The Golden Bay is rich in exotic landscape: wild and rocky shore, paradise like beaches, green hills, dolomite rocks, bush, fields and vineyards. You find it all in the area of Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park. One of the valleys here was a filming location of Fellowship of the ring. Do you remember the scene when Frodo and Sam depart from the Shire? That’s the very one shot here! Takaka Hill was also a background to the scene when Aragorn leads the Hobbits into the Chetwood Forest. I simply couldn’t limit the Golden Bay and describe it in one post! So here is another one that tells you about Farewell Spit: a wonder of nature.
A Natural Wonder
In the early afternoon – after a delicious lunch at the local Penguin Bar in Pohara – I drove to Collingwood. A home made bus was waiting for us here. Seriously! This was a vehicle constructed out of at least 3 old military trucks. Before the tour I met the owner and he told me the story of this amazing adaptation. It’s mainly because the tour crosses large distances covered with very fine sand and other obstacles. The only way to visit the spit is with Farewell Spit Eco Tours. Its schedule is fit into the Tasman Sea tides and restrictions of the area protected by Department of Conservation (DOC).
What is a spit?
Spit is a form of peninsula, created with large piles of sand brought by wind and sea current. Farewell Spit is 32 km long and it is located in the North West corner of South Island. The spit is believed to be caused by the strong prevailing winds and currents bringing sand eroded from the Southern Alps of the South Island and depositing these into Golden Bay. In three words: huge sandy beach.
This is not a frequent formation and the Farewell Spit is not only very large but also extraordinary. The whole area is strictly protected because this is an important bird sanctuary. Every year thousands of birds come here regularly along their migration routes so the protection of this area is crucial. Waders and gannets, black swans, little blue penguins, herons, stilts, oystercatchers and shags feel here like at home. Also huge, fat and very lazy fur seals were just laying at the beach. The tour goes through the outer part of the spit as the inner beach is closed to the tourists and left exclusively to the birds.
The views along the spit are stunning: depending on tide and the time of departure from Collingwood you’ll see sunrise or sunset at the beach. The cliff and green pastures at the Cape Farewell are sharply contrasted with sandy dunes and desert landscape. The wind always blows here, carrying fresh sand and shaping the twelve or thirteen dunes along the spit (numer of dunes depend on the strength of wind and hundred other conditions that our guide was aware of). Some of the dunes are really high – up to 30 meters! We climbed one of them which was marvelous. It reminded me my childhood and time spent with my family at the beach.
As the tour is run by the locals they provide a unique insight into this place. A guy who was our guide remembered historical events related to the Farewell Spit lighthouse but also knew the local context of natural disasters (flood) or the whales stranded. You need to dedicate a considerable time in order to hear the story, like at least half a day. The majority of people participating in this tour were retired and the whole tour makes an impression of slow and careful observation. If you’re used to run through places you visit this might be challenging. My blogger mate Laurence found the area of Golden Bay enjoyable so read his story and the way the approached wildlife here.
The lighthouse is no longer run by a lamplighter but there was time when people with their families were living in this extreme place. Our guide took us to one of the old buildings and prepared tea so we could appreciate this place. I like lighthouses very much but this one was somehow disappointing in terms of its look. The whole trip ended in darkness and just before night covered the bay we witnessed spectacular sunset. Good advice is this: take time and be very patient to benefit from this trip.
If you prefer high adrenaline and speed come back here at Christmas time: next post is about extreme sports I experienced in New Zealand (which after lazy and very holiday like Golden Bay is a change!).
Disclosure: Farewell Spit Eco Tours provided generous discount for me. Thank you!