This pristine national park had to be one of the first posts on my new blog for a few reasons. It was my favourite place to visit in NZ and has since become the benchmark for every beach or coastal national park. The Abel Tasman was founded in 1942, and sits on the north of the south island just west of Nelson.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend experiences and companies I use and trust, the income goes to keeping the site running. Click Here for Full Disclosure
About The Abel Tasman
- This DOC site (department of conservation) or wilderness reserve is a protected area full of native Flora and Fauna.
- There is also a marine reserve island along this coastline called Tonga Island
- The full coastal track is 37 miles long and starts at Marahau and finishes up at Mutton Cove (Wainui bay) and takes between 3-4 days to ‘Tramp’.
- My favourite thing about the Abel Tasman is the fact that cars are not allowed past Marahau.
Tips For Hiking And Visiting The Abel Tasman National Park
The full trail takes about 3 to 4 days but you can make it longer or shorter if you want to just be sure to book your camping well in advance. I’d reccomend making your trip a little longer if possible to fully enjoy the area.
- For booking your trip scroll to the bottom of this post or Click Here.
- Take hiking shoes, jandals and togs (Flip flops and swimwear).
- Be sure to abide by the Leave No Trace (LNT).
- There are also back country huts as well as those in the coastal track which will allow you head inland and explore more of the wild lush landscape.
- If you only have a day to spare I promise you, you wont regret the visit (it is a short drive from Nelson or even Marlborough if you don’t mind getting up early).
- During the boat ride look out for split apple rock (pictured above).
- If you don’t mind milder temperatures then late September – November (spring) or March – early May (autumn) may be the quitest times and easiest to get a booking.
Wildlife In The Abel Tasman
Along the walk and on the boat ride we saw numerous seals, blue penguins and even bottle nosed dolphins. The birds and cicadas echoed all along the trail and at times the views from the trail became so wild it was like a scene out of Jurassic Park.
Get yout camera ready (I just had a beginners camera and a single standard lense, but I don’t edit any pictures in my posts to make sure expectations aren’t un realistic).
A Day Hike Along The Abel Tasman Coastal Track
All pictures in this post are taken by me (or the ones including me were taken by my ex) from one of my favourite trips I took when living in Blenheim (Marlbough). I visited the national park a few times, this was my favourite experience. I visited here with my partner at the time (who is from Blenheim) and we were both wowed by the pristine nature of the national park and how well preserved it is.
The water is so clear and stunning all along the cost. Everywhere just looks so wild and like something you would see in the movies. I struggled to narrow down my choice of photo’s for this post.
We were lucky enough to only pass a few people on the tramping trail all day.
Starting Our Day Hike At Bark Bay, The Abel Tasman National Park
We took a boat (Aqua Taxi) from Kaiteriteri that dropped us at our start point in Bark Bay (Pictured above), along the track then tramped for about 8 hours. The route we took only takes 4-5 hours but we stopped a lot at every view point and beach to relax, swim and just enjoy.
There is a DOC hut that you can stay in at Bark Bay which has 34 beds. Alternatively you can camp at either Bark Bay or the near by Mosquito Bay. The DOC campsites have to be booked well in advance (a year or more in advance for most spring and summer dates).
There are 40 sites at Bark Bay but 20 sites at Mosquito bay and it is only accesible by water.
We walked around the estuary of Bark bay and crossed the bridge before heading back inland slightly on the track and towards Tonga Quarry (the next bay).
Tonga Island And Tonga Quarry
Tonga Island which is visible from Tonga Quarry (aka little tonga) and the track. It’s a small sandy bay before you reach Onetahuti. I’d definitely love to kayak over to the island on my next trip. We stopped here for a swim and had some of our lunch.
There wasn’t anyone else on the beach which as with most of our day trip we had the place to ourselves. It does get busy but luckily the fact that it is boat access only and a multi day track to do the whole trip a lot of people won’t head quite as far in to the park or only get to see one section of it to save money. This helps to some extent the foot traffic and over tourism that many other national parks are experiencing around the world.
The island (pictured above) is a protected marine reserve area which was established in 1993 and home to many of the native marine life that New Zealand is so famous for. There is also a bay called little Tonga just before Tonga Bay.
There used to be a campsite here but was closed in 2018 until further notice. Keep an eye out for this as an additional option.
Onetahuti Beach Abel Tasman National Park
As we reached Onetahuti Beach (aka Tonga Bay) we saw a large group of people kayaking further down the trail but they were gone once we reached the beach. The Beach looks as though it goes on forever and the clarity of the water is just stunning
Onetahuti is one of the DOC conservation camp sites along this part of the route.
- There are only 20 sites so you should plan your route and book ahead via their website – Click Here.
- If you want to know what to expect from camping, check out this ultimate guide to camping in NZ from Angel the Wanderlust here.
When you get to the end of the beach, you will need to wade through some water (depending on the time of day) that may be as high as you shins or above the hips. Consider this when you consider your bag and shoes (I decided to just wade through carefully barefoot).
The track will then take you back inland at this point so you will be on the incline and through the native bush again. You will get some awesome views (like above) of the wild landscape as you head up the track.
Finishing The Day Hike At Awaroa Beach
Our hike finished at Awaroa Beach (pictured below) and resort. You can book to stay here and they also serve food but you may need to book ahead. Before you arrive at the resort the track will take you via the swamp which is also stunning.
Awaroa is a long stretch of white sand with a gorgeous estuary and the backdrop of lush green mountains and New Zealand bush. If you plan to stay over night there are a few options here:
- You can stay in the lodge which is stunning but a little pricey.
- You can also opt for either a hut (26 beds)
- Alternatively you can camp here (only 18 sites).
Booking Your Trip To The Abel Tasman
We booked out Aqua Taxi ahead of time for a pick up at Kaiteriteri and drop us off at our starting point. It also picked us up from Awaroa for $90 (NZD). There are no large predators in New Zealand and it is relatively safe to hike. However, both of us are experienced hikers and very active people. I would reccomend a full or part guided option if you don’t normally hike or this is one of your first experiences like this. It can get very hot. You should take a first aid kit with you and check the tides for your crossings (you can check with the aqua taxi company for this).
Guided Hike And Pick Up From Nelson (with Aqua Taxi)
Sail The Abel Tasman
There is an option to Sail on a Catamaran which some of the backpackers I lived with did on another day and really loved it. Book this via Viator for £115 – Click Here. or with Get Your Guide for £109 – Click Here.
Scenic Flight Over The Abel Tasman
There is also a scenic flight which are usually hundreds of dollars, but I’ve popped a link to this as it is half the price of others options, and would be amazing if your budget affords the luxury. Book via Get Your Guide for £114.99 – Click Here
Kayak The Abel Tasman
This is on my list for next time too but those kayaks I mentioned earlier; You can rent kayaks for all or part of the trail if you prefer this to walking the full route. You will need to book directly and ahead of time. There are plenty of options from rental only to guided tours for part or all of the national park. Book directly with Kayak Abel Tasman from $60 (NZD) with Kayak Abel Tasman – Click Here.
Skydive Abel Tasman
This is another thing on my bucket list. I really wanted to do this during my trip and possibly over fox glacier… but opted to ice climb and bungy jump due to limited budget at the time…fingers crossed for my next trip.
- Book via Get Your Guide for £170.23 – Click Here
- Book via Viator for £174.51 – Click Here for 13,000ft
- Book via Viator for £220.83 – Click Here for 16,000ft