The Takaka Hill Walkway
If you’re travelling from Nelson to Golden Bay on State highway 60, you’ll drive over the Takaka Hill. This local landmark reaches almost 800m elevation and the drive over to Takaka is a slow, long, winding one. To break up the journey the Takaka Hill Walkway is a nice way to stretch your legs. In addition you get some awesome views of the Tasman and Golden Bay coastline and the mountains of Kahurangi National Park, The walkway is right on top of Takaka hill, about an hour’s drive out of Nelson. It is well signposted and has a big car park, but there are no toilet facilities.
Just by the car park, there is a little information board with details of the walkway. Walk up the track as far up as you want, or try the 3Km loop or the longer 5Km loop. I walked the 5Km loop, which took me 1.5 hours, and climbs around 150m from the car park. The trail takes you over four-wheel drive track, knobbly, rocky outcrops, scrub and through the forest, so come prepared with decent footwear, water, sunscreen and a jacket.
Takaka Hill Loop (5Kms)
I walked the longer loop anti-clockwise as I wanted to get to summit and see the views before the clouds came over. The walkway starts with a short, steep climb up a four-wheel drive track before arriving at the trail itself. It is on private land and is protected by QEII Open Space Covenants owing to it’s special geology, so you’ll notice different signage than on the tracks on public conservation land which is managed by DoC.
The track departed from the road and headed up to the right. I got a feel for it pretty quickly – this wasn’t going to be a race with all the lumpy rocks underfoot. The track gently undulated through the rocky landscape and revealed a great view of the hilltop ahead.
After about half a Km I rejoined the four-wheel drive track again, and followed it up and around the hill. From here the trail headed off down to the right, but I continued up to the radio masts (950m).
At the summit
The views from the top were great! I was lucky that the cloud hadn’t quite closed in around me, and I could clearly see down to the Takaka river valley, and all the way across the hilltops.
The landscape is known in geological terms as ‘Karst’. The limestone and marble rock has been weathered and dissolved over time into caves and sinkhole formations. You can understand how it gets the name ‘Marble Mountain’.
I retraced my steps from the summit and continued down the trail to my left. From here the trail went through a rocky section before opening out again and offering views down the Takaka valley into the Kahurangi National Park.
My Favourite tree!
Over the next few Kms the trail took me through a variety of scrubland, grasslands and forest. It was all very lovely. But I digress for a moment to discuss my favourite New Zealand tree, which was prolific in one small stretch of the trail – hence the segway.
My favourite New Zealand tree is the Lancewood. For years, I have wondered what the weird little helicopter / pointy-leaf tree is that I pass in the forest. I always wondered why it existed. It offered no shelter, no leaves worth eating, it didn’t cast any shade and looked a bit pointless to be honest. Oh, and you never saw a big one.
Well here comes the science bit. A friend of mine pointed out to me that this silly little tree actually grows out of it’s flimsy, pointy child stage, and into a real tree which is completely different from the little one! Upon Googling it, I discovered that this child-tree / adult-tree is a thing… (called ‘heteroblasty’ apparently) with a couple of different theories as to why. The first theory is that it’s a pointy-leaved defence mechanism, so nothing will eat the tree while it’s young. The second is that it undergoes a re-development owing to the climate/environment as it grows up through the canopy. They can grow to 15m tall.
In any case its a very cool thing, and DoC have a marvellous description of it.
Sinkholes and caves
The last part of the trail was through some nice open grasslands, then into the forest again. You wouldn’t want to stray off trail here as there are plenty of sink holes/caves around.
Before long I was back at the four-wheel drive track at the beginning of the track again. This time I headed right and it was a quick downhill all the way to the van.
I really enjoyed the hike. As it’s nearly 1000m up, chances are you might get clouds obscuring the view – but it’s definitely worth a try. Even if you didn’t do either of the loops, the short walk to the radio masts for the great views are worthwhile.