Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park- but it’s perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure.
Visitors love the way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with beach life. Bursts of hiking or kayaking are punctuated by sun bathing, swimming and sedate snorkelling 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The coastal track and other walks
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. Expect to see lots of other walkers and day visitors in summer. For a different view of the park, there are inland tracks that lead up to the dramatic karst landscape of Takaka Hill.
A number of kayaking companies run guided tours from Marahau, Kaiteriteri and Golden Bay. If you’d rather be independent, you can rent kayaks and stay at campsites, huts or lodges within the park – just as you would if you were hiking.
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. Enquire at Motueka, Marahau or Kaiteriteri.
From 1 October 2005 Abel Tasman Coast Track huts and campsites need to be booked in advance all year round
Department of Conservation camp passes are required to use the campsites along the Coastal Track
Fishing is prohibited in the Tonga Island marine reserve, which runs between Bark Bay and Awaroa Head
Safe drinking water is available at Totaranui, Bark Bay and the Anchorage. All other water needs to be treated or boiled
The sea is a comfortable temperature for swimming between December and March
Conditions, facilities and services change – always check the latest information at the nearest DOC visitor centre before you venture out.