Visitors love the adventurousness way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with the beach life. Bursts of hiking or kayaking are punctuated by sun bathing, swimming and sedate snorkeling around the characteristic granite outcrops.
Those who do crave home comforts can stay in luxurious lodges, but sleeping under the stars is regarded as the ultimate way to experience the spirit of the Abel Tasman.
Abel Tasman National Park is a national park located in South Island of New Zealand. The park was founded in 1942. With a coverage of only 225.3 square kilometres, is the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks. The park consists of forested, hilly country to the north of the valleys of the Takaka and Riwaka Rivers, and is bounded to the north by the waters of Golden Bayand Tasman Bay. It is named after Abel Tasman, who in 1642 became the first European explorer to sight New Zealand.
The strip of coast that falls within the boundaries of the park is highly distinctive. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating native forest. Inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and tide line. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean.
The coastal track
Classed as one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’, the Abel Tasman’s Coastal Track takes between 3 and 5 days to complete. It climbs around headlands and through native forest to a series of beautiful beaches. The track is walkable at any time of the year. It is expected to see lots of other walkers and day visitors in summer.
A number of kayaking companies run guided tours from Marahau, Kaiteriteri and Golden Bay. If you would rather be independent, you can rent kayaks and stay at campsites, huts or lodges within the park – just same as you would if you were hiking.
Exploring Nature and Wildlife
Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. Tui and bellbird song fills the forest, shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner; fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island. At Te Pukatea Bay, a perfect crescent of golden sand, a walking track leads up Pitt Head to an ancient Maori pa (fort) site.
Terracing and food pits are still visible, and it’s easy to see why the location was chosen as a defensive site – the views are huge. For a different view of the park, there are inland tracks that lead up to the dramatic karst landscape of Takaka Hill.
Day trips are for those with only a day to see the park, water taxi companies can provide a personalised mix of sightseeing by boat and track walking. Pre-booking is advised. Visitors may enquire at Motueka, Marahau or Kaiteriteri.
There are comfortable private lodges at Awaroa and Torrent Bay. The Department of Conservation provides four ‘Great Walk’ hikers’ huts along the Coastal Track and four standard huts on the inland tracks. These huts have mattresses, water and toilets – some have cooking facilities. Campsites with water, toilets and fireplaces are also available within the park. Bookings are required in peak season.
Various types of accommodation can be found at the settlements of Marahau and Kaiteriteri at the southern end of the park, and Totaranui at the northern end.
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