Motueka to Takaka
Few districts in New Zealand can have such a dramatic entrance.
The climb from Motueka reveals superb views over Tasman Bay to Nelson and beyond, but once the summit of Takaka Hill is crossed, at 791 metres above sea level, Golden Bay suddenly appears with startling beauty. Lord of the rIngs Takaka Hill, along with many other areas in and around Golden Bay, has been the location for scenes filmed for The lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit.
Just before the actual Takaka Hill summit is the unsealed road to Canaan Downs; a 12-kilometre drive and a 40-minute walk leads you to Harwood’s Hole which is 183 metres deep.
The Rameka Track
This popular mountain bike track follows one of the earliest surveyed routes into the Takaka Valley and runs from Canaan to Central Takaka. Views from the open sections are superb. From the Harwood’s Hole carpark go through the gate at the western end and ride for 10–15 minutes to the start of the track (signposted). Allow 2 hours from the carpark to Takaka.
Breaks in your journey may be made at Hawkes lookout and at the top of Takaka Hill to enjoy the breathtaking views of the world below from lookout points and short walks on either side.
The Takaka River
The Takaka River runs north for 70 kilometres joining with Waingaro River just south of Takaka township.
“It’s just a hill – get over it!”
The climb from Motueka has revealed superb views over Tasman Bay to Nelson and beyond, but once the summit of Takaka Hill is crossed, at 791 metres above sea level, Golden Bay suddenly appears with startling beauty. From Harwood Lookout the zig-zagging highway below leads the eye to the green valley of the Takaka River running north towards the distant sea, while beyond the valley rise the dramatic Tasman Mountains, home to the country’s most spectacular alpine meadows. Far below is the village of Upper Takaka, but the road is easier on this side – it’s only 15 minutes down.
In your haste to get to Golden Bay you may have missed one or two sights at the top of the Marble Mountain – don’t worry, you’ll be driving back this way in a few days. The Bay is a hidden paradise with only one road in and out. Just before the actual summit is the unsealed road to Canaan (one of the Lord of the Rings sites). Some 12 kms along this road and after a 40 minute walk from the carpark is the heart-stopping 183 metre deep Harwood’s Hole. Beyond are the walking tracks of the Abel Tasman National Park and, for mountain bike enthusiasts, the exciting Rameka Track down to Takaka.
Breaks in your journey can be made at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views of the world below from lookout points and short walks at either side. You may choose to go down into the mountain itself at the Ngarua Caves. If time, weather and fitness permit, the Takaka Hill Walkway takes you through both fantastic marble landscapes and remnant forest.
The descent from the Marble Mountain ends abruptly at the gentle valley floor. To the left is the turn off up to the Cobb Valley, one of the gateways to the Kahurangi National Park. The main road follows down the valley hugging the base of the Pikikiruna Range. The “Marble Mountain” is a colloquial name as it is the source of New Zealand’s only quality marble rock. Marble extracted from quarries in the area was used in the construction of Parliament Buildings and Nelson Cathedral. Beautiful marble of various colours and textures is now the inspirational material for several well known Golden Bay sculptors.
The next stretch of your journey follows gently down the fertile Takaka valley. Enjoy the views of the mountains to either side. Drivers, remember please to give way when necessary at single lane bridges (we still have a few here in Golden Bay).
The Takaka River lies in the northwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It runs north for 70 kilometres, entering Golden Bay near the town of Takaka.
Takaka Hill, as many other areas in and around the Golden Bay, has also been the location for many scenes filmed for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
The Cobb Valley
The Cobb Valley is one of the few places in New Zealand where the visitor can drive into and along, much of a high mountain valley carved by glaciers. There are attractions for everyone, from the most active tramper to the motorist wanting nothing more than a stimulating drive.
The 27km drive from Upper Takaka winds through the impressive Takaka River gorge, through a red and silver beech forest. On arriving at the small Cobb River Power station (1953), nestled in the valley, the tar seal road ends and the rest of the journey is on an unsealed road. The road is quite passable by ordinary vehicles for most of the year, however watch out for rocks and trees on the road after heavy rain, and ice in winter!
Half way up to the Cobb Ridge, the Mount Arthur Lookout commands a panoramic view of the Upper Takaka watershed, the low shrublands of the asbestos rich mineral belt, and the impressive marble bulk of Mount Arthur (another Lord of the Rings sites).
Emerging onto the Cobb Ridge at 1040m, the view of the Cobb Reservoir and the surrounding mountains is breathtaking; there is a small information kiosk with interpretive information, and a shelter if windy! Many people end their journey here, but the road itself continues down to the dam below, for lots more exploring, and some lovely picnic spots. The area is renowned for its beautiful and interesting plant life; a feature of the valley is the dense patches of Maori onion (bulbinella) which provide a mass of yellow flowers in spring.
The Cobb River flows for twelve kilometres from the lake through a wide, glacier-formed valley set between high mountains. It eventually drains into the artificial Cobb Reservoir, formed 50 years ago when the river was dammed for hydro electricity generation. Below the reservoir, the river rambles for a further eight rather inaccessible kilometres until it joins the Takaka River below the Cobb Powerhouse. This river then winds its way down through the township of Takaka and into the wide expanses of Golden Bay.
The Bay is ideally suited to dairy farming, with some of the highest annual sunshine hours in the country and rainfall between two and three metres a year. Golden Bay dairy farmers produce 530,000 litres of milk per day in the peak season, and it is processed at the Fonterra Takaka plant.
People of the Past – Asbestos Cottage
From 1914 this tiny isolated cottage in the Cobb Valley was home to Henry Chaffey and Annie Fox for nearly 40 years. The couple were largely self-sufficient; Henry would hunt deer and goat, and a well tended garden supplied various fruits and vegetables. Four beds have been set up in the tiny
bedroom and the hut is available as accommodation for trampers. It is a 2 hour walk from the Cobb Valley Road.
Cobb Valley, Mt Arthur Tableland
Within kahurangi National Park lies the Arthur Range and its culminating peak, Mt Arthur. Further to the west is a great uplifted plateau, the Mt Arthur Tableland, and the Cobb Valley. This region is one of the most interesting in the country for trampers and naturalists with its impressive mountain and bush scenery, remarkable botany and geology, and human stories. The Cobb Valley is one of the gateways to Kahurangi National Park.
Kotinga and Anatoki
The flat expansive plains around Kotinga where the Anatoki River flows down to meet the Takaka River show a contrasting landscape of open dairy farm paddocks and carefully trimmed shelter belts of nashi and kiwifruit orchards.
In times gone by gold miners trekked this way; the Anatoki Track still leads from the end of Long Plain Road to the challenging mountains and passes in Kahurangi National Park with peaks like the Drunken Sailors and the Dragon’s Teeth hinting at the wry humour of some of our high-country explorers.
Most visitors nowadays will be heading through Kotinga to Bencarri Farm, home of the famous Anatoki Eels. Bencarri is a heritage farm breeding a wide range of endangered or rare domestic farm animals such as llamas, alpacas, sheep and yaks. Yarn and garments from these animals are available at the farm shop. Bencarri also offers the visitor pleasant riverside walks, picnic and cafe facilities.
Just past Bencarri is the Anatoki Salmon Farm. Patrons can experience the thrill of catching their own fish for cooking at their pleasure later. Smoked and fresh salmon are also available for sale.