The Abel Tasman National Park
had some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
Hiking along the coast line there were dozens of them. Each one more beautiful and secluded than the last.
I did a lot of research before I left Canada trying to get an idea of what New Zealand really had to offer a girl like me. A girl looking for hiking, camping adventure and true natural beauty. On the south island, all arrows pointed to The Abel Tasman National Park. I promised myself that I would see this magnificent place, and my mind never changed. I just knew that it would be “my kind of place”. On my road trip from Queenstown to Auckland, I allotted the most time in my schedule for the Abel Tasman. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I planned to do the 4 day hike and stay in the huts along the way. I didn’t expect the weather to be as cold as it was and for the park to be as quiet as it was. The tourist traffic dies off almost completely after April, getting in to the winter months.
I arrived at the Kanuka Ridge Abel Tasman Backpackers at about 9:45am on Friday May 10. I was exhausted. I needed a day to sit and do nothing. The backpackers was tucked inside the forest about 3km from the National Park. Surrounded by trees, with the sun shining, I spent the afternoon sitting at the picnic table and then the hammock (when the sun reached it) reading my book and drinking beers. Feeling almost as good as I would if I were at the cottage. After a week of hustling to get here and go there and do this and do that, it was amazing to spend a day not giving a shit. Tomorrow I would worry about what I am doing with my time in The Abel Tasman National Park.
Hiking the Abel Tasman National Park can take up to 6 days from one end to the next. There are lots of huts along the way for sleeping. These huts are equipped with bunk beds and a wood burning stove. In the heart of summer (high tourist season) the huts are so full that they need to be booked 3 months in advance. I arrived in Abel Tasman during the shoulder of the dead season. Very few people, if any, would be sleeping in the huts this time of year, and sleeping in the woods in a hut all alone, was not something that I was all too comfortable with. If I wanted to hike in the Abel Tasman and really be able to experience it I would have to take water taxis in and out of the park. So that is what I did. On my first day in the park, on a recommendation from the owner of my hostel, I booked a water taxi to take me to Anchorage Bay, and I would hike back out. While waiting for the taxi in Marahau, a young German fellow began to chat me up. We boarded the boat together and realized that we had the same hike planned, and decided to do the hike together. After a short detour to the point outside Anchorage, and a side trip to Cleopatras Cove, the hike out took us about 6 hours and we covered approximately 22km. The weather was perfect the entire day.
Taking the water taxi into the park can be expensive. Starting at $35 for a one way trip and getting as high as $100 for a return trip. I couldn’t afford to take the taxi every day, so on my second day in the park. I decided to simply walk to the closest quiet bay with a nice beach and lay out to get a sun tan. I bought a few beers at the rest stop in Marahau, and ventured into the park with the intention of making my way to Coquille Bay, based on the recommendation of the owner of Kanuka Ridge.. I borrowed a bike from the hostel and peddled into town. The walk to Coquille Bay was only about 45minutes long. This left me with more than 4 hours to lay out in the sun and drink beers before I had to get back to my bike and peddle to the hostel before the sun went down. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky through the entire day and for the most part, I had the whole bay to myself. During the high season, I have been told that the trails, bays and beaches can be absolutely covered with tourists. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have had such incredible weather during my time in the Abel Tasman, but I also chose the best time of the year to visit. I was rarely disturbed on the track while hiking and the beaches very mostly undisturbed.
On my fourth day in the Abel Tasman National Park I wanted to see a portion of the park that I had not already seen. The water taxi that I took was slightly more expensive than my first day in the park, because it required a return trip. I was dropped off in Torrent Bay and I walked north through the park to Onetahuti. The walk was estimated at 6-8 hours. I knew I had some good time before the taxi was meant to pick me up, so I walked down almost every side trail to the bays along the way. My energy level was really good that day so I also went through a lot of the trail at a jog. All but the portion of the trail between Barks Bay and Onetahuti, which was a straight up-hill climb for over an hour. It was hard, but when I got to Onetahuti, a swim in the cold ocean water was extremely rewarding. After all my detours, I still arrived with an hour and a half to spare before the taxi was meant to arrive. Giving me lots of time to explore and make a few friends with the other people waiting for the taxi.
My third day in the park was by far, the best day of hiking I had. The terrain changed constantly from mellow and flat, to up-hill for almost an hour, to a suspension bridge, to catwalks and more bridges. The elevation changes made for some amazing aerial views of the coastline and the many trails branching off to the left and right provided numerous options to head to the water.