„The Marble Mountain“
Few districts in New Zealand can have such a dramatic entrance. 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.
Breaks in your journey at the top of the hill can be made to check out arts and crafts or go down into the mountain itself at the Ngarua Caves. Just before the actual summit is the unsealed road to Canaan (made famous over the last few years as the site of the New Year’s dance festival “Gathering” – now moved down the hill to Upper Takaka). 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 (see later) and, for mountain bike enthusiasts, the exciting Rameka Track down to Takaka. At the top of the hill are lookouts and walkways including the newly opened Takaka Hill Walkway through remnant forest and fantastic marble landscapes.
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. Works are on display nearby in a roadside garden studio at Uruwhenua.
Travellers can continue now down the main road to Takaka, although garden enthusiasts may prefer to take the back road through East Takaka and take time out to wander through private gardens open to the public.