Golden sands

One of New Zealand’s most well-known walks of­fers ex­quis­ite scenery and na­tive wildlife year round.

Good - - TRAVEL - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy Abby Lawrence

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.

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