5 Days 51 Kms

Highlights

  • White sand beaches
  • Crystal-clear bays
  • Cheeky wildlife

Proximity

GRADE: EASY - INTERMEDIATE

The temperate climate of the Nelson Tasman region makes for excellent year-round walking and exploring the great outdoors.

Find out more about tramping on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.

1. Walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track

One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is the perfect way to explore the unmatchable beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park.

Because of its easy accessibility 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.

Some areas of the track can only be walked at low-tide so it is important to check the tides(opens in new window) prior to starting your walk. 

Top tip; For the ultimate walk in Abel Tasman National Park, join Abel tasman Coastal Track to the Inland Track(opens in new window). This challenging walking route passes through regenerating and original native forest and you are treated to amazing views up and down the coast.

2. Walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The fitter you are the more you will enjoy yourself, so a good level of fitness and strength is necessary. 

Find out more about the walk and what is involved; 

Day 1, Marahau > Anchorage, 12.4km

After the Mārahau 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 the Anchorage Hut and Campsite(opens in new window) awaits. 

Day 2, Anchorage > Bark Bay, 12.1km

Today's walk crosses a low ridge into Torrent Bay Estuary so it is imperative that you check the tide times(opens in new window) prior to starting the walk today.

The estuary can be crossed two hours' either side of low tide - or take 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 47 metre-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 and Campsite(opens in new window) that's just beside the estuary. 

Day 3, Bark Bay > Awaroa, 11.4km

Today's walk crosses a low ridge into Torrent Bay Estuary so it is imperative that you check the tide times(opens in new window) prior to starting the walk today.

Cross Bark Bay Estuary two hours either side of low-tide or follow the all-tide track (10 minutes) around its edge where you'll climb steeply to a saddle.

Here, walkers journey through a mānuka 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 and snorkelling here 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(opens in new window) is only a few minutes along the shore. 

Day 4, Awaroa > Whariwharangi, 13km

Today's walk goes near Awaroa Estuary so it is imperative that you check the tide times(opens in new window) prior to starting the walk today.

Awaroa Estuary can only be crossed a couple of hours either side of low 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, kererū (wood pigeons) and tūī will keep you company. 

The walking alternates between sandy beaches and rocky headlands before descending to Whariwharangi Bay Campsite(opens in new window), 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. From Wainui there are public transport options to Takaka (November through to May). 

For water taxi pickup walkers need to return to Totaranui via Gibbs Hill (three hours). 

3. Accommodation on Abel Tasman Coast Track

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 provide 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 are required for all huts and campsites especially during the Great Walks season from October through to April. 

Huts can be booked online here(opens in new window), through any DOC office(opens in new window) or at the Motueka i-SITE Visitor Centre

During the trekking season the huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic gas cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting and cold running water. A DOC ranger is present. The huts do not provide food, cooking utensils or showers. Campers need to carry their own gas cookers. 

During the off-peak season DOC hut tickets or annual hut passes are required and the huts do not have a ranger on site and have limited facilities. 

Book Great Walk huts

4. Towns near the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Nelson is the main gateway to the Abel Tasman with daily flights arriving into Nelson Airport.

The beautiful beach town of Kaiteriteri is home to a number of accommodation options including a holiday park with ocean views and is only a short drive to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track trail head.

Motueka is a petite but lively town with great farmers markets and arts and crafts. Motueka is just 25 minutes drive to the village of Mārahau. 

Mārahau is the Southern gateway to the Able Tasman National Park and an entrance to begin the Great Walk. Yes, Mārahau is small but it's a bustling village and a great place for kayaking, swimming and other water sports with local gear hire and tours available. 

Where ever you chose to stay in the Abel Tasman area it's worth staying a few days before and after your trek. 

5. Getting to Abel Tasman Coast Track trail head

Getting to the start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track is accessible at the four main entrances. 

  • Mārahau is the southern gateway. It's 67 km from Nelson on sealed road providing access by water taxi, kayak, or walking
  • Wainui is the northern entrance. It's 128 km from Nelson and 21 km from Takaka. For the last 2 km, the road is unsealed providing access by walking
  • Totaranui is 160 km from Nelson and 32 km from Takaka providing access by walking and water taxi. The last 12 km of the road is unsealed but suitable for campervans
  • Kaiteriteri is 61 km from Nelson providing access by kayak or water taxi. Note: This is 7 km from the track entrance by walking and it is not advisable to walk this.

It is also possible to access Awaroa estuary on a road that is 31 km from Takaka. The last 12 km of road is rough, unsealed and prone to flooding. It is not recommended as an entrance to the park.

Transport options

Most visitors only walk in one direction on the Coast Track and get a water taxi in the other direction.

There are commercial water taxis that operate between Marahau/Kaiteriteri and Totaranui. Water taxis are not permitted to go above Totaranui, so there is no service to Wainui or any of the Northern bays. Visitors travelling beyond Totaranui use the Gibbs Hill Track to make a loop in the Northern end of the Park.

Water taxis operate year round and must be booked in advance. The scheduled water taxi pickup locations are Apple Tree Bay, Anchorage, Medlands Bay, Bark Bay, Tonga Quarry, Onetahuti, Awaroa and Totaranui.

Many of the water taxi and kayak companies have shuttle buses for their clients.

Vehicle parking

DOC provides a carpark at Marahau, Totaranui and Wainui roadends. Cars are parked at your own risk.

There is strictly no freedom camping.

6. Book a guided tour of Abel Tasman Coast Track

A number of specialist tour operators can aid in bringing your walking experience to life. Some offer a combination of walking and kayaking.

Booking a walk independently 

If you want to do a Great Walk independently, you will need to book the DOC accommodation on the trails. The fee for this varies between each Great Walk. It is recommended that you book in advance for this popular walk.

7. How to prepare for the Great Walks of New Zealand

These five simple rules, also known as The Land Safety Code, to help you stay safe when trekking or tramping in the outdoors of New Zealand. 

1. Choose the right trip for you

Make sure the chosen trip is suitable for your fitness level.

2. Understand the weather

New Zealand's weather changes quickly, always check the forecast. If the weather is bad, wait until it clears or turn around. 

3. Pack warm clothes and extra food

Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.

4. Share your plans and ways to get help

Tell a trusted person your trip details and take a personal locator beacon with you - these can be purchased or hired from local gear shops.

5. Take care of yourself and others 

Eat, drink and rest. Stay with your group and always make decisions together.

The Land Safety Code

What to pack for Great Walks of New Zealand

Having the right gear is imperative when tramping in the outdoors. 

Watch this video(opens in new window) to find out what to pack and events to prepare for. 

Find out all you need to know about walking in New Zealand at Adventure Smart(opens in new window).

Find out what to pack

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Department of Conservation

Click the link below for more information and detailed maps for this trail

Abel Tasman Coastal Track(opens in new window)

Book your Abel Tasman Coast trip

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