or nearby) on the way to Golden Bay. Whether you have one day or several, hopefully our Golden Bay itinerary will make planning your trip a little easier!

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.