If you are visiting Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, think about going on a eco nature tour. The Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay has an extremely committed environmental focus. Best described as a bird sanctuary and wetland, this area is incredibly special. If you visit Farewell Spit, you will discover an extraordinary ecosystem, so vital for our migratory birds. In fact, the Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is more strictly protected than a national park! About 35 km long, Farewell Spit is only accessible to the public for the first 4km. After that, vehicle access is only permitted for supervised tours who have obtained a special concession.
Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay
It makes sense that the vehicles used for eco tours, are built to last for quite a while. New Zealand eco tours like this one, need to go off-road and be sturdy. They often go to places with challenging terrain. That is why the bus driver/guides are chosen for their competence in being able to drive off-road. On this journey, they need to be familiar with gravel roads, bumpy hills and long stretches of beach. Another advantage to eco tours is that your Tour Guide will most likely be a local. They are warm and friendly and usually very passionate about the environment they live in. See their website for more details.
1. Departs Collingwood for Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour bus departs from the small town of Collingwood. Collingwood is well regarded as an ecotourism destination. This is because of its close proximity to the Kahurangi National Park and of course the Farewell Spit Nature Reserve. The bus departs at 11.00am sharp for a very leisurely six-hour drive. Along the way, you will get to see the most beautiful scenery imaginable. However, there will be a number of stops on the way for photos. The road from the Nelson/Tasman region to Golden Bay has no exit, so you’ll be travelling back the same route.
2. Nature & Walks at Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay
For the next half hour just kick back as the bus meanders past giant Harakeke Flax in full bloom – a sign of a hot summer. Along this stretch of the journey, you will spot beautiful birdlife. On the day we travelled, we spotted two black swans with 6 babies. Have your cameras ready folks! Your first stop will be at Cape Farewell. Everyone will leave the bus to walk about independently for a while. You can either head up the steep part of the hill or down to the viewing platform.
3. Discovering the birdlife
Actually, we could have stayed here for ages to watch the Godwits. These lovely little birds arrive each year from Alaska and Siberia to nest here. You are most certainly guaranteed of coming across Oyster Catchers. These beautiful birds have shiny and sleek black feathers. But the most outstanding feature of Oyster Catchers would have to be their bright red beaks.
3. Fossil Point at Cape Farewell
After re-boarding the tour bus, you will start the longest and main part of the journey. This means that you will be travelling 29 kms along the beach to an old restored lighthouse. However, before that, you you will stop at Fossil Point. Fossil Point is just one of many interesting rock formations you will see on the Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay.
4. Wildlife in Golden Bay – Seals
Most nature tours like this one, involve following certain guidelines – especially as they relate to the wildlife. Yes, you will get to see Fur Seals and you might even come across a Leopard Seal! But remember, do avoid getting between a Fur Seal and the sea! These guys do need a direct escape route to the sea – just in case they need to get away quickly.
5. Lighthouse Reserve at Farewell Spit
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour Company has a concession to go past the 4km mark. This is where the public access ends. Believe me, that’s a good thing. The wildlife and the pristine environment they live in, need to be protected. Also, bear in mind that this area does have the occasional sandstorm. When this happens, it is very easy for we humans to become dehydrated and disoriented. Hence one of the reasons why access is only given to guided tours. After the 4km mark, the bus will journey all the way to the Lighthouse Reserve. The actual lighthouse is the only one in New Zealand with a latticed framework.
You will be given a chance to really stretch your legs and walk around independently. Refreshments are served, after which the journey back will begin. On the day we went, our bus passed a fur seal and her new pup. Of course there was a mad scramble for photos. However, our driver guide wisely took a much wider berth with the bus – leaving mum and pup in peace.
6. Sand Dunes at Mullet Channel
If you have an eye for art, you will really appreciate the texture of the sand dunes at Mullet Channel. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the intertidal plain. But for the kid in all of us, here is your chance to roll yourself right down to the bottom. You must do this – its awesome fun!
At the end of the day, it is so satisfying knowing that your footprints will soon be erased by the wind. No footprints left behind dear traveller. Overall this excursion into the more remoter parts of the South Island will take a bit of effort and time, but it’s so well worth it. There are accommodation options in the Golden Bay, which we need to go into more details with another blog.
Here are some more helpful travel planning blogs for New Zealand:
- Best way to plan a holiday to New Zealand
- When is the best time to travel New Zealand
- Clothing for travelling New Zealand
- Other travel hints for New Zealand
Happy Eco Travelling Farewell Spit and the Golden Bay!