Takaka is famous for two things: first, the 791 meters (2595 foot) hill that visitors have to cross over, to reach the town, and second, the alternative lifestyles preferred by its vibrant community. Located at the southeastern end of the Golden Bay, Takaka offers a reprieve from the frenetic lifestyles we city-dwellers are accustomed to.
The area behind Takaka Hill hides a laid-back atmosphere that has allowed hippie culture to thrive, well past the 60s. Moreover, as the gateway to Golden’s Bay’s natural wonders, attractions like Abel Tasman National Park and Waikoropupu Springs are all easily accessed from the town. Here, we list 10 reasons why it is worth spending a few days to enjoy the best of Takaka.
1. Fish for lunch with Anatoki Salmon
For a novel fishing experience, Anatoki Salmon allows visitors to try their hands at catching freshwater salmon from the Anatoki River. The family-run business is set up within a verdant valley of native bush, a short 7 km (4.3 miles) from the main town. Not only is entry to the idyllic fishing spot-free, Anatoki Salmon also provides all the gear, at no cost. Visitors simply pay the weight of their catch, upon which fish will be prepared – seasoned, smoked, and served – for your immediate consumption. Yes, it might be easier to buy salmon from the supermarket, but can fish be any fresher than the one you catch straight from the river?
2. Be mesmerized by Te Waikoropupū Springs
Te Waikoropupū (Pupu) Springs means “Place of the Dancing Sands”, so named for water so clear you can see the whirling white sand at its bottom. Located 6 km (3.7 miles) west of Takaka, it is the largest freshwater spring in New Zealand, and until 2011, held the laureate of the clearest water, second only to subglacial water in the Antarctic.
To the local Māori, Pupu Springs is enchanting for a different, spiritual reason. The Māori believe the springs to be the home of Huriawa, a taniwha (water guardian) who dives deep beneath the earth to open up waterways. Registered as Wahi Tapu (a holy site), with the Māori Heritage Council, all forms of contact with the water are forbidden. Visitors are, however, more than welcome to sit on the benches around and experience for themselves, the allure of Te Waikoropupū.
3. Explore the formidable Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave is an expansive limestone cave along Dry Creek Valley, 7 km (4.3 miles) southeast of Takaka. The walk to the cave entrance takes 2 hours, of which 20-30 minutes involves a steep hike up a narrow gully. Although it demands a moderate level of fitness, the “fangs” of Rawhiti Cave are a marvellous sight to behold, even for non-geology buffs. Stalactites on the ceiling stretch up and out because of phytokarst, a phenomenon where plants, algae, or moss grow towards the light that seeps into the cave entrance.
Venture deeper into the cave if you dare. Where the sunlight fails to penetrate, you might not even be able to see your outstretched hand.
4. Walk and kayak along Abel Tasman Coast
Takaka is many traveller’s preferred point to start exploring Abel Tasman Coast, a historical coastline that traces the border of the ecologically-rich Abel Tasman park. Fur seals, penguins, and dolphins can frequently be seen frolicking at different points, along the area. Although the beautiful coast paints a calm picture today, it was, in fact, the site of many fierce skirmishes, centuries ago. Abel Tasman himself was engaged in a bloody battle with the local Maori when he first landed on Aotearoa, in 1642. The clash ended in the tragic demise of four of his crew.
Many travellers explore the sandy beaches of Abel Tasman Coast with a 3-5 day trek, on foot. Those craving for an all-around adventure, however, should opt for the multi-day walk and kayak combination, offered by Golden Bay Kayaks. Paddle to the rhythm of the waves first, then, trade your boats for boots to continue on the golden sand of the coast. This romp in the wild is sure to make one heck of a memory.
5. Soar on a scenic flight over Golden Bay
An unconventional way to survey the spectacular topography of Golden Bay is on a scenic flight with Adventure Flights. Soar over Abel Tasman, Farewell Spit, Kahurangi, or the west coast, depending on the path you choose. Marvel at where the lush expanse of green forest separates from the vibrant turquoise water, along a golden, crescent-shaped coastline. The flights are piloted by Mit, a veteran flyer with the friendliness Kiwis are famous for. With his unbeatable skill, you can relax and enjoy the view, through the large windows of his Cessna 185.
6. Indulge in a sightseeing cruise
A more luxurious way to sail the sapphire waters of Golden Bay is with a sightseeing cruise, operated by Wildcat Motel and Fishing Charters. Go for a dip in the glittering ocean, or lounge on deck to soak up the sun. The cruise gives visitors a different, but no less stunning view of the Abel Tasman forest, wildlife, and coastline. You can choose to depart on different tours, depending on your schedule. Fuel up with the light brunch provided on deck, if all the excitement has you feeling peckish!
7. Escape reality at Grove Scenic Reserve
For a less demanding, but equally striking walk, Grove Scenic Reserve is a good alternative. The walk is a comfortable 20-minute trek, through bushes of Nikau palms, up to a viewing platform that overlooks a grassy plain. Mossy limestone blocks flank the way, sculpted by nature into the distinct forms you see today. Tendrils of the Northern Rata tree roots extend a gnarly grasp over these silent soldiers, adding to the ethereality of the path. The tranquil reserve is interrupted only by the occasional call of native birds, including the distinctively coloured kereru (native wood pigeon). Grove Scenic Reserve is just a 10-minute drive from Takaka.
8. Rejuvenate at Anahata Yoga Retreat
If an hour of yoga daily helps you to relax from the grind of work, imagine the wonders a full day retreat can do for your mind and body. Anahata Yoga Retreat is situated at Bird’s Clearing, a serene spot 30 minutes’ drive away from Takaka, with an unfettered view of Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park. Participants immerse fully in an authentic yogic experience, at Anahata. You can choose to partake in a range of exercises and activities that suit your body, mind, and lifestyle, and taste nutritious organic meals, prepared ashram-style.
Beyond a vacation, Anahata inspires you to incorporate the practice and discipline into your daily routine, so that you leave the place with more than just a rejuvenated self.
9. Befriend horses at Hack Farm
To end your getaway in Takaka, spend a night at Hack Farm, an unusual horse farm and backpacker inn, eight minutes from the main town of Takaka. The farm has a myriad of opportunities for you to interact with the tame horses. Gallop along the coast of Patons Rock Beach on horseback or have a splash with the playful creature in the sea or rivers, around. You can even realise your equestrian dreams with a course on horse vaulting, run by the passionate owners of the farm themselves.
When you are spent from the full day of fun, cuddle up in one of the farm’s horse-themed rooms, and let the warmth from the cosy fireplace lull you into a well-deserved rest.