New Zealand's smallest national park certainly packs a punch. Unlike so many of the great ragged mountains that dot the country, Abel Tasman curves along the north coast of the South Island, peppered with golden sand beaches and steep cliffs that fall away to crystal-blue water.
There are many options for exploring the park—by water taxi and boat, kayak, walking, or a combination of all three. Normally taking 4 to 5 days to hike the whole coastal track, you can split up the journey at many of the campsites, cabins, or even boat hostels along the way.
One of the most interesting features of Abel Tasman is the high and low tide extremes, which affect the paths you take on the hike. Sometimes at low tide you might be able to cross a long beach while at high tide you have to go the long way around, making exploring this national park much more exciting.
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when it feels like there is no place else
We were adventuring around the South Island of New Zealand...oooing and ahhing the entire way. During our hike in Abel Tasman we came upon this perfect spot....waterfall flowing, lush vegetation...a bit back off the road...we sat on the higher dry rocks sharing lunch....It felt like we were meant to be there. In that moment there was no place else.
Sea kayaking along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. Adele Island is home to dozens of New Zealand fur seals, or known in Maori as "kekeno", meaning "the look-arounds". They will jump into the water and tease you with their swift movement through the water as you oafishly paddle in your kayak. Laugh with gregarious and lovable creatures, and get a great arm workout while you're at it.
Only accessible at low tide this wave smoothed piece of shoreline lies on the rim of Tasman Bay in Abel Tasman Nat'l Park. The park is New Zealand's smallest of the National Parks. The Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of NZ's 'Great Walks,' takes about 4.5 hours from Bark Bay to Awaroa Hut to complete. We opted half the trek and were dropped off and picked up by a local water taxi company. Lined with lush flora and fauna, and an occasional trickling stream, the trails are well maintained and it's not an overly difficult hike. From them you can view quiet sand lined coves tucked away that shimmer with clear turquois green waters.
My husband and I were determined to add another Great Walk notch to our belt on our second visit to New Zealand. We chose the coastal route through Abel Tasman National Park. Before you embark, visit the Department of Conservation — they are incredibly helpful and will practically map your route, if that's what you want. With the much-obliged advice of the DOC worker, we took the water taxi from Marahau to Totaranui. On Day 1 we hiked from Totaranui to Whariwharangi and stayed in the hut for the night. The next day we hiked back to Totaranui then on to the Awaroa Hut (we had to backtrack to do the entire walk via huts, but you can also camp if you want to pack a tent). From Awaroa we did a short hike and stayed at Barks Bay. On our last day we hiked a daunting 13.5 miles (six hours) back to Marahau. Normally you could just hike to Anchorage Hut, but it was closed while we were there so we had to make the last big push. If you can, stay in Anchorage and skip either Awaroa or Barks Bay. But, be sure to make it to Whariwharangi, which was my favorite park of the trek.
Important things to remember: You need to book your hut in advance to ensure you have a place to rest your head at night.
Also, be aware of tidal crossings and make note of the best time to cross (low tide). In addition, know that you might still find yourself knee-deep at low tide so be prepared to get wet.
Abel Tasman National Park, located at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, is renowned for its golden beaches, dramatic granite cliffs, and hiking trails, yet few people have ever been there. One reason for this is the fact that the most dramatic beaches in the park are only accessible by boat, so it takes a bit of determination to get there. The journey is well rewarded, however, for those who make the effort. Once there, you can rent a kayak and get up close and personal with the resident sea lions who call this area their home.