New Zealand’s smallest national park boasts spectacular coastline and a rugged interior with waterfalls and streams. It is extremely popular with backpackers who come to hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and to kayak along the park’s 91km of pristine coastline, which is home to dolphins, fur seals, penguins and a variety of bird life.
The park has good transport connections from Nelson, Motueka and Takaka.
Shuttle bus companies that serve the park include Abel Tasman Coachlines (tel (03) 548 0285) and Southern Link K Bus (tel (03) 358 8355 or 0508 458 835).
There are several water taxi companies that offer shuttle services within the national park. These include Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle (tel 0800 732 748 (0800 SEA SHUTTLE)) and Aqua Taxi (tel (03) 527 8083 or 0800 278 282 (0800 AQUA TAXI)). One way fares generally range from $25 to $36.
There are several campgrounds in the park and DOC operates huts on the Inland and Coastal Tracks (reservations are essential in summer). DOC huts on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track cost $14 between October and April and $10 between May and September. Camping costs $7 year round.
In addition to DOC accommodation within the park, there are a couple of backpackers hostels at Marahau, near the edge of the park, and many backpackers stay at one of the hostels in nearby Motueka or Takaka.
Harvey Road, Marahau
Tel (03) 527 8043
Moss Road, Marahau
Tel (03) 527 8424
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s top sea kayaking spot. It is an extremely popular activity with many backpackers and there are a large number of kayaking operators to choose from. Most companies rent kayaks and also operate guided trips. One of the highlights is the Tonga Island Marine Reserve where you can often see seals between March and October.
If you’re considering a multi-day trip, rentals are by far the cheapest option; but guided trips are a good option if you’re new to kayaking. A one-day guided trip followed by a multi-day rental is a good compromise that gives you the best of both worlds.
Many companies prohibit solo hire and require that at least someone in your group have some kayaking experience. Many kayak rental companies offer the fifth day free.
The following companies run guided kayaking trips and many also rent kayaks.
Abel Tasman Kayaks (tel (03) 527 8022 or 0800 732 529) operate guided kayaking trips, which cost $560-890 for a three-day trip.
Kaiteriteri Kayak (tel (03) 527 8383 or 0800 2 52925 (0800 2 KAYAK)) run highly recommended day trips that cost $110. They also have the option of water taxi assisted day trips where you are taken by water taxi to some of the best areas in the park to explore by kayak. These trips give you the best experience you can get on a single day trip. Kaiteriteri’s Aqua Taxi assisted day trips cost $165-185.
Kaiteriteri also have kayak and walk combos that combine hiking and kayaking, allowing you to experience both the park from both the land and sea. One day kayak and walk trips cost $99-135 and two day trips cost $175-185.
Kiwi Kayaks (tel (03) 528 7705 or 0800 695 494) rent kayaks and run guided kayaking trips. One day kayaking trips cost $115-185 and kayak and walk combos that cost $99-129 for a day trip. Rental costs are one day $55, two days $99, three days $140, four days $170; the fifth rental day is free.
Marahau Sea Kayaks (tel (03) 527 8551 or 0800 808 018) run guided one day kayaking trips and they also rent kayaks for overnight trips. One day guided kayaking trips cost $95-160 and rental costs are one day $65, two days $100, three days $140, four days $180; the fifth rental day is free.
Ocean River Sea Kayaking (tel (03) 527 8022 or 0800 732 529) rent kayaks. Rental costs are one day $55, two days $99, three days $140, four days $170; the fifth rental day is free.
The Sea Kayak Company (tel (03) 528 7251 or 0508 252 925) runs guided single and multi-day trips and also rents kayaks. One day kayaking trips cost $99-165; kayak and walk day trip combos cost $165; two day trips cost $330; three day trips cost $410-490; five day trips cost $950. Rental costs are two days $100, three days $145, four days $180; the fifth rental day is free.
There are some excellent hiking trails in the park. The two most popular long walks are the Abel Tasman Inland Track and the easier Abel Tasman Coastal Track. The Department of Conservation classes the Coastal Track as a Great Walk.
The easy Abel Tasman Coastal Track (51km; 3-5 days) is one of New Zealand’s most popular hiking trails.
For the most part it hugs the coast and allows plenty of opportunity to take a break on some lovely sandy beaches.
Like the Queen Charlotte Track, the coastal nature of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track means that you can let a water taxi carry your backpack between overnight stops allowing you to walk with only a daypack.
You will need to refer to a tide table when planning your walk as the track passes several estuaries that can only be crossed a couple of hours either side of low tide.
There are four DOC huts on the track that provide dormitory accommodation. In the peak season (Oct-Apr) you will need to book your hut accommodation by buying a summer season hut pass from a DOC office.
The track is divided into the following sections:
The first leg of the track leaves Marahau at the southern entrance to the park, passing four beachside campsites before arriving at Anchorage Bay where there is another campsite and also a DOC hut.
This section of the track involves crossing the Torrent Bay estuary, which can only be crossed two hours either side of low tide. After crossing the estuary, the track climbs through pine forest and crosses the Falls River before descending back to sea level and the Bark Bay hut.
After crossing Bark Bay estuary, the track climbs to a saddle and through manuka bush before returning to the shore at Tonga Quarry in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. At Onetahuti Beach you have to cross a tidal stream that is only passable three hours either side of low tide. After leaving the beach the track climbs over the Tonga Saddle before descending to Awaroa hut. The classy Awaroa Lodge is located close to Awaroa Hut and offers the opportunity for a nice meal.
This part of the track starts by crossing the Awaroa estuary. This can only be crossed 1½-2 hours either side of low tide, although Awaroa Lodge operates a barge ($5) during high tide. The track goes inland for a short distance before returning to the beach. Again, the track goes inland for a short distance before arriving at the DOC campsite at Totaranui.
Much of the last section of the track alternates between the beach and rocky headlands. You also have the option of making a one hour side trip to the lighthouse at Separation Point. After passing the Whariwharangi DOC hut, the track cuts inland for 5km before following an estuary for the final 500m to the trailhead at Wainui Bay.
The more demanding Abel Tasman Inland Track (4 days) is a less travelled alternative to the Coastal Track that shares the same start and finishing points, however you miss out on the spectacular coastal scenery. It passes through regenerating forest and has four DOC huts spaced along the track.