One of New Zealand’s most well-known walks offers exquisite scenery and native wildlife year round.
T he Abel Tasman may be New Zealand’s smallest national park but it punches above its weight with stunning vistas, golden sandy beaches, lush native bush, and native wildlife. And of course it is home to one of the most well-known of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’ run by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
The Abel Tasman Coast Track can be done over a few days either staying in the DOC huts or the many campsites dotted along the track (book in advance). Alternately there are multiple tour companies that operate taxis to different points, making it easy to experience the park in one day if short on time.
At the southern end of the park the walk begins in Marahau crossing over the estuary and then quickly heads into native bush full of beech and kanuka. This section of the track is in great condition with a wide smooth path, making it accessible for all fitness levels. As you wind your way around the coast, looking down on crystal clear water, you get a sense that you are in paradise. Most of the bays are accessible by a short path off the main track and are perfect for a rest stop with a million-dollar view. After a few hours and just over 12km the track winds up and out onto the point overlooking Anchorage where the first hut is located.
The next morning we eagerly headed out into our second day, boots slightly less comfortable, but packs definitely lighter. Between Anchorage and the next hut at Bark Bay there are two track options depending on the tide. We opted for the faster route through the tidal estuary of Torrent Bay, although it wasn’t the driest. The slightly longer route around the estuary offers a short side trip to the famous Cleopatra’s Pool, a rock pool perfect for cooling off in warmer weather. Once the trails join back up, a steady climb brings you to the impressive suspension bridge across the Falls River.
After a night at Bark Bay, a steep climb up through manuka forest awaits before the track winds its way back down to the coast at Tonga Quarry, the park’s marine reserve, and then on to Onetahuti Bay, where you can treat your feet to a long walk through water in the longest beach section of the walk. Before long we are at Awaroa Beach, which was famously bought back by Kiwis through crowdfunding in 2016. This is where we were to pick up our water taxi out, and having reached the beach far quicker than we imagined we had a few hours to explore the pristine beach in the sunshine.
Following on from Awaroa Beach is a further 22.6km of track taking you right up to the tip of the national park via the final hut at Whariwharangi Bay.
Spending time in the Abel Tasman was like stepping into a picturesque dream where the only thing that mattered was to put one foot in front of the other, and the stresses of modern life were a distant memory.
The sandy Marahau estuary at the beginning of the track. Left: Looking down into paradise.
The suspension bridge across the Falls River is an experience in itself.