Explore the Sandy Beaches of Abel Tasman.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day at Abel Tasman.
- 2One of the Best Hike in New Zealand.
- 3Explore Sandy Beaches by Kayak.
- 4Meet the Fur Seals!
- 5Beach Campfire under the Stars.
- 6What Is the Best Hike to Choose ?
A Day at Abel Tasman.
The navigator Abel Tasman discovers the South Island of New Zealand during his trip of 1642. The first visit of the Westerners is short and the confrontation with Maori who defend the shore cost the lives of four sailors!
Despite this incident, the bay and the whole northwest region of the island will be named after the famous Dutch adventurer.
The park Abel Tasman was founded in 1942 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the country.
With its 225 km², it's the smallest national park in New Zealand. The beech forest that covers the granite hills extends to the edge of the sea. For thousands of years, erosion has carved the coast and spawned the islands and lagoons. It is an earthly paradise inhabited by dolphins and sea lions.
With 180,000 visitors a year, Abel Tasman National Park is the most popular tourist destination of New Zealand.
One can say that the park has the best climate in the country,, orange sandy beaches and a transparent turquoise sea.
Hiking and sailing are the only ways to explore the coast.
The park has no inner road. This may seem like an inconvenience, but this is the price to pay to preserve nature.
Fortunately, there are many solutions to explore the park and find accommodations nearby, and it's up to you!
Holidays in the Abel Tasman Park can be fully customized. A kind of freedom somewhat confusing at first. To give you all the keys to a successful stay, I will share with you all advices and itineraries I discovered during my trips to the land of the kiwis.
One of the Best Hike in New Zealand.
Among the many walks in the country, Abel Tasman Coast Track is indeed among the most spectacular. The 55 km tour along the coast can be completed in about 3 to 5 days and transports you to a universe of wild beauty.
The trail you can follow through ferns is accessible to everyone. The rivers are spanned by bridges, sometimes suspended, but without the slightest danger. Constantly marked, the path's altitude never rises above 150 m and the risk of being lost is nonexistent.
Between two stages of the journey, the half-moon bays allow to rest in the sun. The orange color of the sand, unique in the country, comes from the granite iron oxide minerals. The only weak point is the water temperature which remains a bit cool even in summer.
Swimming or not, opportunities to marvel abound. For example, a tree grows on top of an isolated rock of Tinline Bay Beach.
At Tokongawa Point, the famous “Split Apple Rock” looks like a sliced apple. Elsewhere, some blocks of granite carved by the wind look like a kiwi bird or an ostrich.
Note: If you like these kinds of curiosities, I suggest you read my article on Cathedral Cove.
For all these reasons, I consider that Abel Tasman rivals Polynesian vacation or even Bay of Islands on the North Island. Everything fits perfectly and time is running at full speed. You will understand once there, it is very difficult to break away from this place.
You are not required to follow the full path ! You may catch water taxis to travel and return from wherever you want. In other words, you could get a map, choose an itinerary and book a shuttle to the place where you want to start.
Whether you have few hours or several days to spend, there is always a hike adapted to your fitness and your personal tastes! But to enjoy the park, there is an even more efficient way to travel in full autonomy!
Explore Sandy Beaches by Kayak.
Kayaking is the ideal way to reach parts of the park otherwise inaccessible. Another great advantage of the kayak is to overcome the tides problems that sometimes block progression of the hikers.
And I must emphasize the pleasure of winning isolated beaches, paddling below arches carved into the rock. Stopovers at campsites and shelters coastal allow you to play Robinson Crusoe in New Zealand , far from the worries of your everyday life.
Those among you who have never practiced this kind of transport will have questions to ask for sure!First, one must realize that we are dealing with “sea kayaks”.
These are real small unsinkable boats with useful watertight compartments.
Forget about the sinking: this boat cannot sink during your trip !
You won’t be left on your own! Local companies only rent kayaks for two paddlers and you’ll feel less tired a the end of the day.
For a first experience, you should always book a guided tour.
Before going to the water, you'll only learn the basics of kayaking. The guide clearly explains how to install yourself, adjust the shims for the feet, use the rudder, and, of course, the paddling process.
The kayak extraction is done by putting hands behind the back and pushing on the hull.
You will repeat the movement on the beach and you'll be surprised how easy it is.
You wear a life jacket and you paddle at a short distance from the coast. With a calm sea, it is virtually impossible for the kayak to capsize.And if the weather is bad, your guide would cancel the activity and refund you anyway...
The only “challenge” is to board. The rear passenger pushes the kayak in the sea while the teammate plants his oar into the sand to give him time to board. Nothing like bobsledding, I assure you! Store your stuff (cameras and sandwich...) in the sealed compartment, and let the adventure begin!
To land on a beach is even more simpler. You'll just have to paddle fast until you reach the beach. Really easy ... and I have not even spoken of the best part, since the kayak will allow you to reach the marine reserve of Tonga Island!
Meet the Fur Seals!
To allow the natural marine ecosystem to recover, the coastline has been converted into a nature reserve. Since 1993, the 12 km of coast between Bark Bay and Awaroa Bay Head are restricted to endangered species of New Zealand.
For this reason, we can't set foot on Tonga Island, the main island of the park. But you can get pretty close (65 ft) to observe the animals.
The fur seal colony that has taken up residence on the island enjoys the sun liying on the rocks. These splendid animals may also be encountered at various places in the park, mostly at Separation Point (on the granite promontories) and at Pinnacle Island.
Sea lions are very curious and often wander near swimmers or kayaks. They stare at you with their big expressive black eyes. It might happen that one of these creatures is emboldened to the point of climbing on the kayak, and you'll just have to keep calm and enjoy the show!
You will find that these creatures so clumsy on land are instead incredibly agile in the water.
I had the opportunity to join a tour that allows to dive amid sea lions in the company of an experienced guide. It is an experience that marks you for life!
If you see a tall figure below the surface, do not panic! This is not the Taniwa sea monster from Maori legends. You're dealing with an orca (the whale killer), that crosses the bay in spring season (between November and December). Not to worry, it does not attack humans...
Speaking of whales, I never had the chance to spot one during my kayak sessions. However, some travelers reported their presence (probably whales from Kaikoura).
Note: If you have the opportunity to take a picture, please share your trophy with Kiwipal!
Seal pups are the most curious ...
On the other hand, you have far more chances to spot dolphins. They often swim around water taxis and perform spectacular leaps to impress the passengers on board.
When you'll be back on the coast, the little blue penguins may return from the beach. Keep your distance because they are very shy, unlike the cormorants flying over your head, trying to spot some delicious fishes.
All of these species can be admired during your water taxi trip. But to me, nothing replaces the kayak! Suffice to say that with all these emotions (and the paddling), you'll sleep well tonight...
It reminds me that we should discuss the accommodation.
Beach Campfire under the Stars.
One must remember that the only places to spend the night in the park are can only be reached on foot, kayak or water taxi. There are 4 huts and 19 campsites on the coastline, always established in dream locations. But please keep in mind that the comfort is minimal and you'll find no electricity at all, neither heating.
You must take your sleeping bag, a camping gas stove and food for the whole trip. The insect repellent and sterilizing water pills are essential. The campfire atmosphere on the beach under the stars is unmatched, but this “spartan” solution may not be suitable for everyone.
Another option is to stay on the border of the national park. The major city nearby is called Motueka (nicknamed “Mot” by the locals). It welcomes up to 20,000 visitors during the high season when seasonal workers are looking for fruit picking jobs.
Motueka is the main gateway to the national park, but it's not necessarily the best place to stay.
Only 18 km further north, Kaiteriteri (“Kaiteri” for the locals) is a very nice popular town with beautiful beaches. And it is also the starting point for many excursions in the area.
But in my opinion, Marahau is definitely the ideal base camp if you plan to explore the Abel Tasman Park during your trip to New Zealand.
The incessant ballet of tractors on the beach, carrying piles of kayaks is crystal clear.
We are only 300 m from the beginning of the great Abel Tasman Coast Track. The majority of water taxis and tour operators are also based there.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the 9 most beautiful hikes in New Zealand.Filmed by DeptOfConservation.
I recommend Ocean View Chalets on the hills of Marahau. Not only because the booking of individual chalets is affordable, but mostly because the view of the bay is magnificent. At night, you may even follow a quick walk in the forest to admire hundreds of fireflies in the bushes!
Further north, a route round the park through the mountains reaches the town of Takaka, founded during the gold rush of 1850.
Today, the city has become the sanctuary of a population of artists and hippies who enjoy a life without stress.
The hills of Takaka are famous to welcome every year the biggest rave party of the country and the festivities go on for four days with backpackers from the world.
What Is the Best Hike to Choose ?
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the nine most beautiful hikes of New Zealand. If walking is free, huts or campsites are not and the demand is high. You must book many months in advance to get a chance!
Unless you travel off-season, you will have to share this paradise with many Kiwis from Wellington. and the whole planet.
To avoid the crowd, it is better to plan your visit at the end of the summer season (february), when school holidays ends.
My trick is to start hiking north by taking a water taxi. The majority of travelers stops at Totaranui camping, but the track continues to Wainui and is often deserted.
Spring or autumn can be considered as great alternatives because the climate in the park is mild all year round (you may even consider winter).
You will come across fewer people on the trails, and the noise of the water taxis will be more discreet. I also find these seasons to be less windy than summer.
Perhaps the ideal solution is to combine kayaking, hiking and farniente on the beaches during your trip. If you have only one full day to spend, you may opt for an extended kayak tour followed by a hike between Bark Bay and Torrent Bay.
The water taxis will carry luggage and kayaks from one beach to another. This way, you may hike with a lightweight bag, containing some sandwiches, water bottles and swim suits.
If you tend to get seasick easily, then the 2h30 photogenic hike between Torrent Bay and Bark Bay is actually your best option.
Otherwise, the general opinion (which I share) represents the best kayak itinerary to be located between Awaroa and Marahau where the lagoons are a pure enchantment.
But the path along the coast is not the only hike available in the park. Another one called the Abel Tasman Inland Track is in fact a three-days mountain forest hike.
If you confuse the two hikes (as a friend of mine did last year), do not expect to enjoy the beach... It is a rough path that requires training and equipment.
As always, it's a challenge for me to stay focus when I write a post about New Zealand. Because it's just so difficult not to mention Golden Bay and Farewell Spit, the two wonders bordering the Abel Tasman park ! But we'll discuss these topics somewhere else later if you don't mind.
If you dreamed of playing Robinson Crusoe ...
Do not hesitate to send pictures of your stay in New Zealand: we would be happy to publish the best ones on Kiwipal.
And if you have any questions, our dear Ben will be happy to answer them! He is our hiking expert guide, a friendly guy and also the mascot of Kiwipal.
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? This is where I spent my holidays as a child! The Abel Tasman park is perfect for both adventurers and holidaymakers in search of tranquility. If you opt for kayaking, you will understand the true meaning of freedom!
- All topics ... 47 answers in total
- Kayak Tours 10 answers
- Excursions in the Park 8 answers
- Accommodation, Campsites and Huts 7 answers
- Culture and Legends 6 answers
- Weather, Swimming and Tides 5 answers
- How to Go to the Park 5 answers
- Water-Taxis 4 answers
- Animal Species 2 answers
- Can I practice kayaking alone?
Most companies do not allow solo kayaking rentals for security reasons.
- How much does a kayak rental cost?
A kayak with two seats costs about $100 per day of rental.
- What is the minimum age for kayaking?
According to the companies, the minimum age varies between 8 and 14 years depending on the excursion.
- Can we rent kayaks in the park?
In the park itself, no. You have to go to Kaiteriteri or Marahau.
- Can we explore all the coast in a kayak?
You cannot exceed two thirds of the park. The northern limit is set at Shag Harbor where the swell makes navigation unsafe.
- Can a kayak be transported by water taxi?
Yes, you can book this very convenient service.
- Which kayaks company to approach Tonga Island?
I tested Abel Tasman Kayaks and it went very well. The guide will introduce you not only the fauna and flora during the tour but also the culture of the country.Abel Tasman Kayaks Booking
- How to book a kayak trip from Kaiteriteri?
Please contact Kaiteriteri Kayaks directly on the beach.Kaiteriteri Sea Kayak
- How to book a kayak trip from Marahau?
Kahu Kayaks, Marahau Sea Kayaks and Abel Tasman kayaks are present in Marahau. You can find more information on their respective websites.Marahau Kayak
- How to book a kayak trip from Motueka?
I recommend Sea Kayak Company:Sea Kayak Company
Excursions in the Park
- Can you recommend a guide for excursions?
Abel Tasman Seal Swim guides are specialized in swimming with sea lions from December to April. Abel Tasman Tours & Guided Walks offers guided hikes in small groups. Abel Tasman Wilson's Experiences is undoubtedly the most recognized company.Seals Swim
- What type of shoes should you wear?
A pair of sneakers will do. You should consider wearing hiking boots only if you intend to spend several days on the spot or if the track is soaked by the rain.
- Where to find an iSite in the area?
You can find information points in Nelson, Motueka and Takaka. That of Motueka is the closest to the park is the most specialized. You can book activities and prepare a customized itinerary.Motueka iSite
- What are the distances for the Abel Tasman Costal Track?
Marahau to Anchorage Hut: 4 hours on 12.4 km
Anchorage Hut at Bark Bay Hut: 4 hours on 12.1 km and a 47 m suspension bridge
Bark Bay Hut in Awaroa Hut: 4 hours on 11.4 km (tidal)
Awaroa Hut in Totaranui: 1h30 of 5.5 km (subject to tide)
Totaranui in Whariwharangi Hut: 3h sur 7.5 km
Whariwharangi Hut in Wainui: 1h30 over 5,5 km (subject to tide)
That is a total of 18 hours of walking (say 12 hours for experienced walkers).
The estimate of 3 to 5 days is therefore reasonable.
- Do you recommend visiting Golden Bay?
This bay that joins the national park of Abel Tasman can be reached by a winding road in forest (365 bends!). But it worth the try because the bay which forms a perfect arc is incredible. Its Maori name "Mohua" means "rich" and the immense beaches and lagoons are as beautiful, if not even more beautiful than those of Abel Tasman.
- Do you recommend visiting Farewell Spit?
The extension of Golden Bay is an immense dune of 36 km which evokes the beak of a kiwi. The shallow depth of the bay is often fatal to the whales that run aground on these shores (325 in 1991). Many ships have shared the same fate until a lighthouse was built in 1870. It is the fifth-largest bird sanctuary in the world, with 90 different species.
- Do you recommend going to the Pupu Springs?
Located at 7 km north of Takaka, this sacred source for the Maori has two unique characteristics in the world. Its flow of 14,000 liters per second could provide enough water for a city like Boston. But it is especially the second purest water source in the world. The water filtered by the underground marble network is perfectly transparent up to 63 m deep!
- Can we book a sailboat excursion?
Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures offers a route along the coast aboard a catamaran. You can complete the excursion with a kayak trip. Embark directly on the beach of Kaiteriteri.Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures
Accommodation, Campsites and Huts
- How to book a hut or a campsite?
Consult the official DOC website (the Department of Conservation).Abel Tasman Booking
- How many beds are available per hut?
Anchorage can host 24 people, Bark Bay 34 people, Awaroa 26 people and Whariwharangi 20 people.
- How much does a hut night cost?
Approximately $30 in high season, and $12 in low season. Accommodation is free for children under 18 years.
- How much does a campground cost?
$12 in high season $8 during the rest of the year.
- Is it possible to reach a campsite by road?
Totaranui DOC Campsite is the only campsite accessible by road. It is located 32 km north of Takaka. Note that the winding road is no longer paved over the last 12 kilometers (make sure that your car rental company authorizes you to drive on this kind of road).
- How to book your stay at Ocean View Chalets?
Visit the official website:Ocean View Chalets Booking
- Is there accommodation for backpackers?
Aquapacker welcomes backpackers on a boat.AquaPacker
Culture and Legends
- Was the Lord of the Rings' movie shot in the area?
Yes, the beech forest served as filming location at the beginning of the first film of the trilogy, when the Hobbits hide under a tree to escape a Nazgûl.
- How to explain the formation of the Split Apple Rock?
The Maori legend evokes the confrontation between two warriors. A missed blow with an ax would have cracked the rock known as "Toko Ngawha" (i.e. "the cracked rock"). The Cartesians people among you will prefer the rational explanation of a rock vein filled with ice water that collapsed during the ice age.
- Why do some places in the park have French names?
This is due to the exploration of the region by the Frenchman Dumont D'Urville in 1827. His good relationship with the Maoris undoubtedly explains why the names he had chosen are still in use. For example, Adolphe Point, Coquille Bay, Guilbert Point, Jules Point ...
- What were the Maori doing in the region?
Traces of coastal fortifications suggest that tribal conflicts were taking place to control the region. The Maori cultivated mainly the kumara, a sweet potato from New Zealand.
- What are the names of the three islands of the park?
They are named after Tonga Island, Adele Island and Fisherman Island.
- What does Motueka mean in Maori Language?
Motueka is a contraction between two words and means "grove of birds".
Weather, Swimming and Tides
- Is the weather fine in Abel Tasman Park?
The mild climate delivers pleasant averages of 25 ° C in summer and 15 ° C in winter. The record is of about 2500 hours of sunny weather a year, which ensures sunbathing two days out of three.
- Is it necessary to come if the weather is cloudy or bad?
The bad weather doesn't prevent from enjoying the park, but without the rays of the sun, the tint of the sea is not as spectacular.
- Can we swim?
You can go swimming in summer if you have courage, because the water is at 21 ° C. During the rest of the year, the water is too cold to swim without a combination.
- Why do we need to check the tide schedule?
At high tide, Bark Bay and Torrent Bay impose a significant detour. The Awaroa Estuary and the Strait of Onetahui Beach must be crossed at low tide under the penalty of being blocked on the spot. If in doubt, plan more water and food for the trip.
- Where to find the tide timetables?
Consult the website of the Department of Conservation in charge of the park. Schedules are also available in the i-Site or on sign posts during the hike (maybe a bit late to worry about it).Abel Tasman Tides Schedule
How to Go to the Park
- Can we come by bus?
The main coach lines of the country are present. Abel Tasman Coachlines, Golden Bay Coachlines (internal line that connects Takaka to Wainui and Totaranui), Atomic shuttle, Nakedbus, Intercity ...Abel Tasman CoachlinesGolden Bay CoachlinesAtomic shuttleNakedbusIntercity
- Is there an airport?
The nearest airport is located in Nelson, 46 km from Motueka.
- Are there car parks in Marahau and Kaiteriteri?
The water taxi is free if you book an excursion. Otherwise, it will cost you a few dollars.
- Where can we refuel?
Kaiteriteri has a petrol station, unlike Marahau. To the north, you can fill your tank at Takaka and Totaranui.
- Can we find supermarkets at Marahau or Kaiteriteri?
Yes, you will find ingredients to prepare your sandwiches, but you will have more choice in Motueka which owns a supermarket.
- How much does a water taxi cost?
Last summer I note that the price was about $30 for a shuttle between Marahau and Torrent Bay, and $37 for a ride between Kaiteriteri and Bark Bay.
- What are the best water taxi companies?
Here are the most renowned, knowing that the rates and services are almost equal.Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi, from Marahau and KaiteriteriAbel Tasman Sea Shuttle from KaiteriteriMarahau Water Taxis from Marahau
- What happens if I miss my water taxi?
A delay of 10 minutes may be enough to miss your boat taxi. The companies do not joke with the schedules of the tides. You'll have to wait for the next shuttle.
- Can we get wet during the water taxi trip?
As a rule, boats dock on shore. You'll get wet to the knees to get on board. On board, avoid standing in the back of the boat so as not to be splashed.
- Are there any mosquitoes in the park?
Sandflies, those devilish little gnats. One must use a special repellent available for sale all over New Zealand.
- What species of birds live in the park?
You cannot miss the kererus (big wooden pigeons) and the superb blue-feathered tuis.
On the Country Map
Abel Tasman National Park is located at the northern tip of the South Island in the Tasman region.
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