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The Abel Tasman National Park is located on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island and has a 51 km coastal track which snakes around the various beaches, coves and bays.
We made a last minute decision to head there, after an American couple we met raved about their time there.
Having made no plans, finding accommodation proved to be difficult. Who knew this was such a popular area? We drove through several towns where every single budget accommodation option was all booked up. Luckily we found a holiday park in Kateriteri though they only had a cabin (more like a barn shed) for two, so Susan and Paul just paid for a campsite. Word of advice : book accommodation in advance in the region!
For a long time we debated how we should go about seeing the park. Walking the entire coastal track takes 3-5 days and the only accommodation options are camp sites or huts.
Since road access ends at Marahau (the next town over from Kaiteriteri) you have to bring all your own food with you as there are no eateries past that point. Camping was out of the question as were the huts since they were all booked up for the next 4 days. A day trip was the only option.
How to do it though? Should we rent kayaks and paddle our way up the beaches or take a water taxi to a certain point and then walk back? In the end we chose the water taxi option.
The following day we took the water taxi to Bark Bay. During the ride we got to see a few of the bays and beaches from the water as well as the famous Split Apple Rock.
We made our way to Sandfly Bay, which on the contrary fortunately did not even have any sand flies, and instead was filled with large boulders creating a real intimate and peaceful little alcove.
We continued further along the coastal track to Torrent Bay, where we stopped for lunch and a swim. The crystal clear water is truly incredible and with the island in the backdrop this spot really felt like paradise.
Though the Abel Tasman track is a popular one we did not feel like the beaches or the track was all that crowded (or many everyone just picks one beach and water taxi’s there and back?).
When crossing the Torrent Bay area you have to be careful of the tides. During low tide you can walk right across the inlet in a brisk 25 minutes, but when the tide is high you have to walk all the way around – taking around 2 hours. We had to take the high tide route.
We made a quick stop to see Cleopatra’s Pool which came highly recommended but we found these to be somewhat disappointing – simply a few pools of water with a small waterfall.
We couldn’t be so easily impressed after the clear water beaches and soft yellow sand. We made our way slowly back to the car, with a few more pit stops in to see the beaches and snapshots of some jumping pics.
We really underestimated how long the walk would take us – calculating that we would be back at the car by 4. In reality we didn’t get back until closer to 8, and I was close to collapsing by that point. Walking 20 kilometers in the NZ summer heat, even with beach dips along the way, is no easy feat.
Since we couldn’t stay in the park, but wanted to spend at least another day exploring the coastal track, that night we drove up to Pohara, on the other side of the national park and spent the night in a Holiday Park.
On Day 2 we started out at Wanui Inlet and made our way past Takapou Bay, while stopping for some photos of the mysterious looking clouds lingering in the middle of the sky. Fingers crossed the cloud coverage would move away.
Though we were expecting a fairly straight walk along the coast as we had experienced on the first day, in this part of the park it was more of an uphill climb, snaking around the side of the mountain.
After a quick dip in Whariwharangi Bay we continued back uphill towards Separation Point, with incredible views of the coves below along the way.
The view from Separation Point was incredible, the color of the water alone bring a smile to your face. On lucky days we heard you can even see Orca whales in the distance (though we did not have such luck).
We made our way down to Mutton Cove where we eagerly dove into the water, only to be frightened by the obscene amount of jelly fish floating around. Not just jelly fish but there was something else we found in the water too.
Can’t quite figure out what it was. Jelly fish eggs maybe?
Is that possible? Whatever it was, it was odd, really odd. A bit of a turn off really.
We walked over to the next bay, Anatakapau Bay, but the situation there wasn’t any better. Lots of jelly fish egg like substances in the water again.
Still beautiful beaches, but more so from a safe distance. We made our way back, with more beautiful views from up above.
Low tide struck as we walked back, and it never ceases to amaze me how strange it looks when such an enormous quantity of water is just pulled back from the beach.
By day 3 we still hadn’t had enough so we made our third trip back to the park, this time driving up to the Totaranui Bay.
As we made our way across the Totaranui Bay we spotted a penguin!
We slowly and quietly made our way over to this interesting creature, only to realize it was just a bird. Total bummer.
We made our way to the next bay, Goat Bay, to see if perhaps there would be a real penguin sighting. No such luck.
The beach was beautiful though and the water was crystal clear and 100% jelly fish free!
We had an amazing three days exploring the Abel Tasman National Park and though we didn’t camp or stay in the huts in the park we were still able to make things work.