Our top 5 Must Do's in Golden Bay and Nelson, New Zealand!

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

1. Sunrise and Sunset at Wharariki Beach

This has been our favourite New Zealand beach to date!! Beautiful big sand dunes, playful seals, glistening golden sand and of course, the Archway Islands. I think what we loved most about the beach was its size. It seemed absolutely endless, and with endless opportunities to explore too. When we visited at sunset, there were probably another 15 people there but it didn’t feel crowded in any way. And in true CJ style, we of course loved it so much we came back for sunrise the next day. And shut all the front doors, there wasn’t a single soul at the beach! We couldn’t believe it.

Sunset Wharariki Beach

The walk to the beach takes about 20 minutes from the car park and is quite lovely – crossing over rolling farmland and taking you down the big dunes onto the sand. Once you reach the beach you want to head left to see the Archway Islands (I only say this in case you might be like us and head right!).

Note – the tides are really big here so if you are looking to get a shot of the Archway Islands reflecting in the sand, you will want a low tide, and preferably one that’s going out.

2. Sunrise and Sunset at Split Apple Rock.

Isn’t it funny how one rock can leave you speechless. Can just grab you. And have your undivided attention.

Sunset at Split Apple Rock New Zealand

The Maori legend we read was that a giant seabird laid an egg here and then two gods – the Sea God and the Land God claimed the egg as their own. A battle then ensued and caused one of the Gods to slice the egg open, and because neither of them wanted only half an egg, it turned to stone. Which makes me wonder, why do we call it split apple rock, rather than split egg rock?

We visited this marvel at both sunrise and sunset, and it’s hard to know what we preferred. At sunrise, the rock is more silhouetted whereas at sunset you can see more detail. At sunset we were also beyond lucky as we got to witness the super moon rising between the two apple slices. (Side note – I can't believe everyone sees Pacman rather than my pearl and oyster theory!).

Full Moon Split Apple Rock Abel Tasman New Zealand

The walk down to the rock/beach will only take you about 10 minutes and there is a portaloo at the bottom. If you’re wanting to swim out to the rock, you should only do this at low tide – but note, you will need to be a relatively confident swimmer as even at low tide, the current can be quite strong.

3. Driving through Whanganui Inlet This was an unexpected gem for us and we loved it so much, we ended up spending the entire day parked up here. The scenery is just incredible and for some unknown reason, it’s incredibly quiet. Over the eight hours we spent here, we only saw about seven cars. You guys probably think I'm crazy - always telling you how many people are at places, but we personally find it useful to know how busy a place can be so - mostly so we don't get shocked!

There are quite a few little pull offs where you can park up for the day and have your own private beach access! Note – the tides change dramatically here, so if you’re wanting to get aerial/drone shots, you will want to do these at high tide! We parked up on the east side of the inlet, along Dry Road.

4. Wainui Falls and mini Wainui Falls

We really enjoyed the walk out to Wainui Falls – weaving its way along the Wainui river, the track takes you over a swing bridge, up a few wooden stairs and through lush native forest. The walk takes about 30-40 minutes one way (1.7km), and it’s pretty incredible coming around that last corner and seeing Wainui falls for the first time and feeling their powerful spray.

But what we enjoyed even more than the walk and Wainui Falls itself was the little waterfall just downstream. It’s funny, if we hadn’t looked up and around (which we often forget to do), we wouldn’t have even spotted this cute little waterfall.