At the very top of the South Island, explore the beautiful beaches, impressive rock formations and cheeky wildlife of glittering Abel Tasman National Park.
The idyllic Abel Tasman Coastal Track links a myriad of crescent-shaped coves of glittering golden sand, washed by the crystal-clear waters of Tasman Bay. Wander along beaches that constantly invite you in for a swim and hike around headlands with commanding views. Fur seals are found along the coast of the park, particularly on the headlands at Separation Point and near Tonga Island. Little blue penguins feed at sea during the day and return to the park’s islands at night. Common dolphins are often seen playing in the waves.
This track is the perfect way to explore the beauty of Nelson's Abel Tasman National Park. Because of its easy accessiblity for boats, you have the option to walk a portion of the trail for a day or the entire length over 3-5 days. Or, if you would prefer paddle power, take a kayak tour. The walk is not a circuit track, so some form of transport needs to be organised at either end. Shuttles and water taxis are easy to book in advance.
Day 1, Marahau > Anchorage, 12.4km
After the Marahau information kiosk, follow the causeway that crosses the estuary. From here, you'll pass through open country to Tinline Bay. The track then rounds Guilbert Point to Apple Tree Bay before passing through beech forest with large kanuka trees. After Yellow Point the track heads inland, winding through small gullies before emerging into Torrent Bay, overlooking the coast and islands to the north. Descend into the bay where a hut and campsite awaits.
Day 2, Anchorage > Bark Bay, 12.1km
This morning, cross a low ridge to Torrent Bay Estuary. The estuary can be crossed two hours' either side of high tide, or a longer all-tide track leads up and around the headland. At the northern end of Torrent Bay the track climbs steadily up and over two valleys before reaching a 47m-long suspension bridge strung above a beautiful inlet. The track then meanders through coastal forest before dropping back down to the sea. Here, you'll come to the Bark Bay hut that's just beside the estuary.
Day 3, Bark Bay > Awaroa, 11.4km
Cross Bark Bay estuary or follow the all-tide around its edge where you'll climb steeply to a saddle. Here, walkers journey through a manuka forest; losing all sense of the coast before returning to the shore at Tonga Quarry. Here, just offshore sits Tonga Island, surrounded by a marine reserve and fascinating underwater life - here, going snorkelling is highly recommended. A short distance on, you'll come to Onetahuti Bay, where an all-tide bridge and boardwalk crosses an inlet. From here, the track climbs up and over Tonga Saddle before descending to Awaroa Inlet. Awaroa Hut is only a few minutes along the shore.
Day 4, Awaroa > Whariwharangi, 13km
Awaroa Estuary can only be crossed a few hours' either side of high tide. Once crossed, the track crosses a low saddle and drops into Waiharakeke Bay, where an old timber mill used to be located. From here, you'll wind through more forest and beaches as well as up and over a lookout with spectacular views. When you’re hiking forested sections of the track, bellbirds, fantails, kereru (wood pigeons) and tui will keep you company. From here, walking alternates between sandy beaches and rocky headlands before descending to Whariwharangi Bay and tonight's hut - an old restored farm homestead.
Day 5, Whariwharangi > Wainui, 5.5km
Take your time hiking to the end of the track today. You'll pass through more beautiful inlets and small saddles before walking by the coast and coming to the carpark. Here, meet your transport back to Marahau or get picked up by a water taxi back by the coast.
For the ultimate walk in Abel Tasman National Park, join the coastal walk to the Inland Track. This challenging walking route passes through regenerating and original native forest. The park’s hilly interior guarantees blockbuster views up and down the coast.
During the walk
You have the choice of staying overnight at DOC huts and campsites or in private, lodge-style accommodation with a tour provider.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) provides four huts and a number of campsites dotted along the Abel Tasman Track. Some of the tent sites promise beachfront views, so you can wake up to a spectacular sunrise and the sound of waves lapping at your doorstep. The campsite at Onetahuti Beach is one of the best; with the added attractions of glow worm caves and a fresh water pool.
Reservations or tickets (depending on the time of year) are required for all huts and campsites. During summer season, running from October to April, advance bookings are required. During the winter season, running from May - September, advance bookings are not required.
Before and after
The walk begins near the beautiful beach town of Kaiteriteri, home to a number of accommodation options. There's so much to do in the Abel Tasman National Park that it pays to stay a few days more either before or after your walk. The buzzing city of Nelson is only a short drive away and it's home to a range of accommodation.
A number of specialist tour operators can aid in bringing your walking experience to life. Some offer a combination of walking and kayaking.
If you want to walk this track independently, you will need a Great Walks Pass. The fees for this varies between each Great Walk, but all prices are very reasonable as they are heavily subsidised in order to foster participation by many people.