The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60km hiking track along the northern shores of New Zealand’s South Island through Abel Tasman National Park. This was our second of the nine Great Walks in NZ (the first being the Kepler), and is one of the highlights of our travels (and of my life in general).
Abel Tasman National Park contains some of the most stunning scenery I Have ever seen: Lush rainforest, untouched beaches, and crystal clear waters. There are so many ways to explore it too – you can hike, kayak, go on a boating trip…
James and I decided to walk the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Here’s how we got on.
One of the reasons I love this walk is because there is so much flexibility about it: you can choose to hike all or part of the track, in either direction, and kayaking or water taxi options are available as well. There are four huts and nineteen campsites along the route, and, whilst they must be booked in advance, you can stay at all or some of them, as you wish. Unlike the Kepler, the Abel Tasman isn’t a loop track, so if you leave your car in one place, you need to arrange transport to get back to it.
James and I started our walk in Marahau, having left our car at the Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi car park. It was sunny – shorts weather! We trekked along the coastline, stopping to look at the bays and beaches as we passed. Already the views of the ocean were beautiful.
We took the side-tracks to every single bay as we didn’t want to miss out on anything at all! The beaches were beautiful: small but untouched, with perfect yellow sand and the water was almost too blue. Eventually we got hungry, so stopped for some food at Stilwell Bay where we sat on the rocks in the shade.
After lunch, we continued on through the bush, again pausing at various lookouts along the route.
We arrived at the first hut, Anchorage, at around 3pm. As the sky had turned a bit overcast, we went down to the beach and lazed about for a couple of hours before dinner. Unfortunately it began to rain in the evening, so we read our books until it got too dark, before turning in for the night.
The next morning the cloud hadn’t cleared – an eerie mist seemed to linger over the coastline. However, I prefer the rainforest after the rain; the waterfalls are bigger, the raindrops linger on the leaves, and the bush just smells so much more fresh and natural.
We reached Cleopatra’s Pool, where a couple of other trampers took a dip in the water. We were already wet from the rain so decided not to!
We had lunch by Torrent Bay campsite, located on the outskirts of the village, which the walking route goes through. Signs advise you to keep to the walking track and the ‘Private Property’ are at the front of every other driveway.
I was very surprised to learn that live in this village which is located in the middle of a National Park! It’s very secluded (apart from the numerous hikers passing by on a daily basis) and, whilst there’s a walking track to the village, the only other entry is by boat.
In the afternoon, we had a slight downpour. Luckily we had brought our waterproofs with us but we were still pretty soaked by the time we reached our second hut at Bark Bay. We made a cup of tea and chatted to some other trampers, before enjoying a pretty bad night’s sleep due to one girl’s constant sleep talking…
The next day was James’ 24th birthday! When we were choosing the dates for the walk, he decided we should do it over his birthday – a pretty unforgettable one don’t you think?! Unfortunately he had boring porridge for breakfast, as normal… But luckily we were blessed with fantastic weather: sunshine all day.
We had left the hut quite early in the morning. The bunk rooms usually sleep around 10 people and you are often woken up when early-risers begin to pack up their backpacks. Even walking slowly, taking lots of photos and stopping at every lookout, we reached the halfway point at Onetahuti Bay by 11:30am, meaning we had quite an early lunch!
The route continued along the beach, through more bush and up a slight incline to offer breathtaking views of Awaroa Inlet.
We arrived at our final hut (Awaroa) at around 2pm and went for a dip in the sea – it was SO cold! But it was our first swim in New Zealand this summer, as well as being the first time James has ever swum in the sea on his birthday, since it’s normally in mid-winter in England. The current was strong as the water was receding back to the ocean with the low tide, so we drifted along pretty easily.
The next morning we had to be up and ready early; the Awaroa Inlet can only be crossed at low tide. We left the hut at 7am and walked the Inlet in our flip flops because the sand was sticky and there were still knee-deep pools of water (which was absolutely freezing!!) After drying off our feet we had breakfast and then continued on the last part of our trek, to Totaranui.
The track continued through the bush, which was still quite dark at this time of the morning. We reached Goat Bay where the track followed the beach – tough on your leg muscles!
We arrived at Totaranui at 10am and had an hour wait before our water taxi arrived so we sat in the sun. The boat stopped off Shag Harbour, an inlet that is only accessible for a few hours while the tide is in, where we saw New Zealand fur seals frolicking in the water. We stopped at Bark Bay, Torrent Bay and Anchorage to drop off other hikers before arriving back in Marahau.
Thinking about it now, I wish we had continued the walk to the very end, and caught a bus or had our car relocated once we had finished. The furthest you can catch a water taxi is at Totaranui, which is why we decided to get picked up there.
The walk itself was fairly easy and unchallenging for James and I, but it’s a fantastic hike for families (we saw lots of parents with young children on the track!) and is open year round.
The Abel Tasman National Park is also one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The beaches and bush are simply stunning; with palm trees, golden sands and crystal clear water, it reminded us a little bit of Goa.
It’s difficult not to compare the track to the Kepler – the first and only other Great Walk we have done so far in New Zealand – but in reality the two walks couldn’t be more different. The Kepler was physically challenging; in contrast the Abel Tasman was a walk in the park. Views on the Kepler were of the mountains, whereas the Abel Tasman track follows the coastline and beaches of the national park. The weather was mostly misty, cloudy and rainy in the Fiordland, whilst in Tasman I caught a tan! I cannot decide which walk I prefer as it seems like they are worlds apart, and I would hike them both again if I could!
I would recommend the Abel Tasman Coast Track to absolutely anyone – it’s definitely a must-do while you’re in New Zealand; even if you only do a half-day walk, you have got to see this place!
Thanks for reading,
All photos and opinions are my own. All information is true and correct based on our experience of the Abel Tasman Coast Track on 11th – 14th December 2015. For more information or to book huts/campsites, visit the DOC website here.