New Zealand South Island: Exploring the Abel Tasman
January 1, 1970
by Carolin Brueck
ABOUT ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Let me introduce you to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, one of the Great Walks in New Zealand. The National Park was established in 1942 and is located on the top of the South Island. It’s popular for the Abel Tasman Coast Track which takes about 3 – 5 days stretching over 51 km going from Marahau up to Wainui. Known for its beautiful golden sandy beaches, fascinating rock formations, bright blue waters and rainforest walks it’s one of the top tourist attractions in New Zealand. The national park attracts more than 30.000 overnight campers each year. Unbelievable but true, with about 22.500 hectares it’s New Zealand’s smallest National Park. Along the coast, you will find the 3 largest islands of the Abel Tasman: Tonga Island, Adele Island and Fisherman Islands. You can only get access by boat or kayak. Because they are quite remote they are home to some native plants and animals. There are no walkways, toilets, etc. on the islands and you can discover your surroundings only by waterway or stop at the beaches.
You can do several walking tracks in the National Park. If you decide to go on multiple day hikes you have a few options. You can either sleep in a hut, there are 4 of them located in Anchorage Bay, Bark Bay, Awaroa and Whariwharangi, or you decide to go camping on one of the 19 camp sites. Either way, you need to purchase a hut/camp pass previously and book your accommodation for the night (hut $32pppn/camp $14pppn). The huts are having bunk beds and toilets, but no lighting or cooking facilities, so you still need to take a camping cooker and food.
If you would like to have a unique experience I can highly recommend you the Aquapackers, it’s a floating backpackers, located in Anchorage Bay. The owners of the houseboat are very welcoming and if you’re brave enough you’re allowed to jump from the roof of the boat in the freezing cold, but refreshing water. With $75 a night it’s a little bit pricey, but it’s an unforgettable experience. The owners take great care of you and make you feel like home, you can mingle with other travelers and the best, you get a beautiful, but simple dinner and breakfast buffet. From Anchorage Bay, you can either walk south back to Marahau again (3-4 hours) or walk north to Bark Bay (~ 4 hours). The walking tracks are beautiful, a lot of ups and downs through the rainforest with some spectacular views. Here and there little tracks are leading down towards gorgeous sheltered beaches and lookout points. Arrived at Bark Bay you can walk to Onetahuti about 2/3 hours further up the coast. Between these two places, there are 2 walkways. One high tide track and one low tide track. It depends on the tides which track you can take, but the low tide track saves you about an hour of walking. You can just walk straight through the sand for a while, where usually the water is and then it takes roughly another 2 hours to Onetahuti. From Anchorage Bay, Bark Bay and Onetahuti you can take water taxis back to Marahau. Depending on the day and the wind it’s a really fun ride with a few little potholes. Nothing for people with motion sickness, unfortunately, that is the only way back unless you want to walk all the way.
Before you go on this hike you should prepare and take some things with you. A water bottle (you have to boil the water in the National Park, except it’s signed as filtered water), camera, sunscreen, hat, insect repellent, swimmers, towel, walking shoes, thongs, jumper, wind jacket, shorts and long pants.
If you’re doing multiple day walks you need to book your camping or hut accommodation all year around in advance and you can do that either online or at your local visitor center. For camping, you should additionally take a tent, a sleeping mat, a sleeping bag, a head torch, some warm clothes for the night, camping cooker including gas bottles, food and all the other cooking utensils you need for a nice meal. Please notice, that’s just a guideline for you what I personally would take. Of course, it all depends on your personal needs and the weather.
ADVENTURE: Kayaking and hiking
There are heaps of adventure tours you can do here, though you can do the whole thing also on your own if you would like to save some money. Very popular is the kayaking around the National Park. I’ve chosen a kayaking and hiking tour for the duration of 2 days. With about 6 different kayaking companies it’s truly hard to choose which tour to take, so I just decided to take the one where I get to see most and offers the best price. You also have the option to just freedom rent a kayak for the day. Most of the kayaking tours start at Marahau and go up to Watering Cove. I was lucky enough to have a short stopover at Adele Island, which is known for its native birds, seals, and deep black sand. For people that never kayaked before I can tell you it’s heaps of fun and of course you get wet. If you’re on a tour they will do a safety briefing with you in the beginning and there are usually 1-2 guides that make sure you’re safe at all times. From Watering Cove you are walking for about 25 minutes to Anchorage Bay to find a beautiful golden sand beach, perfect for swimming. My tour finished in Onetahuti, but of course, the National Park goes up much further. I would definitely recommend everyone to do this whether you are paying to do a tour or you are doing it on your own. It is such a great experience and the scenery and views are worth it. It was my second time visiting Abel Tasman and I still can’t get enough.