Golden Bay is a shallow, paraboloid shaped bay at the northwest end of New Zealand's South Island. An arm of the Tasman Sea, the bay lies northwest of Tasman Bay and Cook Strait. It is protected in the north by Farewell Spit, a 26 km long arm of fine golden sand which is the country's longest sandspit. The Aorere and Takaka Rivers flow into the bay from the south.
It is known for being a popular tourist destination, because of its good weather and relaxed, friendly lifestyle.
The west and northern regions of the bay are largely unpopulated. Along its southern coast are the towns of Takaka and Collingwood, and also the Abel Tasman National Park. Separation Point, the natural boundary between Golden and Tasman Bays is situated within the park.
In December 2011, it (as well as much of the Nelson/Tasman region) was hit by heavy rain and flooding, which affected many homes around the Pohara/Ligar Bay/Tata Beach/Wainui area. The road to Totaranui, a popular isolated tourist destination was badly damaged and was reopened on 29 June 2012. The floods meant a loss of custom for many shops and businesses in the peak tourist season. By June 2012, the entirety of Golden Bay was open and operating as normal.
Its beaches are popular locations for retirees and holiday-homes.
Maori lived along the shores of Golden Bay from at least 1450 which is the earliest dated archaeological evidence (from carbon dating) yet found. In 2010 an extensive scientific study was made of Golden Bay by a team from Otago University lead by I Barber. They accurately plotted and investigated a large number of early Maori sites ranging from pa to kainga to probable kumara gardens that stretch along the coastal arc from the base of Farewell Spit at Triangle Flat, 60km eastwards to a Pa site 10km east of Separation Point. The iwi,who had only recently occupied this area in 1642, were the Ngati Tumatakokiri from the North Island. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman anchored 7km out from in this bay in 1642, and in a bloody encounter, Ngati Tumatakokiri rammed the Dutch ship's boat with a waka and killed 4 Dutch seamen - for which Tasman named it Moordenaar's Bay (Murderers Bay). Ian Barber postulated that the iwi may have been insecure in their control of the bay and its resources because of their own relatively recent arrival. Little is known of the history of Ngati Tumatakokiri people as they were extinguished by another, Maori invasion during the Musket Wars about 1823.
Tasman saw at least 22 waka. He recorded that the 11 waka who chased his ship most had 17 men on board. This gives a total of about 200 men. A likely population is about 500 people. Tasman had already been in the bay for 5 days when attacked giving the Maori time to assemble an attack force. Archaeological evidence has not shown any large settlements so it is likely that the iwi normally lived in whanua based groups scattered along the coast but mainly in the eastern bay at Ligar Beach, Tata Beach and Wainui Bay where there are 20 known archaeological sites in a 10km zone.
In 1770, during his first voyage, English explorer James Cook included the bay as part of Blind Bay, but upon his second voyage to the bay in 1773 realised that it was in fact the location of Murderers Bay. The French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville appears to have changed the name to Massacre Bay.
European settlement commenced in October 1842 with the Lovell family settling at Motupipi near the then existing Maori pa site. Prior to the Lovell's settling, in March of that year a Mr Tuckett had discovered coal on the beach near the Motupipi pa. There was a report from May 1841, which also stated there was coal in the area. In the 1840s, following the discoveries, the local population unsuccessfully sought to have it renamed Coal Bay. Then, in the late 1850s, with the discovery of gold in at Aorere, its name was changed to the current name of Golden Bay.
- Musket Wars R .Crosby p 21.
- Current Anthropology. Vol 53, No 6. Dec 2012. Garden of Rongo. I Barber. University of Otago.
- Discovery of coal and freestone, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume I, Issue 4, 2 April 1842, Page 15
- Commercial prospects of New Zealand, New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, Volume II, Issue 59, 29 May 1841, Page 3
- Auckland Extracts, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume VI, Issue 287, 4 September 1847, Page 105
- McLintock, A. H.; George William Grindley (1966). "Golden Bay". Te Ara. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Advertisements, Colonist, Volume II, Issue 172, 14 June 1859, Page 2