You may remember that, early in our sojourn on the South Island, we traveled to the west side of Abel Tasman National Park but only hiked a piece of one of the inland trails due to Ginger recovering from back issues (Dec 30, “Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay“). We had no real views of the beaches that Abel Tasman is famous for; now we intend to do better! This time we’ll approach the park from the east, take a trip by sea kayak, and hike the seaside trails above the beaches. Abel Tasman is NZ’s smallest national park, and one of it’s most popular, with stunningly beautiful golden sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, lush green bushland, striking granite outcrops, and an abundance of wildlife. Sounds good to us! It is also only 20 miles away from our house, one of the many attractions that led us to this area.
I’m going to show you this pretty part of the world via three of our trips with visitors: my sister Linda, our son Brian with his girlfriend Janaki, and a good friend, John Chang.
On our first foray, we take my sister sea kayaking from Kaiteriteri, a small village just south of the Park. Looks nice and peaceful, doesn’t it? After a brief lesson we gear up and, just us with guides, head into the park waters. It’s really pleasant – all the short way to that island on the left, whereupon we enter Tasman Bay and encounter wave swells higher than the kayaks! We’re going to Split Apple Rock, about an hour’s paddle away, but how to get there is an issue – we need to take the waves head on, but heading directly toward Split Apple Rock puts the kayaks broadside to the waves; so we compromise and make an arc, taking the waves at an angle. Tough paddling!!! Our outing rapidly becomes hard work! With great perseverance we make it to Split Apple, and calm water. It’s a pretty place; the water is a beautiful color; the rocks are interesting; and we get to paddle through a small cave.
Then it’s time for a well-deserved lunch break, and we land at a nearby gorgeous beach. Look at that water!
Groan, now we have to kayak back! Thankfully, the waves and wind actually help us on the return, but the quiet bay is a welcome end to the trip. In spite of waterproof jackets and kayak skirts, we find we’re thoroughly drenched; our muscles ache in places we didn’t know we had, and we’re beyond tired! We’ll sleep like the dead tonight. We decide we’ve have had enough of sea kayaking – at least in rough water!
Abel Tasman has a Coast Track and a number of Inland Tracks, but most people opt for the coastal route with its idyllic beaches. To do the complete Coast Track would take 3-5 days, but there are several water taxis that will take you to different drop-off points and pick you up at appointed times at the end of your hike, giving you 6 different choices for day hikes – although several of these hikes are time-critical due to sections of the trail being under water at high tide. With Brian and Janaki now along, we decide to simply start at the beginning and hike until somebody decides it’s time to head back.
At the start, the tide is out – impressively ‘way out! The tidal flats keep going, and the Tasman Sea is off in the distance, resulting in interesting bands of color. I can picture
us lounging on that sandy beach and wading in the rivulets of that ephemeral land, but there is more to see that beckons us on. It’s tempting, though!
The tail is relatively flat and easy – and attractive, often with a view of the water and
beaches. We explore some of the beaches, and then choose a pretty one to host our lunch. Although the trail itself is easy, getting down to some of the beaches is a bit of a challenge. There are paths going to them, but they’re invariably steep; definitely worthwhile, though! We are sharing “our” beach with a handful of other people, but it’s such a big, long beach that we feel as if we have it to ourselves. Nice!
It’s really beautiful! The sand is wonderful, the water gorgeous, the beach comes with caves and rock formations to explore, and there are picturesque islands and mountains in the distance. The large rocks make nice tables and chairs; the view is hard to beat.
Further down the beach are some quite pretty shags that are not at all afraid of me; one tells me that I’m trespassing, in no uncertain terms.
Back on the trail again, we wander a bit further, with more views of beaches and islands offshore. Then, alas, it is time to turn back.
Next to visit us is a friend from California, John Chang. Before going back to Abel Tasman, we of course had to visit a few nearby wineries – consider it fuel for the hike! Maybe you notice that life isn’t bad here?
We have a habit of not being early risers, and this time it bites us; when we arrive at the Abel Tasman water taxis, we’ve missed the outgoing trips to parts unknown. The only option is to start hiking from the beginning of the trailhead again; rats! But this time we’ll go further, and zoom past the early regions. The repeat trip is still pretty!
It’s a cool, cloudy, windy day (it’s early autumn here), and there are not many people on the trail; the golden beaches with their crystal-clear waters are deserted. We find a beach that’s big and looks gorgeous from up above. It’s quite a scramble down the steep path – coming up will be a struggle – but it’s worth the effort.
We even find a patch of late-blooming beach flowers before we scramble back up to the trail. It’s getting late, though, and time to head for home – with maybe a stop at a local pub for a thirst-quencher. Hope you enjoyed this part of Abel Tasman. Our only regret is that we weren’t able to spend more time hiking in this beautiful park.
Next post – back to Nelson Lakes National Park!