When I think of New Zealand, pictures of lush forests, golden sand coves and turquoise water comes to mind, with me walking, tramping, swimming, sunbathing and paddling in the midst of it all. This postcard perfect place really does exist in the form of the Abel Tasman National Park, home to the most popular Great Walk in all of New Zealand.
I already had a taster of what the Abel Tasman National Park had to offer through my one day canyoning trip. I knew that the beautiful views from Anchorage Bay and the Torrent River were just the tip of the iceberg out of all that was on offer and I couldn’t wait to commence my 2 days of sea kayaking and hiking in the park.
Day 1 AM: 2.5 hours sea kayaking from Marahau to Watering Cove
Upon my arrival at Marahau from Nelson, I was kitted up with a kayaking “skirt”, allocated a kayak and paddle and paired up with another solo traveler who would be acting as my kayaking partner for the morning. Following some admin and safety and instructional briefings, we were soon out in the Abel Tasman sea, paddling towards Fisherman Island (a bird sanctuary) followed by Adele Island (where we were able to get relatively close to the New Zealand fur seals).
Truth be told, I was expecting to enjoy my sea kayaking experience a lot more than I actually did. I guess the reason for this was that I found the pace a little slow for my liking and in reality, did not cover as much distance as I thought we would. I was also a little unlucky in that my kayaking partner was not the best paddler or navigator (he was in the back seat, i.e. the driving seat) and we kept going off-course and had to paddle for longer just to keep up with the rest of the group.
Still, the guides were great and sea kayaking the Abel Tasman was a good experience, so I have no regrets. I won’t lie though – I was pretty happy to reach our final destination of Watering Cove where we finally stepped out of our kayaks and settled down for a lovely beach-side lunch.
Day 1 PM: Self-guided hike from Watering Cove to Anchorage Bay
Lunch over, it was time for my self-guided hike to Anchorage Bay, located an easy 30 minutes walk away. As I still had plenty of time, I explored some of the surrounding area and did the Pitt Head loop track which takes about 1.5 hours via the gorgeous Te Pukatea beach. The views from the top of the hills are just beautiful, so if you ever get the chance to do this loop, be sure not to miss it! With the sun out in full force, I really enjoyed my solo walk through the sheltering trees and green shrubs, following the trail as I was treated with views of the turquoise sea every now and then.
The path eventually led me back to Anchorage Bay where I still had an hour or so to kill before heading to my accommodation for the night, the Aquapackers houseboat! The small dinghy from the boat only starts picking up lodgers from the mainland from 4pm, so I kicked back on the golden sand, oiled up, grabbed my Kindle and settled down for a good sunbathing session. Bliss.
As soon as the first transfer to the houseboat arrived, I jumped on and headed a little out to sea where I would be spending the night. I was a little dubious at first when I saw the size of the beds and how many had been crammed into such a small area but this experience of spending a night on a houseboat actually turned out to be pretty awesome!
I spent the later part of the afternoon swimming in the sea around the boat (my first sea swim in New Zealand!), in water so amazingly clear and blue it was unreal! The water was a little cold at fist, but one soon gets used to it! After a very quick shower, it was time for a decent BBQ dinner with the small group of people I was sharing the boat with that night, all of whom turned out to be really cool and fun. It was a memorable night for sure, with good food, atmosphere and conversation. 🙂
Day 2: Self-guided hike from Anchorage Bay to Onetahuti via Torrent Bay and Bark Bay
After an early breakfast of cereal and toast with honey (ahh, haven’t had that in so long!), I said my goodbyes to the group and set off back to shore with Anna and Barbra who would be walking some part of the same route as me. After exchanging contact details, we parted ways at Torrent Bay where I came across a Canadian couple, with whom I spent the better part of an hour walking with. Again, super interesting people with great stories – the Abel Tasman National Park is fast turning out to be the clear winner for best location to meet awesome and friendly travellers!
As I had a further way to walk, I said my goodbyes and set off at a quicker pace on my own but it wasn’t long before I came across Fabrice, a Frenchman who was hiking the coastal track on his own. We accompanied one another for the next hour until we reached Bark Bay, taking our time to explore some of the side trails to Sandfly Bay (don’t let the name put you off, its an amazing bay for swimming!), South Head and Medlands Beach.
By the way, the expected walking times provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC) tend to be a little exaggerated. If you are reasonably fit and can walk long distances without problems, I’d say you can shave off 20-25% of the suggested times if you need to plan a multi-day hike. I came across numerous trampers who mentioned that the trails were relatively easy to do and had they known this, would have planned to spend less days in the park.
After leaving Fabrice at his campsite, I was once again on my own for a while as I made my way further west towards Onetahuti. I’ll admit that this stretch wasn’t my favourite part of the coastal trail, but it did take me past a few more streams and bridges which added to the overall diversity of the landscape.
My solo walk didn’t last for long, as I soon bumped into Jennifer who I had met on Aquapackers the night before. Good conversation always seems to make the time fly by and it wasn’t long until I reached my final destination of Onetahuti Beach, a full 1.5 hours before I was due to catch my water taxi ride back to Marahau.
Luckily I managed to wiggle my way into an earlier drop-off and so, was soon back in Marahau, waiting for my bus transfer back to Nelson for my final night there.
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I had heard great things about Nelson prior to arriving in town. What the city itself has to offer, coupled with the unbeatable Abel Tasman National Park has made this one of my favourite stops in New Zealand so far. 🙂