A jewel in the South Island’s crown

Traverse wilderness and beaches on the Fossil Point Loop Track. 

Golden Bay’s Fossil Point Loop Track is a magical wander through the countryside with its knotted trees; the naked wilderness of the western beaches, and the tranquil expanse of Golden Bay. Together they tell the tale of a truly special land, in all its many shades of glory.

The best place to start this walk is at Triangle Flat carpark, a beautiful 20-minute coastal drive from Collingwood in Golden Bay. While there are no official markers, this is one of the places that middens have been found, revealing the location’s Māori history. 

The walk begins going north, on a rustic track through farmland and on towards Fossil Point. This is a heritage farming area on which gnarled, wind-sculpted kānuka stand guard over lush paddocks, fenced-off native bush and dramatic rock formations. This is an easy amble through a beautiful landscape across this green and limestone rock expanse of yesteryear. You can cross the farm to enjoy a picnic, and explore the caves of Fossil Point before tracking back if you’re not up for the full walk.

After around 30 minutes, you’ll pass the remains of the macrocarpa homestead that was in use when the area was farmed in the 1800s. From here the track narrows, the dramatic tree branches leaning in to form a spectacular natural tunnel shaped over years by West Coast winds. 

Like the curtain being raised at a theatre, the tunnel pops you out of inner Golden Bay into a whole new world: the resplendent West Coast beach. This is the coastline on the outer side of the Farewell Spit, or Onetahua – translated as ‘heaped-up sand’; a word that aptly describes this kiwi beak-shaped iconic landscape.

In 2017, DOC, local iwi, and Golden Bay based online wellness company HealthPost, joined forces to create the Wharariki-Onetahua Restoration. This project focuses on restoring thriving biodiversity to the tip of the South Island – a stretch of land including the Fossil Point Loop Track – that has taken some significant damage over the years. Through revegetation, fencing, monitoring and pest control, the project works to create an accessible ecosanctuary that provides a protected habitat for many threatened species, (including petrels, fluttering shearwater, lizards and endangered plants) as well as giving people an opportunity to engage with the area’s unique conservation values.

To continue the loop walk, head north along the vast open stretch of coastline for around 20 minutes, until you reach the orange markers leading you back to the track.

Transitioning into the third act of this magical walk, your surroundings once again transform as you emerge on the inside of Onetahua and back to Golden Bay. 

The gentle oasis of the inner Farewell Spit and the tidal flats takes you back down the beach, with beautiful views across Golden Bay and towards the eastern beaches and Abel Tasman. Following the beach will bring you back to the Triangle Flat carpark. 

Fossil Point Loop Track, Golden Bay

Walk time: 90-120 minutes loop

Trail notes: The mostly level track starts at the carpark in Triangle Flat, with the walk taking in three very different lands: the calm inner spit, working farmland and the wild West Coast. Easy terrain; suitable for children.

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