Golden Bay, at the very top of New Zealand’s South Island, is home to some of the country’s best beaches. Wharariki Beach is considered one of the best places to visit in Golden Bay, due to the photogenic rocks / islands just in front of the beach (or on the beach at low tide). I travelled to Wharariki Beach to see if it deserves its spot on countless “best beaches in New Zealand” articles.
Walking to the Beach
From the car park (a 30-minute drive from Collingwood) it’s a 20-minute walk through farmland to Wharariki Beach. It’s a nice little track, especially as the sun is close to setting. You’ll pass through bright green farmland which wouldn’t look out of place in the Lord of the Rings movies and towards the end you’ll get views of the beach. There’s also a longer track that leads to the beach – if you’ve done it let me know what it’s like!
Wharariki Beach is long and backed by sand dunes. There’s also a cave to check out at the northern end of the beach. We visited at sunset, in winter, and it was pretty warm. It was also busy — not surprising considering how highly rated this beach is.
Sunset at Wharariki Beach
Being on the western side of New Zealand, Wharariki Beach is a great place to watch a sunset. The little islands provide a nice focal point — it’s an idyllic scene (if the weather plays its part). It was busy at sunset (maybe 30 – 40 people) and I’m sure it’s even busier in summer. Luckily the beach is long, and you can easily avoid the crowds (which mostly gather close to the islands).
Cape Farewell, the northern most point on the South Island, is a couple of kilometres before the Wharariki Beach car park. Stop there is you have the time — the clifftop viewpoint looks over a big arch, with the Tasman Sea stretching into the distance.
From Collingwood (the second largest town in Golden Bay) head north along the coast. You’ll reach a couple of junctions so just keep following the signs. It’ll take around minutes and the last part is along a gravel road. If you’re out this way I highly recommend driving to Anatori. It’s a long drive and you’ll have to return the way you came (the road ends shortly after Anatori) but it’s a very scenic road and the landscapes are quite unlike anything else you’ll see in the New Zealand.
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