A guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track in Nelson

Everything you need to know about walking one of the easiest New Zealand Great Walks. Also the most accessible so you can choose how many days to walk.

The Abel Tasman Coast track has been described as the finest coastal walk in the country. It is accessible by boat between Marahau and Totaranui so you can choose how much walking you want to do, from a few hours to several days.

There are no roads or shops in the National Park. It is not recommended to drink untreated water in the Park. Filtered drinking water is available at Department of Conservation huts and campsites located at Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa and Totaranui. Toilet facilities are available at most beaches. There are no rubbish disposal facilities so all rubbish must be carried out of the Park.

The southern entrance to the track is at Marahau, located on a large tidal inlet so boat access is limited to smaller boats. Kaiteriteri (about 20 minutes drive from Marahau) is the best beach for comfortable boat access.

The northern entrance to the track is at Wainui inlet in Golden Bay. There is no boat access here so coach or car transfers need to be arranged if you are starting or finishing here.

Tidal Crossings:
The Abel Tasman coast has one of the largest tidal ranges in New Zealand: up to 4.9 metres (15 feet) between high and low tides. This feature creates spectacular estuaries that change with the tides from wide, calm lagoons to expanses of golden sand laced by trickling streams.

Most estuaries have high tide alternate routes except for the Awaroa Estuary. This inlet can only be crossed comfortably 2 hours either side of Low Tide. High Tide routes will add some time and distance to your walk. Low Tide routes do involve some wading through water, so be prepared to get your feet wet. It is not advisable to walk bare-foot across the larger estuaries at Torrent Bay and Awaroa where coarse sand and shells are hard on the toughest feet. More details on tidal crossings and recommended footwear here.

All streams are bridged.

These are frequently asked questions about the track:

When is the best time to visit?
One of the best features of the Abel Tasman Coast Track is that is accessible year-round. The cooler months are an ideal time to experience the coast. Most of the best photos are taken in the clear, crisp winter days when there is no sea breeze to ruffle the crystal clear water, or heat haze to soften the panoramic coastal vistas.
More details here.

How hard is the walking?
With no point higher than 200 metres (650 feet), the track is well-formed and easy to follow. There is no need for heavy hiking boots but good comfortable walking shoes are recommended. The track is mostly shaded, meandering through a variety of native forest groves, coming down onto long stretches of golden sand, lapped by calm, azure waters ideal for swimming.

The section of the Coastal Track adjacent to Tasman Bay, between Marahau and Totaranui, is maintained to a very high standard by Department of Conservation. Between Totaranui and Wainui, the track is more isolated. It is not so well-formed and has fewer facilities.

How do I arrange boat transport?
There are several companies offering water taxi and boat transfers from Kaiteriteri or Marahau. Wilsons Abel Tasman operates the Vista Cruise service, making it easy with Independent Walkers Specials or Cruise & Walk itineraries designed to make the most of each day and to suit all fitness levels.

Can I stay overnight in the Park?
Department of Conservation huts and campsites must be booked before entering the Park.  This can be done at I-Site Visitor Information Centres or online on the Department of Conservation website.

If camping, communal bunk rooms and instant noodles are not your style, book a Beachfront Lodge based, all-inclusive holiday with Wilsons Abel Tasman. Luggage transfers, ensuite rooms, Vista Cruise transport, fine food and coach connections from/to Motueka and Nelson are all included.