Golden Bay has it all: the beaches, the bush, the brew - a paradise preserved by the daunting bends of Takaka Hill.
But hidden in the region are also a plethora of river holes carved out by nature to provide the perfect splash of summer for visitors.
One of those tranquil spots is the Devil's Boots Waterhole in Aorere Valley near Collingwood. Unusual limestone rock outcrops form the perfect deep water holes for a refreshing dip and their tops provide warm drying spots for between swims - a warm sun soak and then back into the water for some sweet relief.
I visited this sun spot after an intense summer game of backyard cricket (which my team won of course) and before our dinner of smoked fish.
It was late afternoon, too hot for the sandflies, but not so hot that our skin was burning off.
It was incredibly relaxing and refreshing to dive into temperate pools, lounge on the warm rocks, explore the stillness underwater, and float in the passing by current.
Friendly locals came down with their farm dogs for an evening dip.
But be wary of electric fences ready to zap you back into reality on the way down to the water holes.
Another great Golden Bay delight are the waterholes near Paynes Ford. Just opposite Hang Dog climbing campground on the left hand side of the road you'll find climbers crawling over limestone rock formations to set ropes. They throw themselves on to the rope and out across the water, before finally taking the plunge.
It's another spot favoured by locals and their dogs and it's a pleasant swim spot for those coming off the hill into Takaka, those exploring Paynes Ford crags and anyone staying on the eastern side of the bay. But make sure to check the river levles before diving in..
- The Nelson Mail