Upper South Island and the West Coast: Places to Explore

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Golden Bay and Takaka

The gorgeous stretch of coastline that begins at Separation Point and runs westward past Takaka is known as Golden Bay, named for the gold discovered there in the 1850s. Alternating sandy and rocky shores curve up to the sands of Farewell Spit, the arcing prong that encloses the bay. Other than a 19th-century lighthouse, the spit is pure raw nature. Fault lines slash the cliffs, and the area is a favorite for all kinds of birds. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman anchored here briefly a few days before Christmas 1642. His visit ended abruptly when four of his crew were killed by the then-resident Māori iwi (tribe), Ngāti Tumata Kokiri. Bitterly disappointed, Tasman named the place Moordenaers, or Murderers' Bay, and sailed away without ever setting foot on New Zealand soil. Golden Bay is a delight—a sunny, 40-km (25-mi) crescent with a relaxed crew of locals who firmly believe they live in paradise.

The lifestyle here has always been considered "alternative"—a hideout for hippies, musicians, and artists. But it's also the center of a rich dairy farming area, and its warm, sheltered climate nurtures crops such as citrus, avocados, and kiwifruit that struggle on the colder, Nelson side of "the hill." Overseas buyers have been snapping up Golden Bay properties to get their own little part-time spot of paradise, but local bylaws are changing to encourage full-time residents back to the bay.

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