Up until 2021 the furtherest I’d explored on the top of the South Island was Nelson – so I had a whole big chunk of the map that was unexplored. We were given the opportunity to travel on Interislander which meant that we could also take our car – perfect for us as we love to have the freedom to explore off the beaten track.
We booked 2 months out – which it seems is late around these parts as finding accomodation for the 5 of us in peak summer proved to be a little tricky (the tip here is book ahead as these spots go quickly). The only place I could get was at Collingwood Holiday Park and had all 5 of us sharing a cabin with no kitchen or toilet. It’s fair to say that didn’t fill me with joy.
It turns out however, I had nothing to worry about at all, and what I was least looking forward to on my holiday turned out to be my biggest surprise. It’s rural, remote, beautiful and quirky and fully deserves to be on your NZ Must Do List.
Let’s start with Collingwood Holiday Park.
This little gem of a camp ground is truly epic. It is literally right on the waterfront (I’m talking throw a line out from next to your tent waterfront) and the views are sensational.
You’ll find stingray casually gliding by and wharfs and beaches you can fish from. Like all of this area it’s incredibly tidal so it pays to plan your days around the tides to make the most of everything.
Everything is well maintained, super clean, comfy and the cabins all recently made over and look very cute.
The people were awesome too! The kids were shy at first – but with a bit of bribery and incentives we pushed them out of their comfort zone and they made friends. So much so that we had to go and retrieve them from the beach at 10pm. James and I made friends with people from all over the South Island who were also staying there. Even the camp manager came over and joined us.
We shared our salmon, had some laughs and learned quite a lot about the place.
We only stayed a night but you could easily base yourself here and explore more of Golden Bay.
Stepping out of Collingwood Holiday Park you walk right on to the main street of Collingwood.
It reminds me a bit of the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula with an alternative, quirky side clearly evident in some of the shops and people you meet.
The pub was only a couple of hundred meters away and served great pub grub with a brilliant view.
My biggest failing when I book a holiday is that I try to do too much. No leisurely pace for me – I want to see everything! We were talking to our camp mates at Collingwood and they were spending a week in Collingwood and exploring Golden Bay – we had a day and a half and a packed schedule!
Farewell Spit was James must do on the trip. None of us had ever been and he loved the fact that on a map it looked like a giant kiwi beak.
We opted out of the guided tours – mainly because we didn’t have time. But also because of the cost for 5 of us and we weren’t sure that the kids would hold up that long! It’s definitely on our list of things to do when James and I return there by ourselves though.
The other thing we didn’t take into account was the tides. We went at low tide and you could just imagine how much more stunning it would be at high tide.
We’d also reached that day on the holiday where everyone is just a little bit tetchy and everything goes a little awry (we’ve written about this before with our experience in Dunedin where we took out the power to a neighbourhood).
So there was bickering and general shuffling of feet as we headed out on to the spit. There are a number of walks – ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. I think we did all of 15 minutes before everyone started dropping off. Soph and James made it the furtherest and took a picture to immortalise officially getting the furtherest.
Heading back it was definitely time to cool off (both literally and figuratively) and we’d spotted an inlet with deep, clear water to swim in on the way out to Farewell Spit. Quick jump in and spirits were largely restored.
Our tips to get the most out of it…
- Like everywhere around here a day is barely enough – spend a bit more time if you can
- Plan your trip to Farewell Spit around the tides
- Venture off the main road and jump in a waterhole if you can
- Stop and take pictures instead of coming back later – the landscape changes so quickly
- Make friends at the camp ground! And get the kids too as well (you just never know how important these people may be – I met James at a campground when I was 12 years old!)
- Bring a fishing rod
- Explore Collingwood main street