Hiking The Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

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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.

The Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Looking back towards Bark Bay, Our Starting Point On The Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day Hike | © Travels and Wandering

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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

Split Apple Rock, The Abel Tasman National Park | © Travels and Wandering
Split Apple Rock, The Abel Tasman National Park | © Travels and Wandering

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

Me at the starting point of Bark Bay, The Abel Tasman Coastal Track and National Park | © Travels and Wandering
Me at the starting point of Bark Bay, The Abel Tasman Coastal Track and National Park | © Travels and Wandering

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.

Passing over the bridge from Bark Bay and heading towards Tonga quarry. The views from this bridge and many others are lovely but I will save that to your imagination or when you visit (hint there are lots of small water falls, crystal clear water, sand banks and a large suspension bridge further into the national park | © Travels and Wandering
Passing over the bridge from Bark Bay and heading towards Tonga quarry. The views from this bridge and many others are lovely but I will save that to your imagination or when you visit (hint there are lots of small water falls, crystal clear water, sand banks and a large suspension bridge further into the national park | © Travels and Wandering

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).

Looking back towards Onetahuti Beach | © Travels and Wandering
Looking back towards Onetahuti Beach | © Travels and Wandering

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)

This option is ideal if you don’t have a car. Staying in Nelson or Motueka is a little cheaper than the national park. Book this full day trip via Viator for £246.48 – Click Here.

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 £109Click 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.

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Owner of Travels and Wandering | Lecturer by Day, Nomad at Heart Adventure Travel Tester | Outdoor Instructor | Mountaineering and Outdoors Researcher | Strength and Conditioning Coach | Yoga Instructor | Personal Trainer | Fitness Pro | Endo Warrior, Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, Spoonie

20 Responses

  1. Subhashish Roy

    Abel Tasman National Park which I had not much idea about looks beautiful. I would prefer a guided tour as am not too much of a hiker. The prospect of watching seals, blue penguins and bottle nosed dolphins is certainly enticing. Bird Watching should also be fun.

  2. Maria Veloso

    What a magnificent vista! Now I see why Abel Tasman National Park is your favorite spot in New Zealand. From the azure clear ocean to the white sand, this national park is quite breathtaking. Seals and penguins are equally adorable! It’s fortunate that, in addition to enjoying the scenery, they also provide entertaining activities.

  3. Arnav Mathur

    I had heard a lot about Abel Tasman National Park and, now that I have seen the mesmerising photographs of this place it makes me want to visit this place so bad! Also, absolutely love the fact that no cars are allowed beyond a certain point, which I am sure is an experience in itself. Who wouldn’t want to get away from all the hustle-bustle, enjoy walking through the extensive trails, see the dolphins and of course the turquoise coloured water – sounds like a perfect dream. 
    This is so insightful, would definitely not miss a chance to visit this place. 

  4. Amy

    I can make out how pristine the water is here. And the best is that it is not just beaches but a bit of trek and wildlife too. Loved reading about Onetahuti Beach and Tonga island. I definitely would not want to miss those in this trip.

  5. Shreya Saha

    I have wanted to visit New Zealand for a long time. Abel Tasman National Park looks amazing, I need to spend a day relaxing at Bark bay.  I would especially love doing a cruise and seeing the blue penguins.

  6. Jackie

    Wow, this is such a beautiful destination! I love how the water is so crystal clear, the beaches look pristine, and you were able to see some wildlife. It’s also cool that you can venture inland for some more wilderness and exploration and experience the best of both worlds. I definitely want to see Able Tasman National Park for myself, now!

  7. Susan

    Just by seeing the pictures, this looks like an amazing place to be visited at least once. Anyways, New Zealand has been in my travel bucket list for long and I have my list of places ready when I shall make a visit. Added Able Tasman National Park to it as well. This looks so beautiful and surreal

  8. Anda

    Very comprehensive guide for the Abel Tasman National Park. I haven’t been to New Zealand yet, but I’ve heard about Abel Tasman. So many beautiful spots to explore in the park! I love that cars are not allowed beyond a certain point. That means cleaner air and way less traffic, but it also means that you’ll have to walk a lot!

  9. L D Holland

    We have some many spots on our plan for when we finally get to re-schedule New Zealand.  But I see we will have to visit the Abel Tasman National Park when we do.  I can see why this pristine spot might be the benchmark for other beach or park visits.  I would love to do a visit longer than 4 days – if I could handle camping that long! Maybe we would start with a full day guided tour.  And find a way to enjoy some of those beaches separately.   Linda (LD Holland)

  10. Ayoima

    Wow, this park looks STUNNING! New Zealand is high on my bucket-list. Your photos bring this place to life and would love to add this to my itinerary whenever I have the chance to go!

  11. Renata

    I haven’t been to NZ but your pictures and discription of a sunny, pleasant place make me just yearning! I so need to go away…preferably to NZ since that’s the farthest I can think of 😉 Thanx for bringing a bit of sunshine and vacay feel into my life 😉

  12. Claire

    wow I love this! I haven’t heard too much about this park before, but now I’m glad I can add it to my list of places to visit one day! 

  13. M Williams

    New Zealand is one of the places we hope to visit soon.  Your photos make the beach look amazing!  Can’t wait to see it for real.  Thanks for sharing!

  14. Anuradha

    Car free zone, pristine beach and stunning weather – who wouldn’t want to be in a paradise like this?  I haven’t been to NZ, but would love to visit it sometime in future! 

  15. Renee

    What an incredible national park. It’s great to read that they are known for their flora and fauna, protected areas with no cars being allowed past a certain point and that coastal trail is stunning! Such a great find. 

  16. Jacqueline

    For some reason, when I think of New Zealand I don’t think of these kind of beaches. It looks like something out of a postcard from french Polynesia! A bit unfair that the kiwis have the best of beaches, mountains and volcanoes. Adding this to my bucket list

  17. Lorry

    Your photos are stunning! This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. What an amazing experience.

  18. Sue

    I had such an adventure when I visited Abel Tasman. I did take the 2-3 day kayak self tour. On the first night there was a massive storm which washed away some of the kayaks (thankfully not ours) & we were stuck for more days than we expected. Everything was wet, we ran out of food but it was still a very special experience & the company were so good & looking out for us. Actually very happy memories of the adventure it became!

  19. Aditi Sharma

    After reading the post I can understand why this park has become a benchmark of sorts. It’s amazing that the full coastal track takes about 3-4 days to cover – gives an idea about how expansive the trail is! Walking the entire length seems like the perfect bucket-list adventure and I love the idea of getting the chance to see dolphins or seals in the wild with a view of those turquoise waters along the way.

  20. Tanya Michelle

    This is brilliant, I’m heading to the South Island after the new year and your posts are brilliant. I saw some of your pictures on insta and had to check it out. I’ve enquiries about the campsite You mentioned and it’s currently booked out. Any other recommendation for accom near here in summer? 
    P.s booked the trip for the glaciers (the first Heli one on your article), not dating enough to ice climb just yet. 

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