Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s pocket handkerchief park. A treasure with global appeal due to glittering gold sandy beaches, shallow turquoise water, gloriously accessible tracks through native bush reserves, and close to the urban delights of Nelson and nearby villages. A kiwi summer of sun and consistent weather is a given in the Abel Tasman park.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Year round. Winter, Coastal Track is lightly populated, carry layers and it is an excellent time to walk as it is not hot. Summer peak season, especially late December to early February. Forward booking is essential to avoid disappointment.
TIP: Carry sunscreen and insect repellent.
Autumn Excellent season for outdoor activities such as walking and kayaking. Spring, rain can be expected with bursts of brilliant sunshine. Native wildlife is busy courting and parenting making it a favourite time of the year for nature lovers.
Get up to date New Zealand weather forecasts: Plan and prepare Abel Tasman National Park.
There are three major entrances to the Abel Tasman. Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the south with road access from Motueka. In the north is Totaranui with road access from Takaka in Golden Bay.
Route map (southern access to park Marahau carpark)
Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s pocket handkerchief park, A pink sized national treasure that punches above its size with its global appeal. This is due to the glittering gold beaches, shallow turquoise waters, spectacular ocean views and range of wildlife. And then there is the weather. Abel Tasman is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand. A kiwi summer is a given in Nelson. Lastly the sheer variety of holiday activities that can be undertaken with families and friends picking and choosing from
- Family friendly kayaking or making sand castles on the beach
- Water sports active adventures from scuba diving, sailing, canyoning, and multiple day kayaking trips
- Land based active holidays including abseiling to pampered guided walks
- Exploring marine reserves and observing wildlife on guided or self-guided kayaking tours
- Walks through native bush threaded with bird song past waterfalls, quiet fern filled gullies and glimpse ocean views throughout
- An opportunity to experience a traditional ocean going waka (canoe) outrigger journey with the traditional custodians of the area, the local Maori.
Abel Tasman is a natural theme park without the noise or roller coasters rather the adrenaline rush is nature on full display offering a palate of activities to suit individual choice and needs of the many visitors.
Maori have occupied the Abel Tasman coast for over 800 years, with archaeological sites in the park unearthing pits, terraces, defensive sites, gardens and stone floors. In the mid 1800’s, a number of settlers lived along the coastline, with the main method of transport being the sea.
Today there are still few roads in Abel Tasman National Park, and water taxi or kayak is the ideal way to commute between beaches. The park’s gateways, perhaps you will just stay put entranced by Kaiteriteri, Motueka and Marahua.
One of the places that sums up the spirit of New Zealand is Awaroa. Awaro made headlines all over the world in 2016 when a couple of Kiwis decided to mount a crowdfunding campaign to buy a stretch of Awaroa beach that was put up for sale by its private owner.
The fear was that the new owners could deny access to the beach for the New Zealand public, and access to our coast is something many Kiwis have strong feelings about. In a major triumph for people power, the New Zealand public donated over two million dollars, purchased the beach and ceded it into the national park. Information described by Awaroa Bay.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
- Tonga Island Marine Reserve with shags, gannets, little blue penguins and seals.
- Short walks that encompass both the coast and dip into the coastal forests
- Kayaking the coast and viewing the scenery from the water
- The sheer choice of activities available
- The variety of scenery packed into a very small space
ONLY GOT A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK?
It is recommended that you use a water taxi to whisk you round with a personalised mix of top sights sightseeing interspersed with short walks. Forward bookings would be essential. The best places for the start of the day are Motueka, Marahau or Kaiteriteri.
If you are short on time, the water taxi is a great option to get out to a bay for a short walk, swim at a secluded beach, enjoy a picnic lunch and back again in a day. There are numerous water taxi operators, check our Nelson travel guide for details on how to book their services.
TOP FAMILY ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK
A given is building sand castles with the fine golden sand and lolling around the beach under the shade umbrella. Another is the enormous ice creams available throughout the region, a family favourite being crushed fresh sun-ripened Nelson berry fruit whipped into the vanilla ice cream. A mouth watering treat for all family members. Abel Tasman has outstanding family fun activities for younger visitors, these include
- Sea kayaking in a safe environment yet children and beginner kayakers are introduced to the marine environment. A combination of a short walk with a chance to kakak is a tremendous opportunity to introduce water sports to children
- Exploration of natural caves with their Moa bones Ngarua Caves – Guided Tours in Takaka Hill, Motueka, Nelson )and a scenic reserve where there is the possibility of fairies living behind the sculptured rocks, The Grove Scenic Reserve Walk: Walking and tramping in Takaka area
- Environmental exploration of the inland Abel Tasman National Park to understand the ecology and part played by wildlife in the park’s natural habitats.
Golden Bay Kayaks specialise in family focused packages. Golden Bay Kayaks are based in Tata Beach, Tasman offering full or half day hire to bespoke packages including exploration of Tata Island. Tata is at the northern end of Abel Tasman. The area does not have the reputation of congestion that the more popular southern end of the park does in the peak season.
Location of Tata Beach
Nelson to Tata Beach (northern end of the Abel Tasman National Park).
TOP ADVENTURES IN THE PARK INCLUDE
- Abel Tasman Sailing the opportunity for beginners to dip their toes into sailing with experienced instructors with options around kayaking or walking part of the journey.
- Admiring the wildlife at Tonga Island Marine Reserve offers snorkelling between the rocks of Tonga Quarry and Foul Point. If scuba diving is your preferred activity Tonga Island reef systems with red rock crabs, crayfish, hermit crabs and snapper provide a diverse healthy marine environment to explore. As the area is protected marine life cannot be touched, disturbed or removed.
- Share in New Zealand’s treasured heritage by paddling in a double or single hulled waka (Māori canoe) along the length of the stunning Abel Tasman coastline with Waka Abel Tasman, weaving around islands and iconic landforms until you reach Split Apple Rock. The manaakitanga of your guides will be sure to provide you with a unique cultural experience unlike any you’ve ever been a part of before, as your paddle glides through the crystal-clear waters below, and you listen to the extraordinary stories of Abel Tasman’s history.
- Challenge yourself with a mini-ironperson marathon of kayaking, walking and swimming your way through the Abel Tasman park. Perhaps there is the option of paddle boarding for fans of SUP water sports.
- Abel Tasman Coast Track while walking the coast track take a detour to Cleopatra’s pool which is a natural rock pool with a moss-lined water slide.Cleopatra’s Pool is a crystal clear rock pool with clear cool water is a great swimming hole as well walk the 47m suspension bridge with views of the beautiful inlet to Falls River. Cleopatra’s Pool is about an hour’s walk from Anchorage in the Abel Tasman National Park. If you’re not using the track you can take a water taxi or day trip by cruise.
- The Falls River Swingbridge, located between Bark Bay and Torrent Bay provides amazing views down Falls River. The water below reflects the lush native bush that lines the banks of the river and gives the whole spot a deep green hue. The bridge and the views down the river is an instagram favourite spot. Worth the hike and the sensation of the free fall swinging while walking the bridge.
AWESOME ACTIVE ADRENALINE HOLIDAYS
- The park is home to Abel Tasman SkyDive. Tandem skydiving over New Zealand prettiest national parks is a great treat. It is not cheap however for those who want to experience the thrill of jumping out of a plane the Abel Tasman National Park is a great place to start.
- Descend down through the Abel Tasman by sliding, jumping, abseiling, even swimming your way to the bottom with Abel Tasman Canyons. Enjoy New Zealand’s beautiful Abel Tasman National Park as you jump, slide, abseil and zipline your way down Torrent River. Your trip will start with an uphill walk through beautiful scenery, before we donning wetsuits and making our way down the canyon, jumping off cliffs into deep pools, sliding down water polished chutes and abseiling beside or sometimes through cascading waterfalls. Challenge yourself and take yourself out of your comfort zone.
The Abel Tasman great walk takes between three to four days to complete.
It climbs headlands, weaves a track around bays and fords several shallow estuaries. The walk is walkable all year round. There are intriguing inland walks to the dramatic karst landscape of the Takaka hills.
There are a number of short walks which is a great way to indulge in kayaking, a short walk and a chance to relax on an isolated beach. For details about walks consult the travel pack information for walks brochure.
A number of kayaking companies run guided tours from Marahau and Kaiteriteri. If you’d rather be independent, you can rent kayaks and stay at campsites, huts or lodges within the park or the kayak rental operators will arrange accommodation as part of the deal with the kayak hire.
Recommended is Golden Bay Kayaks are based in Tata Beach, Tasman offering full or half day hire to bespoke packages however if you are at the southern end of the park there are a number of reputable kakak hire companies.
Consult the Nelson travel guide for details.
Accommodation ranges from the sublime to a basic Department of Conservation hut or lodge. Independently owned visitor operators offer comfortable to luxurious accommodation choices. There is always freedom camping when overnighting in the park. For details about where to stay in the park or just outside in the seaside settlements check Camping & Accommodation.
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- Marahau in the South
- Wainui in the North
- Totaranui – access from Takaka is via an unsealed road. A narrow, four-wheel drive track leads off the Totaranui road to the Awaroa estuary. At the Awaroa road-end the coastal track can be accessed only at low tide.
- Kaiteriteri for safe, all-tide transfers to larger boats.
- Marahau for smaller boat transfer in this shallow, tidal inlet.
Abel Tasman Foreshore Management regulations permit landing only on selected beaches along the Abel Tasman coast. There are no commercial landings north of Totaranui
With the highest tidal range in the country, you need to plan your trip to take into account tidal crossings that can be impassable at High Tide.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track, from Marahau to Wainui is 51km. The section between Marahau and Totaranui is 38 kms.
The track does not require heavy hiking boots. There is no point higher than 200 metres (650 feet). For track details consult coast trail brochure.
If you plan to kayak, you need to book kayak hire and transfers before you travel into the Park.
The journey is worth it.