We rented a car in Nelson to drive to the Golden Bay area at the top of the south island. We retraced our Abel Tasman shuttle bus drive and stopped at a European bakery in Motueka for some treats, then drove up and over Takaka Hill (more like a mountain) pass, zigzagging our way across. We did this with a fog rolling in, and fortunately were not able to see what was off the side of the road. We found a good place to stay (Innlet Backpackers) between the towns of Collingwood and Pakawau, and with a few hours of daylight left kept driving north to view the sands and rocks at Wharariki Beach and see the sunset at Cape Farewell point at the very top of the south island.
The next day we drove back up to the same area, this time to do a 45-minute walk up to the Cape Farewell lighthouse, which gave us a beautiful view of the northern coast. We could see the coves we'd hiked to the day before to the west, and to the east we saw Farewell Spit. This protected area is a 35 km. long sand spit that curves off to make the top of Golden Bay, and is home to rare birds in the spring and summer. We then drove back south to Te Waikoropupu Springs (locally known as Pupu Springs), a bubbling set of springs that is said to be some of the clearest water in the world. We also visited the town of Takaka, populated by a combination of rural farmers and alternative folks who moved up in the hippie era. We ate lunch at the excellent Wholemeal Cafe, and picked up some veggies at an organic produce stand just outside of town. We then drove back across the mountain pass (this time with sun and clear views), and headed back to Nelson.