Golden Bay and Takaka

The gorgeous stretch of coastline that begins at Separation Point, in Abel Tasman National Park, and runs westward past Takaka to Farewell Spit is known as Golden Bay, named for the gold discovered there in the 1850s. It's a 40-km (25-mile) crescent of beaches, farms, and orchards. Alternating sandy and rocky shores curve up to the sands of Farewell Spit, the arcing prong that encloses the bay. A 19th-century lighthouse station near its tip, here to warn shipping of the low-lying sandy spit, is the only man-made intrusion. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman anchored briefly in Golden Bay a few days before Christmas 1642. His visit ended abruptly when four of his crew were killed in an altercation with local Māori iwi (tribe), Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri. Tasman named the place Moordenaers Baij, or Murderers' Bay, and sailed away without ever setting foot on New Zealand soil. Today a relaxed crew of locals firmly believe they live in paradise, and a huge annual influx of summertime holidaymakers agree with them. The only road to Golden Bay climbs over the steep Takaka Hill from Motueka. You need to be determined to get here; it’s not a place you pass on the way to somewhere else.

The Golden Bay lifestyle has for some years been considered "alternative"—a hideout for hippies, musicians, and artists. 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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