Drive from Golden Bay to Abel Tasman

Douglas Paul
Sep 4, 2021

Abel Tasman Drive extends from Takaka to the northeast coast of Golden Bay. It then follows the coast to Abel Tasman National Park, ending at Takapou Bay, which has an access point to the Abel Tasman Great Walk.

While this drive is relatively short, allow a few hours to take in the scenic views and great stopping points. These include golden sand beaches, a spectacular viewpoint at the Abel Tasman Monument, a lovely forest track to the Wainui Falls, and the curious Limestone Bay.

Limestone Bay

After leaving Pohara on Abel Tasman Drive, the road follows the edge of the coast. Limestone Bay appears quickly and is notable for the marina’s protective walls and the limestone cliff formation around the northeast end of the marina. As you leave Limestone Bay, the road passes through a short, roughly hewn tunnel in the cliff face.

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Abel Tasman Monument

Immediately past Limestone Bay is the Abel Tasman Monument. The monument sits on a high promontory on the edge of the bay, and there is a short, steep loop track that runs up to the main viewpoint. The views are really superb and it’s easy to access, with a large parking area beside the entrance.

The Abel Tasman Monument commemorates the European discovery of New Zealand by Dutch sailor Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642, over 130 years before the arrival of James Cook. It’s also an oddity in New Zealand, being a tall, sharp-edged, modernist obelisk, designed by Austrian refugee architect Ernst Plischke.

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Ligar Bay

Immediately after the Abel Tasman Monument is Ligar Bay, the first of the golden sand beaches at the northeast end of Golden Bay. The bay has a modest local community and a scattering of holiday homes, but the beach is the main attraction. Look out for the estuary, which is a striking gold colour when exposed at low tide.

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Tata Beach

Another short drive takes you from Ligar Bay to Tata Beach. This is a very pretty golden sand beach, with an outlook towards the far side of the Burnett Range on the far side of Golden Bay.

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Wainui Bay

From Tata Beach, Abel Tasman Drive winds up Abel Tasman Point and then down into Wainui Bay. Behind this bay is the wide Wainui Inlet, which largely empties of water at low tide, exposing more golden sand.

At the end of Abel Tasman Drive, you can turn right into Abel Tasman National Park via the very windy Totaranui Road. Alternatively, turn left onto McShane Road to access the northwest end of the track at Takapou Bay.

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Wainui Falls

As you drive around Wainui Inlet on Abel Tasman Drive, look out for the signposted access road for Wainui Falls. Park in the car park at the end of the access road; from there it’s only about a 30 to 40 minute walk to the Wainui Falls in Abel Tasman National Park, mostly in native forest alongside the Wainui River.

There is plenty to keep you interested. The walk includes a narrow section high above the river with a safety rail and near sheer drop, followed by a swing bridge, then a beautiful stroll alongside rapids to the falls.

The perfect way to end a few hours on Abel Tasman Drive!

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Want more Golden Bay trip ideas?

Check out our recent post on Takaka Hill!

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