When you are traveling in a country with a coastline, we find ourselves on a constant search for the perfect beach. A paradise of golden sand in the middle of impressive panoramas with cliffs and woodland is what we are seeking. What if I tell you that the Abel Tasman National Park gives you a bunch of these spots, one more breathtaking than the other? Let me give you a glimpse of your coast walk of a lifetime.
Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman National Park is located in the north west of the South Island of New Zealand and stretches along the coastline. It was here that the first Europeans arrived and they couldn’t have picked a better place.
With 22,5 km² it is the smallest National Park in New Zealand, but because of its sheer beauty and accessibility, it is one of the most visited. Three-quarters of the park is covered by forests, which are called home by a huge variety of birds like the Tui. The coastline offers golden beaches and little islands you can reach by boat.
How to get to the Abel Tasman
The Abel Tasman National Park can be approached from the south or the north of the park. Which way you choose is up to you. As a home base, I would recommend Motueka if you come from the south or Takaka for the northern side of the park. Both towns offer a different kind of accommodation like campsites, backpackers, and hotels. The local supermarkets provide you with everything you need for short visits and long trips into the park. Some people also like to start their Abel Tasman experience from Nelson. Nelson is a bigger city and as such offers a bigger hospitality sector and agencies that organize trips to the park. In my opinion, though, you will find everything that you need in Motueka and Takaka as well and have the advantage of reaching the Park in 30 minutes. That will give you more time to see the Park or sleep in your bed; the choice is up to you.
What to do in the Abel Tasman
The high number of visitors in the park led to an increasing number of agencies, which offer a wide variety of activities in and around the Abel Tasman National Park. Day trips or in-depth exploring on a long walk, exploring by foot, in a kayak or a charter boat, you got the choice.
The park has several tracks that are perfect for a one day trip. These tracks can be found around the whole park and show the different sites of the park. You can enter the deep woodlands and discover flora and fauna of the forest. Other tracks will bring you to the coast and a beach that is perfect for relaxing and taking in the sun. My favorite one day track is a loop at the northern corner of the park, and it is called the Gibbs Hill track. It will bring you through the forest and up a hill where you have a view over the park. A little bit further and you walk along the coastline and beaches. This 6-hour track gives you an impression of all the different sites of the Abel Tasman National Park.
A particularly beautiful sight is to admire the park from the water. Many different agencies offer boat cruises along the whole park or, if time is an issue, just visit certain parts. Enjoy the coastline floating by while you cruise. If you get lucky, you can spot some seals. If you want to, the boat will drop you off in the park and give you a few hours to explore the surroundings. That way you get to see the remote places of the park without the struggle of walking there.
If you want to use the waterway, but you feel the need of being active, then you should hire a kayak. You can get guided tours or be all by yourself. If just for a couple of hours or for the full day, both options are worth it. The best spot to start a Kayak tour is Maharau, a small town on the southern end of the Abel Tasman. From there you can get to beaches in the park or cruise around the small islands close by. Seals and penguins call these islands home, and in the early autumn, the seal cubs are a unique attraction.
The Abel Tasman National Park has something to offer for the adrenalin freaks too. Many tourists go skydiving in Taupo, but among experienced skydivers, the park is known as the place to be. You get picked up in Nelson or Motueka. After a short drive and a little bit of practice, you are ready to go for one of the best moments in your life. You can choose between an 8,000 to up to 16,000 feet drop off. Get ready to feel the wind pushing back your face while you rocket towards the Abel Tasman. I just have one warning, skydiving is genuinely addictive.
The most common way to explore the Abel Tasman National Park is still a long walk, which means hiking along the beauty for up to 5 days and sleeping in a tent, hut or more comfortable options along the way. You can get a guided tour at the travel agencies. They take care of your transport to the park and back, a guide and your accommodation along the way. If you would like to sleep in a tent or a fancy apartment with view on the ocean is up to you and how much money you want to spend.
In case we have the mutual feeling that a guide, provided beds and transport just rob you of the adventure, let me tell you more about hiking the long walk on your own.
Abel Tasman coastal track
The Abel Tasman long walks mostly referred to as the easiest in New Zealand. The main reason for that is that not a single ascend is higher than 200m, so with an average fitness, you should be fine. The weather is mild even in the late autumn, so no specialized equipment or clothing is required.
There are two tracks, the inlet track which leads you through the woodlands and the coastal walk. I don’t want to deny the beauty of the inlet rack, but if you have the choice between the two, I am advising you to do the coast walk. This track is about 70km in total and got three huts and plenty of campsites along the way. You have to book the huts and campsites in advance; especially in the summer booking at least one week before you plan to go is necessary. A bed in a hut will cost you 32 NZD, one night on a campsite costs 16 NZD.
You can do the walk the whole year around. The summer is extremely popular because the beaches along the way are perfect for swimming and relaxing. You can take your time and enjoy the beautiful weather on a campsite at a beach. The downside is that the park is full of hikers and day trippers and you can run into some trouble if you don’t book in advance. In the winter and autumn, swimming is just an option for the extremely tough ones, but you get to enjoy the landscape in more privacy. An additional upside is that the clear sky of winter nights offer a clear view and excellent nights at the beaching looking up to the stars.
The campsites provide a toilet and unfiltered water; at the huts, you also have filtered water that needs no treatment for drinking. Several campgrounds have fire pits and benches. I seriously don’t know what else you could ask for.
Most of the guided tours take five days to do the whole track. I did it in 3 days and was fine with that. It solemnly depends on your preferences. If you like to enjoy the landscape while walking along and a break every 2 hours makes you nervous; I guess you are good to go for a 3-day trip. If you like to take it relaxed and enjoy the beaches for some sunbathing, you should give yourself the time of a 4 to 5-day walk.
You have no chance to stock up on provisions on the way except drinking water, so make sure you have enough on you. Pasta and rice are especially good for such trips because the weight is manageable while it is extremely nurturing. Dried fruits, nut bars, and muesli are also good for hiking trips. Don’t forget to bring a camping stove if you want to have a warm meal and coffee in the morning.
And of course don’t forget to share this Abel Tasman National Park article with your friends, so they get to learn about this paradise too.