Abel Tasman National Park is a little like paradise.
Though, it’s hard not to find several versions of paradise while travelling around New Zealand. There’s even a township – close by to the buzzing Queenstown – called Paradise!
It may be NZ’s smallest national park, but when I look back on my trip and I think about where I discovered the biggest contrast in landscape it’s Abel Tasman.
Travellers, hikers and campers come to Abel Tasman for it’s stunning coastal track, taking in vistas of golden-sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters paired with a backdrop of sub-tropical rainforest.
When to visit?
The best time to visit the park for warm temperatures both on the ground and in the water is between the months of September and April. The park will be at it’s best for hiking, wildlife-spotting and getting out on the water through a range of scenic cruises or kayaking trips.
The Coastal Track
To complete the popular coastal track, you can trek between 3 and 5 days staying at either campsites or huts at different points on the trail. However, with a little help from Abel Tasman AquaTaxi, you can sail out to various points in the park then choose between catching a taxi back to base at Marahau, or walking back.
If you’re looking to take on the multi-day hike, have a look at the New Zealand Department of Conservation website here, but those low on time or wanting a shorter hike where you can still experience the bliss of this national park should read on for more details on the 4 hour Anchorage to Marahau walk!
Anchorage Bay – Marahau
Sun shining and snacks packed, along with a new friend, I hopped on a bus to the AquaTaxi terminal in Marahau. Marahau is one of two bases that the AquaTaxi’s depart from and is known as a central point in Abel Tasman. It’s also home to The Barn, our accommodation for a couple of nights – more on that later…
The water taxi’s drop off at 6 different points on the coastal track, the closest one being Anchorage Bay and the furthest being Totaranui. So, the fare prices vary between each point but for a one-way fare to Anchorage Bay (opting to hike back to Marahau) the cost is a reasonable $40 NZD (roughly £21 GBP).
We arrived at the AquaTaxi base in Marahau, signed in and collected our life jackets. Shortly after, we took our seats on the boat and drove down to the water. Hitting the water and instantly seeing our beautiful surroundings was amazing. We were lucky with clear, blue skies and sunshine all day, resulting in glistening, gentle sea – my favourite kind.
No matter what point on the coastal track you’re heading to, all AquaTaxi departures make a stop at the famous Split Apple Rock. We even made a stop to check out some fur seals, bathing in the sun. It was just a few days before that I’d had a lovely encounter with some in the town of Kaikoura and I’d become very fond of them!
READ MORE: Wildlife Encounters in Kaikoura, New Zealand
Finally arriving at Anchorage Bay felt a little like being dropped off on a deserted island; a really beautiful one! We stood on the sand, looking all around us and watching the taxi speed off into the distance. At first, we seemed completely alone but after a couple of minutes planning and spotting our first sign of many to follow, we were off.
The hike from Anchorage Bay to Marahau is approximately 12.4km and could take you anywhere between 3 and 4 hours, longer if you stop off to enjoy the various beaches and bays. There’s also two short side trips that you can make to Cleopatra’s Pool (a 40m return) or Pitt Head (40m – 1.5hrs). We opted to check out Pitt Head, though when I look back I wonder why we didn’t go to Cleopatra’s Pool, it looks amazing!
There are a few sections of steeper climbs for the first 15-20 minutes, but you are rewarded with stunning views and the remainder of the walk is mostly flat.
What to bring with you
A small backpack, a water bottle, snacks/lunch, insect repellent and sunscreen, sunglasses/hat, hiking boots (and flip-flops if you fancy spending time at one of the sandy beaches), a camera and another layer (if visiting in cooler months).
Staying at The Barn
Literally steps from the entrance to the national park is The Barn, with different accommodation styles varying from private cabins to dorm rooms to camp sites.
Staying in Abel Tasman was brief for me, just a couple of nights before jumping back on my bus and heading to Franz Josef. But I often think, if I’d had longer, what a place it would’ve been to retreat to for a few days! Slow days under the sun, immersed in nature, no signal on our phones – it’s the perfect place to disconnect.
The Barn was one of my favourite places to stay during my month in New Zealand – have a scroll through their Instagram feed to see for yourself how amazing their accommodation is!
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