Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park - but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure.
The Abel Tasman National Park is an easily-accessible coastal paradise. You can choose to explore the park from land, on the water, or in the air, with tour operators aplenty offering cruises, water taxi services, kayaking options, heli-tours and sailing catamarans.
Whilst summer is a popular time to visit, locals believe that the shoulder seasons are actually the best time to explore the park, as crisp mornings, calm waters and quiet beaches allow you to truly enjoy the peace and serenity.
Those who 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 Puketea 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.
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.
Abel Tasman National Park is an idyllic sea kayaking region with a number of kayaking companies that run guided tours from Marahau, Kaiteriteri and Golden Bay.
If you’d rather be independent, you can rent sea kayaks and stay at campsites, huts or lodges within the park.
Be sure to hire your sea kayak before you go into Abel Tasman National Park. At the southern entrance to the park, sea kayak hire is available at Kaiteriteri and Marahau. At the northern Golden Bay entrance, enquire at Takaka. Commercial operators require you to participate in a full safety brief before hiring sea kayaks for independent trips.
A large tidal range on the coast requires expert local knowledge to get the most out of each day and to experience some unique features that cannot be seen on certain tides.
A guide designs each day around your interests and abilities, taking care of your comfort, and providing all necessary training. Whether you are a skilled sea kayaker, or it is your first time giving it a go, expert guides are trained to show you the best of what the Abel Tasman National Park has to offer.
The Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its protected coastline but it’s impossible to guarantee the conditions. It is important to check the weather report and pack suitable clothing and supplies before heading out on your journey.