Abel Tasman National Park - An unspoilt paradise for hiking and sea kayaks
Located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay on the northern tip of the South Island, Abel Tasman is famous for its beautiful golden sand, stunning sandy bays and sparkling clear water. With beautiful bays, pretty coves and pristine coastlines it's reminiscence of a tropical island. The mild climate ensures this is a popular destination all year round.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of NZ's Great Walks, is 50km one way and hugs the coastline. The track is well formed, with gentle terrain and no major climbs, so is suitable for most ages. With four huts and up to 20 camp sites there's no need to rush, however bookings are essential. If walking the entire track, be sure to check the tide chart as the Awaroa Estuary is only passable at low tide.
Even better, sea taxi's regularly call into all the main beaches from Kaiteriteri and Marahau at the Southern end, up to Totaranui in the north, so it's easy to tailor a multi-day adventure that includes walking, sea kayaking, snorkelling and swimming. It's such an exquisite destination you really need a good few days to soak up all it has to offer, however if you're on a tight time frame ½ and full day options are possible.
Guided sea kayak tours have all the gear you need and provide expert tuition, so previous experience is not a requirement. For those with kayaking experience, independent rental is an option. While the water is generally pretty calm, the wind often picks up around 1pm so it's a good idea to start early and cover most of the distance in the morning. Charter yachts are also available.
For those with their own sea kayaks this region is paradise. The DoC camp at Totaranui is a great place to use as a base as you can load your boats close to the water and they have a designated parking area to leave your car if you are planning overnight or multi day excursions. If paddling from Totaranui to Marahau and Split Apple Rock, Mosquito Bay camp site is the perfect place to pitch your tent overnight as its only accessible by water.
There are a number of seal colonies along this stretch of coast and on Tonga Island in the middle of the Marine Reserve, so there's plenty of opportunities to observe seals basking on the rocks in the sunshine, fishing or frolicking in the water. Between Awaroa Head and Tonga Island, stick close to the shoreline so you don't miss the entrance to Shag Harbour. This narrow inlet opens up to a lagoon and at certain times of the year, mumma seals leave their juvenile pups in this safe haven while they head out to sea on fishing expeditions. Seals are very inquisitive creatures and it's quite common for these cute little pups to swim up to your kayak and even try and clamber onboard.
Keep an eye out for dolphins and on rare occasions orca; we were lucky enough to encounter a pod of orca just off Totaranui Beach. Commercial kayak operators don't usually go further north than Onetahuti, so from here up to Separation Point (at the tip of the National Park) you will discover gorgeous beaches and deserted bays with no one else in sight.
Whether walking or kayaking in the Abel Tasman, I highly recommend the Department of Conservation Park Map, which shows all the bays and tracks in the park.
For full details on the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk Click HERE:
For Sea Kayaking, there are a number of operators, so just search sea kayaking Abel Tasman to see what package works best for you.