Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure.
A coastal paradise that you can walk through or explore by cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi or sea kayak, visitors love the way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with beach life. Bursts of hiking or paddling are punctuated by sun bathing, swimming and sedate snorkelling.
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.
Here, inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and tide line. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating native forest.
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.
The park is accessible from Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the South, and from Golden Bay and Totaranui in the North. Most water taxi services depart from Marahau or Kaiteriteri and travel only as far north as Totaranui.
There are comfortable private lodges at Awaroa and Torrent Bay. The Department of Conservation (DOC) 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.
The coastal track and other walks
Classed as one of New Zealand's 'Great Walks', the Abel Tasman 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, though the northern stretch from Totaranui to Wainui is far-less frequented. 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 within Abel Tasman national Park 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 Abel Tasman National Park, water taxi companies can provide a personalised mix of sightseeing by boat and track walking. It’s easy to arrange pick-up or drop-off points at various points along the tracks. Pre-booking is advised. Enquire at Motueka, Marahau or Kaiteriteri.