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Abel Tasman National Park

Tips for your Abel Tasman experience!

Abel Tasman National Park has been incredibly popular with travellers for a long time, its hidden golden sand beaches, turquoise water, the idyllic coastal walks, diverse activities and the perfect secluded location in the sunny Nelson region act as magnet for thrill seekers, virtually a must for most South Island visitors!


The golden Abel Tasman sand is famous, not least because many published images of New Zealand show those reddish quartz crystals that come from a local granite.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60 kilometre long trail of special status, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. It is also one of the most pleasant, the highest point is only at 150 metres! You can visit the national park throughout the year, but you have to be aware that nights can be very cold out of season. Holidays and the absolute peak season (Christmas until the end of January) can be 'a bit' crowded and accommodation should be booked in advance.

Abel Tasman tips: Anchorage beachAbel Tasman was the Dutch explorer who sailed past here in 1642, 300 years later the area was placed under protection as the fourth-oldest national park in New Zealand. But you can still see cottages that date from the period before 1942, and many wild pines from old plantations must slowly be removed from the reforested native forest. The Tonga Island Marine Reserve was also established next to the Abel Tasman park, in addition to the fish and seabirds there are plenty of fur seals basking on the shores.

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman travel tips: golden sandsThe 60 km long 'Great Walk' is not only one of the most beautiful and pleasant, it is also the most visited trail in New Zealand.

It extends from Marahau in the south to Wainui in the north. The coastal location with many beaches in between and regular water taxis bring the great advantage that you can can choose any section and don't have to hike the complete route! The whole walk takes about 3-5 days to complete, but most visitors leave out Wainui Bay and begin or end the walk in Totaranui. Along the way there are now not only campsites, but also very comfortable cabins and inns. More information about the accommodations and the trails can be obtained from the Department of Conservation (www.doc.govt.nz). See below for the sections of the Abel Tasman track.

Abel Tasman Inland Track

The Abel Tasman Inland Track is 38 kilometres long and leads from Tinline Bay to Torrent Bay, it is much less popular. Also along this route there are campgrounds and huts for shelter. If you don't have enough after the Coast Track this is a good way to return. Highlights include diverse viewpoints and of course the extremely secluded native forest. There is also a connection to Canaan Downs campground, where you can also stop or start the hike and where the trail to the legendary Harwoods Hole begins.

Abel Tasman day walks

  • Abel Tasman walking tips: Totaranui beach is waiting for you!From Totaranui: From here you can either explore the Awaroa Inlet (3 hours one way) in the south or Anapai Bay (2 hours trip) in the north. The next bay to the south is the beautiful Goat Bay, a little further on you will find Waiharakeke Bay. Awaroa Inlet itself is only accessible at low tide, but it is easily accessible by water taxi. The Awaroa sandspit was sold from private hands in 2016, the successful bid came from an initiative of 40,000 New Zealanders who have pooled their donations so the beach can be incorporated into the national park and will never be overbuilt. The government has also contributed a part of the proud sum of 2.85 million New Zealand dollars. The better accessible Anapai Bay in the north is a particularly beautiful bay with wonderful rock formations, incredibly photogenic both mornings and evenings and certainly worth the hike.
  • Abel Tasman walking tips: Anapai is worth a short walk!Wainui Falls Track (1.5 km, 1 hr return) is a short walk through the jungle to the largest waterfall in Golden Bay. Access from the car park in Wainui Bay.
  • Lookout Rock Track (Pigeon Saddle, 1.8 km, 1 hr return): from the Totaranui road this trail leads to a rock with 360 degree views of the forest and Wainui Bay.
  • From Marahau: It's 12.4 km to Anchorage Bay, but before that you can turn back at Tinline Bay, Coquille Bay, Apple Tree Bay, Akersten Bay, or Watering Cove. However still better is it to cover one of the ways with a kayak!
  • From Kaiteriteri: At the southern end of the beach there is the Stephens Bay Walk to Dummy Bay and Stephens Bay, there is also a trail around the estuary.

Activities and things to do

Abel Tasman beach tips: another golden beachKayaking is the main sport after walking, many providers offer guided tours or just rent kayaks from the beach. The famous Split Apple Rock is located between the main settlements Marahau and Kaiteriteri. Especially worth visiting is Tonga Island because of the fur seals who rest there. The marine reserve of Tonga Island also partially extends along the coast, but outside of that zone fishing charters are possible.

Mountain Biking: Kaiteriteri has a mountain bike park, out of season you can bike on the Abel Tasman Track between Wainui and Totaranui, or from Totaranui to Gibbs Hill and back. The steep unpaved pass road from Pohara to Totaranui is particularly attractive, but also very narrow being shared with cars and campervans.

Cruises are focused on all kinds of possible interests, while water taxis easily cruise back and forth between the beaches. Also sailing boats make trips to the most beautiful beaches.

Abel Tasman transport

Abel Tasman transport tips: water taxi at Medlands BeachThere are shuttle buses from Nelson (1 h) and Motueka. Kaiteriteri is nearly 200 kms away from Picton, 60 kms from Nelson and 16 kms from Motueka.

You can drive to Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Totaranui, Wainui and Awaroa. The journey from Nelson to Totaranui can last 2.5 hours and is only recommended if you also want to see the beautiful Golden Bay. Takaka Hill is bigger than people think and the mostly unsealed road from Pohara to Totaranui is relatively adventurous - certainly not for New Zealand travellers in a hurry!

The easiest transport along the coast is with water taxis of all sizes. A National Park fee from the Department of Conservation should be included in the ticket price.

Abel Tasman accommodation

Abel Tasman walking tips: walkway signMost travellers will probably stay in Kaiteriteri or Marahau, both have campgrounds and other accommodation (see Travelbug for example).

In Takaka and at Pohara beach you'll find the last 'civilized' accommodation at the northern end of Abel Tasman Park, as the campsite at Totaranui is administered by DOC and only offers solar lights and no showers.

On the Abel Tasman track there are four huts and many campsites, so you don't need walk long daily stages. Cabins are located in Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa and Whariwharangi, campsites are found in much shorter intervals, all accommodations are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and must be pre-booked, either online, via i-SITE in Motueka or in the DOC info centre in Marahau. Private accommodation is available in Torrent Bay and Awaroa.

Abel Tasman National Park: map

Abel Tasman National Park - walking map

The sections of Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman accommodation tips: Kaiteriteri

Kaiteriteri: Popular starting point for water taxis and cruises, but also for kayaking to Split Apple Rock, with many accommodation options. Ideal for day walks and combined trips with kayaking and walking. Stephens Bay track at the southern end leads to Dummy Bay and Stephens Bay, while the Kaiteriteri Bayview Lookout at the northern end offers views of Breaker Bay and Honeymoon Bay. There is also a mountain bike park in Kaiteriteri.

Marahau: Location of the DOC information centre and the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk. Ideal as a base for the 'Great Walk', the official start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, with many accommodation options and activities, kayak rentals etc.

Marahau to Anchorage Bay (4 h, 12.4 km): The trail meanders from Sandy Bay via Tinline Bay, Coquille Bay, Apple Tree Bay, Akersten Bay and Watering Cove (so named because French captain d'Urville filled his water barrels here in 1827). Anchorage Bay has the largest campground and offers filtered drinking water, in most other bays you need to boil it before drinking.

Abel Tasman accommodation tips: Awaroa Beach

Anchorage Bay to Bark Bay (3-4 h, 8.4-11.5 km): At low tide you can reach Torrent Bay much easier, otherwise you have to take the High Tide Track, at least then you'll see Cleopatra's Pool on the way and get a chance to walk over a 47 m long suspension bridge. Medlands Beach is a short detour, most water taxis stop off there.

Bark Bay to Awaroa (4.5 h, 11.7 km): In Tonga Bay you can see the remains of a granite quarry. After Onetahuti Beach the track leads over 150 m high Tonga Saddle to Awaroa Inlet.

Awaroa to Totaranui (2.5 h, 7.1 km): The wide Awaroa Inlet can only be crossed up to 2 hours either side of low tide! After that the track winds along Waiharakeke Bay and Goat Bay. Totaranui has a huge campground, but there is no filtered water or electricity. A road gives faster access to Wainui or Takaka and water taxis return back to Kaiteriteri, which means you can comfortably finish your walk here.

Totaranui to Wainui Bay (5 h, 15.5 km): Over a hilly ridge to beautiful Anapai Bay, then via Mutton Cove and Whariwharangi Bay to Wainui Bay. From here the Abel Tasman Inland Track leads back to Marahau.

Other Abel Tasman travel tips

  • Abel Tasman Park tips: the road to Totaranui

    Take drinking water and cooking utensils, filtered water is only available in Anchorage (streams may contain Giardia) and there are no cooking facilities anywhere. Each campground has toilets (better bring your own toilet paper).
  • Torrent Bay is better to reach at low tide and Awaroa can only be reached at low tide - plan tide times and take notes!
  • There are no garbage cans in Abel Tasman Park, all waste must be carried back out. Glass bottles for example can be heavy after a while ...
  • Visitors to the beautiful Golden Bay can visit Abel Tasman National Park from the quieter northern end.
  • You can rent camping gear in Motueka.
  • Abel Tasman Park is madly and justifiably popular - don't forget to book cabins, campsites and other accommodation ahead!


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