The name Golden Bay is applied to the circular indentation in the coast of the South Island between Separation Point and Farewell Spit. The bay was discovered by Tasman in 1642, who, after losing four of his men in a battle with the local Maoris, left it with the name of Murderers' Bay. In 1770 Cook included it as part of Blind Bay, but in his second voyage of 1773 correctly located it as the scene of the 1642 massacre and referred to it as Murderers' Bay. D'Urville in 1827 appears to have changed this to Massacre Bay, by which name it was known until the early days of European settlement. Following the discovery of coal at Takaka in 1842 it was known for a time as Coal Bay. The name Golden Bay became established following the discovery of the Collingwood Goldfields in 1857.
Golden Bay is extremely shallow — less than 20 fathoms — and was probably formed by normal marine erosion of the soft Tertiary sediments which appear to underlie it. On its northern side it is slowly being infilled by drifting sand and mud transported around Farewell Spit by coastal drift from the west coast. The bay was formerly extensively used by coastal shipping from wharves at Waitapu (Takaka), Onekaka, Parapara, Collingwood, Pakawau, and Puponga. Despite the shallow water in the bay, all these ports could be worked comfortably at high tide, due to the 12-ft rise of the tides. At present, however, only Puponga, Collingwood, and a new wharf at Tarakohe Cement Works are the ports used. These are chiefly for the shipment of coal (Puponga), local produce and timber (Collingwood), and cement (Tarakohe). Because of the protection afforded by Farewell Spit, Golden Bay affords safe anchorage to shipping in all but north-easterly weather.
by George William Grindley, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Lower Hutt.