The largest town in Golden Bay, a beautiful area at the top of the South Island, Takaka is only home to ~1,500 people, though the numbers swell in summer. To reach it involves driving over the extremely winding Takaka Hill, a 950m high natural barrier crossed by one road.
There is a fair amount of street art around the small town.
Hawkes Lookout is worth stopping for, offering views down the Riwaka Valley and out to Motueka in the Tasman region.
The Takaka Hill Walkway is a good way to understand the landscape and enjoy the views from the highest point of the hill. Takaka Hill is covered in sinkholes thanks to the karst plateau on which it sits, made of eroded limestone and marble rock. The walkway is public, managed by the QEII Trust, but sits on private land belonging to the Harwood family.
Heading toward Takaka the striking red hedge surrounding Hamama West Takaka Cemetery caught my eye. It’s an idyllic place.
Just outside Takaka are the Labyrinth Rocks, discovered by English geologist Dave Whittaker. There are apparently all sorts of familiar shapes in the rocks, but they didn’t do much for me to be honest.
Far better was the nearby Grove Scenic Reserve, which had similar rock formations, but in a more atmospheric environment, covered with the roots of northern rātā.
Half way round the short loop walk is an impressive chasm, which ends with a lookout over the surrounding area.
Te Waikoropupū Springs were quite stunning. They’re the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere, discharging 14,000 litres of water per second. The water is some of the clearest in the world, with visibility of 63 metres, almost pure water, with clearer water found only beneath Antarctica’s near-frozen Weddell Sea.
Bizarrely twice a day the springs fluctuate in flow, matching local marine tides, despite the springs being 50m above sea level and not linked to the sea.
To finish with the historic Pupu Hydro Walkway. A historic gold mining water-race, along which a narrow footpath runs, was redirected in 1929 to generate hydropower, the first electricity supply in the region. Volunteers worked for years after generator damage in 1980 to restore it to working condition, and supply to the national grid.