Our amazing adventure hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track began in Marahau, the gateway into the Abel Tasman National Park. It was our first multi-day hike and one of the highlights of our road trip through New Zealand.
We didn’t know what to expect. At the starting point, surrounded by super-professional-fully-equipped hikers, we suddenly realised how big our sleeping bags were and how cranky it was to have parts of the tent hanging out of our backpacks. Total weigh: 15 kg for each backpack. However, it was to late to retreat and considering the circumstances, we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. The first day was hard, but it was one of the most stunning hikes we’ve ever been on. The track curves its way along the coast, taking you from the golden sand coves to the lush forests waiting just beyond the shore. This place is paradise.
So here’s all you need to know about hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track plus our itinerary and a few tips on how to get there, what to wear and what to take!
Route Name: Abel Tasman Coast Track
Location: Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Duration: 3-5 days
Length: 60 km / 37. 3 miles
HIKING THE ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK: OUR ITINERARY
Situated in the top left corner of the South Island of New Zealand, the Abel Tasman National Park is crossed by 60 km hiking track: the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, or else one of the most beautiful walk of the country and it’s not hard to see why once you arrive. The park is named after a Dutchman, Abel Tasman, who accidentally discovered the beautiful coastline in 1642.
Before hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track we had to decide the itinerary. The most popular trail starts in Marahau and ends in Totaranui (the furthest you can catch a water taxi). You can hike all or only part of the trail, in either direction. Will and I choose to explore only part of it and we ventured on a 3-day hike from Awaroa to Marahau. Here’s how it went:
Day 1: Awaroa Bay to Bark Bay (13.5 km, 4.5 h)
We started our first day by taking a bumpy 1.5 hour water taxi ride from Marahau to Awaroa Bay, the start of our journey. On our way we spotted some New Zealand fur seals frolicking in the water and we had a first glimpse of the National Park. Once in Awaroa Bay our adventure began. Not used to carrying heavy multi-day packs, we made plenty of stops to rest in the shade. It was a thrilling and tiring 13.5 km that took about 4.5 hours to complete. The track took us through the inland with great views on sandy beaches and secluded coves. Reaching Bark Bay in the early afternoon we spent few hours by the beach, cooling down in the beautiful turquoise water and we fell fast asleep with the sound of the waves gently crashing just few metres away from our tent.
Day 2: Bark Bay to Anchorage Campsite (8.4 km, 3 h)
On the second day, we were incredibly sore but amazed by the beauty of the scenery surrounding us. We packed up our camp and hiked our way through the tidal crossing at Torrent Bay Village, we crossed a 47-metre long suspension bridge and we made it to Anchorage Bay by walking through the sludgy wet sand of our second tidal crossing of the day. Anchorage campsite was much larger than Bark Bay and we found the perfect spot to set up camp in the shades of the tree. After a refreshing swim we had a romantic “instant” powdery meal cooked in some boiling water. The sun hadn’t even properly set before we were snoozing away in our little tent, exhausted from the day’s adventures.
Day 3: Anchorage Campsite to Marahau (12.4 km, 4 h)
On the third day, we woke up under a cloudy sky. Ready for the last stretch. The plan in the beginning was to book a kayak tour to make it back to Marahau by water, but the plan changed so we arrived to the finish line on foot. Overall, the Abel Tasman Coast Track was challenging, but I found it to be the perfect level of difficulty for our first multi-day hike.
HOW TO VISIT THE ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. There are many ways to explore the National Park: you can hike, kayak or go on a boat trip. The park isn’t a loop track, so if you leave your car in one place you must arrange transport to get back to it or book a car relocation service. We left our car at the Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi car park in Marahau, with their taxi boat we reached Awaroa Bay and from there we hiked back to the starting point. The water taxi isn’t cheap, 47 NZD/person, but is the easiest option. Don’t forget to book the ride in advance!
WHERE TO CAMP IN THE ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
There are 4 huts and 19 campsites along the route, but they be booked in advance. Bookings can be made online through the DOC or at any DOC visitor center. We camped in two of the most popular campsites: Bark Bay and Anchorage Campsite, both busy but incredibly beautiful. Cost: In the peak season DOC huts on the Abel Tasman Coast Track are $75 NZD (person/night, international visitors) and campsites are $30 NZD (person/night, international visitors). Day hiking in the park is free. Check out all the prices on the DOC website.
WHAT TO BRING ON A HIKE IN THE ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
- WATER. Filtered water is available at Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa, Totaranui and Whariwharangi, but bring enough water bottles to carry with you at least 2 litre of water.
- HIKING BOOTS. Hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track is moderately easy, however there are still some sturdy climbs in it, so hiking boots (either high or low ankle) are a must. Wading shoes for tidal crossings can also be of good use (obviously we didn’t have any).
- CAMPING GEAR. Yes, you will have to carry some extra weight: tent, sleeping bags, pillow, but doest it worth it? Hell yes! Most of the huts are also accessible by boat or even by road, making it a busy destination. When camping, especially at the smaller campsites, you will deeply enjoy the park.
- FOOD. Stock up on supplies is Nelson or Motueka, you can’t buy any food or drinks along the track. Also bring your own cooking supplies, even when staying at the huts.
- SWIMWEAR. The water is pretty cold, even in summer time, but is it also the only “shower” available as well as the best way to cool down after a long walk. Go for it!
- INSECT REPELLANT / SUNCREAM. New Zealand is home to massive communities of sandflies – The Worst. Make sure to bring the strongest bug spray you can find with you on the trail, together with some suncream.
- CAMERA. Make you to have enough time to stop and take as many photos as possible.
HOW TO GET TO THE START OF THE ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
Nelson is the closest town to the start of the trek, about a 67 km drive. Here you will find plenty of outdoor shops which make it the perfect place for buying last-minute walking supplies and some food for your hike. If you don’t have a car to reach the Abel Tasman National Park you catch the early morning bus from Nelson to the start of the walk at Marahau.