Abel Tasman Coast Track: The Only Hiking Guide You Need
The smallest national park in New Zealand, Abel Tasman, is a paradise for all travelers who love hiking, kayaking or lazing on the beach. Read our guide on how to hike one of the Great Walks, Abel Tasman Coast Track and tips on where to stay, how to get there, what to pack and how to best enjoy the park no matter if you visit it on an only one-day trip or if you plan on spending there couple of nights.
Abel Tasman National Park is a gem on the north of New Zealand's South Island, and despite its small size, it is one of the most visited places in the country.
As we spent four days hiking in the park, we can absolutely understand why is Abel Tasman National Park a must-visit stop on every foreign visitor travel itinerary and why it is an adored holiday destination for locals. With numerous sandy beaches, deep blue sea, cute inlets and gullies, great viewpoints and typical forest for New Zealand, this national park is a place you can't miss.
There are several reasons why to visit Abel Tasman National Park as there is an uncountable number of things to do in the park such as hiking, kayaking, or sailing. For us, the main reason why to travel to this national park was hiking Abel Tasman Coast Track, which belongs among New Zealand's most spectaculars hikes, who are in summary called Great Walks. It was the first Great Walk we were about to do, so we were super excited to see an outstanding beauty, and boy we were not disappointed.
As hiking Abel Tasman Coast Track requires a bit of planning, we've created this useful hiking guide where you can find information on how difficult the trek is, how to get to Marahau, where to stay along the hike, what to pack, how to make a reservation and we also share our hiking itinerary you are free to follow.
THINGS TO DO IN ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Abel Tasman National Park is a favorite place not only for foreigners but for locals as well, who often arrive during summer months to enjoy coastal walks, sandy beaches, and sunshine. There are plenty of things to do in Abel Tasman National Park, and hiking does not need to be the only way how to spend the time here.
Hiking | Hiking is the most popular activity in Abel Tasman National Park, and it was also the reason why we arrived at Marahau in the first place. The national park is home to one of New Zealand's Great Walks, and we could not resist once we saw pictures of the post-card like landscape. Although we can only recommend you to do the full 60 kilometers long Abel Tasman Coast Track, when short on time, you can trek only parts of it, the only thing you need to do is always arrange boat transport unless you want to return the same way.
Kayaking | One of the best ways how to explore the coastline of the national park is on a kayak. Kayaking gives you an opportunity to see the coast up close altogether with wildlife - you can see many species of birds but also dolphins. When we were returning from the end of the hike on a boat to Marahau, we spotted Maui dolphins. You can kayak in the park as long as you want. Generally, you can follow a similar route as hikers only via the sea which takes three to four days (kayakers usually start at Totaranui and kayak back to Marahau when doing the multi-day activity), but you can also rent a kayak for two days, one day or even for an afternoon. You can arrange everything on own in Marahau, or it is possible to book a one-day tour.
Boat Tours | Another way how to enjoy the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park is on a boat. You can take a boat tour from Kaiteriteri and explore the coastline, see a seal colony, or relax on the beaches.
Skydiving | More and more popular activity in Abel Tasman National Park is skydiving. If you are looking for an adrenaline adventure and want to get the perfect views of the stunning landscape from above, this is an activity you should not miss. You can book your adventure here or if you want to see the park from the bird's eyes view, but skydiving is not your thing there is a possibility to enjoy a scenic flight.
Biking | Classical biking and mountain biking in New Zealand is not usually allowed on most of the hiking tracks, especially during high season, yet there are still a few trails where you can take your bike with you. Always ask in the information center what trail is open for biking, in Abel Tasman National Park it is usually Rameka Track or Gibbs Hill Track.
Canyoning | Canyoning is such a fun activity we would have recommended to anyone. We tried canyoning in Costa Rica, and sliding down and rappeling down the waterfalls was an incredible experience. We did not have enough time to do canyoning in New Zealand but would love to try it one day. You can reserve your canyoning adventure here.
WHERE TO STAY BEFORE HIKING ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
Before you will start hiking Abel Tasman Coast Track, you can either sleep in Nelson where it is possible to do the shopping and then set off early in the morning (when traveling by public transport the first bus usually leaves Nelson at 7:30 AM) or stay overnight right in Marahau where are not that many accommodation options as in Nelson, but you can arrive later, enjoy relaxed afternoon in the village and start the hike early in the morning.
Our Tip: When traveling by campervan, you can sleep in a camp in Marahau, but you need to call them or make a reservation directly.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
Hiking Abel Tasman Coast Track is pretty straightforward, but there are several essential things you should know to enjoy one of the best hikes in New Zealand.
Although the weather is usually pleasant, it can be quite windy on the coast, and water in the sea is not very warm. We swam in the sea every day near the campground, but we never lasted long as we were soon cold.
Another thing which can unpleasantly surprise you is sand flies, an annoying insect which bites. Do not forget to pack bug repellent.
It is necessary to book your accommodation in the park in advance.
Before you start hiking, it is necessary to check high and low tide schedule, because some parts of the trek (for example Torrent Bay Estuary and Awaroa Inlet) are possible to cross only during low tide - check the current schedule in any business in Marahau (for example in the campsite or any other hotel).
The park is crowded in the summer between December and February. If you want to get more quiet experience and cheaper rates, consider visiting Abel Tasman National Park outside this period.
Unless you want to walk 60 kilometers one way and then return the same route to Marahau, you need to book your boat transport. It is possible to start the hike in Marahau and walk as far as you want and reserve your boat back to Marahau either from Mutton Cove, Whariwharangi Bay or Wainui Bay (or basically from anywhere along the trail as far as it has boat access), or you can take a boat on your first day to your starting point and walk back to Marahau.
We reserved the water taxi in Marahau one day before our trip in one of the offices in the village - it was even possible to park our car there for free for four days.
ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
After three months of working on a vineyard in Martinborough, Abel Tasman was one of our first stops on our New Zealand travel itinerary, and we decided to take it slowly and enjoy splendid beaches.
That's why we did the hike in four days (three nights), although normally we would have done it in three days.
This is the exact itinerary we followed.
Day 0: Nelson to Marahau
We woke up early in the morning in Nelson, shortly walked around the city center, did the last-minute shopping for the hike, jumped on the car and off we went.
In about two hours we arrived in Marahau, where we checked-in in the campervan campground, went to Aquataxi to arrange a water taxi. Then we noticed it was low tide, and we could see many Kiwis walking on the sandy sea bed looking for something. We went closer only to find out they were collecting scallops, so we decided to do the same, and later we cooked an absolutely delicious pasta with scallops, olive oil, and lemon.
After such a great dinner, we went to bed and looked forward to the hike.
Day 1: Marahau - Torrent Bay
In the morning we left the car in Aquataxi parking lot, checked the tidal schedule once again to make sure we will cross all tricky parts safely, and we started the four-day long Abel Tasman Coast Track.
In the beginning, we had to cross the estuary over the Marahau causeway, we walked around several small beaches, but after some time the path turned inland. We passed around Simonet Creek and walked in the forest for a while, but after some time we emerged on a beach, where we had lunch and were checked by park rangers who wanted to see our campsite reservation.
From this point, the trail was winding in and out, and we got splendid views of several little gullies such as Apple Tree Bay, Stillwell Bay or Cyathea Cove.
Then we reached the point behind Anchorage Bay where we could decide if we want to go via low tide path or a high tide path. We opted for the letter, despite the fact it was a bit longer and more uphill because we wanted to see Cleopatras Pools we would have otherwise missed.
Not long after we reached our first campground in Torrent Bay, where we pitched the tent and went to the beach, later had a cold shower, cooked dinner and went to bed early.
Day 2: Torrent Bay - Onetahuti Beach
The second day started with an uphill climb, and the trail took us more inland, but before we disappeared in the forest, we got great views of Torrent Bay and later of Frenchman Bay.
Then the trail led us inland, and we had to cross an impressive 47 meters long suspension bridge. Thanks to the fact we were now higher above the coast, we had amazing views of the sea and small islands around such as Pinnacle Island.
Around noon we reached Bark Bay Hut where we had lunch and were bitten by so many sandflies that we had to run out of this place.
It was low tide so we could barefoot cross Bark Bay to Onetahuti Beach where we spent the second night.
Day 3: Onetahuti Beach - Totaranui
We got up early in the morning to watch the sunrise on the beach, but it was cloudy, so we went back to the tent and slept for another two hours.
Later, we went again to the beach and were swimming and sunbathing, as we had to wait for low tide to safely cross Awaroa Bay. At 1 PM we were finally ready to go. Crossing Awaroa Bay was one of our favorite parts of Abel Tasman Coast Track as it was fun to walk on the partially wet sea bed, not mentioning it was super photogenic. Awaroa Bay is huge, so you need to follow orange poles not to lose your way and not to go too deep to the sea.
When we reached Awaroa Hut, we found out our food was rotten and we didn't have much food left for the next day. Anyway.
Then the path led us around Waiharakeke Bay and later around Goat Bay, where we took a rest before the last climb to Skinner Lookout before we descended to Totaranui Beach, where we spent the last night.
Day 4: Totaranui BEACH - Marahau
The last day of Abel Tasman Coast Track we decided to make a one-day trip from Totaranui via Whariwharanhi Hut, Separation Point and Gibbs Hill back to Totaranui.
We decided to leave unattended bags in the camp, so this hike was much easier as we had only water and a jacket in a daypack. In the beginning, the trail led us up, and after some time we reached a point from where we got a great view of Wainui Inlet and later Mutton Cove.
Then we reached Separation Point, which got its name because this place separates calm waters from the rough waters of Golden Bay. On the way back to Totaranui we crossed beach near Anatakapau Bay and Anapai Bay with interesting statue-like stones.
We arrived in Totaranui two hours before our water taxi pick up, so we went swimming and then waited for the boat back to Marahau on the shore.
On the way back we could see a very rare species of dolphin, Maui - it was a perfect ending of a perfect four-day hike.
Best Ways to Travel Around New Zealand (On a Budget)
5 Best Hikes in New Zealand: The Iconic Great Walks
Tongariro Alpine Crossing Guide: New Zealand's Best Day Hike
Hiking Guide to Lake Waikaremoana Track
Incredible Photos of 16 Most Beautiful Lakes in New Zealand
The Kepler Track Hiking Guide: Perfect 4 Days in Fiordland National Park
Abel Tasman Coast Trek is specific because as the name suggests, it walks mostly along the coast, so the hike is mostly flat except for several uphill sections, and we also think it’s together with Routeburn Track one of the easiest ones.. The full hike is 60 kilometers long, but it is only up to you how far you want to get.
We walked approximately 50 kilometers to Totaranui, and from here took a water taxi back to Marahau.
Another great thing about Abel Tasman Coast Trek is that you can split it in as many days you want - it is possible to finish the hike in three days (two nights), but you can walk slowly, relax on the beaches and enjoy splendid views, so it can take you five or six days to get to the end of the trek which makes it a great activity also for elderly or families with kids.
The only thing which can make your hike a bit difficult is that you need to carry clothes, food, gas, stove, sleeping bag, and in case you are sleeping in a campground also tent and sleeping mat on your back. Pack light so you won't make your hike more challenging than it should be.
If you want to make a loop and explore also the less-known part of Abel Tasman National Park, from Marahau you can do the classic Abel Tasman Coast Track to Wainui Bay, and in Wainui Bay connect to Abel Tasman Inland Track, a 41 kilometers long extension going through the unspoiled forest, back to Marahau.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN HIKING ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, and it means one thing - when doing a multi-day trek, you need to book your accommodation well in advance, because the hike is super-popular, especially during the main season between November and April. You have two options on how to spend the night in the park - you can reserve a hut or a campsite.
Huts are more expensive (NZD 75 per person in the season from October to the end of April, the price is valid for international visitors, it is cheaper when you are New Zealand citizen) - there are only four huts on 60 kilometers, they are all well-located, and you don't need to carry anything but clothes and a sleeping bag as the bunk bed comes with a mattress.
Huts have drinking water and flush toilets. Apart from the high price, another disadvantage is that the capacity fills up quickly, and you have less privacy than in the campgrounds because you sleep with other hikers in one large dormitory.
It is much easier to book a space in campgrounds along the trail as there is eighteen of them, on the other hand not all of the campsites are well-located, so the most popular ones are usually gone first, so when you decide on hiking Abel Tasman Coast Track later, you need to plan your days according to available campgrounds.
From October to the end of April the campground costs NZD 30 per person for an international visitor, and apart from the classic equipment you need to carry a tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping mat.
Campgrounds are basic, there is a water tap but the water is not drinkable (use SteriPen), you can find here picnic tables and dry toilet.
PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK
Abel Tasman National Park is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, and the weather is quite stable throughout the year.
You can expect mild temperatures between 17 – 21°C in spring and autumn with occasional showers, the hottest months are from December to February when you can expect temperatures between 20 – 25°C, and the coldest, but most stable weather is from June to August.
If you plan on doing a multi-day Abel Tasman Coast Track, thanks to the welcoming weather you can pack lightly, but here are several essentials you should not forget.
Swimsuit for Him & for Her | | Sunscreen | Sunglasses for Him & for Her | Water Shoes for Him & for Her | Bug Repellent | Hand Sanitizer | Trail Walking Shoes for Him & for Her | Shorts for Him & for Her | Leggings for Him & for Her | Short-Sleeved T-Shirt for Him & for Her | Long-Sleeved T-Shirt for Him & for Her | Rain Poncho | Waterproof Jacket for Him & for Her | Fleece Jacket for Him & for Her | Rucksack 30-40L for Him & for Her
Here are packing essentials for sleeping in a hut or a tent. When you sleep in a hut, you do not need a tent, mosquito net, and sleeping mat.
We've also created an in-depth Ultimate New Zealand Packing List where you can find more information and useful tips.
HOW TO GET TO ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Abel Tasman National Park is well-accessible if you have your transport.
As we lived in New Zealand for a year, we had our car, but there are many rental companies, as traveling by car is by far the most popular and most convenient way how to get around New Zealand. No matter where are you coming from, you need to get on road 60 which leads to Marahau, a starting point for visiting the national park.
But if you do not travel by car, no worries, there are still a couple of options on how to get to Abel Tasman National Park.
As the city of Nelson is the closest larger city to Marahau, and it is the place where you can do the last-minute shopping before the hike, the best way how to get to the park is to take a shuttle bus from Nelson which goes via Motueka and Kaiteriteri to Marahau.
There are several companies running shuttles on this route for about NZD 21, and the drive takes approximately two hours.
Have we inspired you to travel to New Zealand and trek in Abel Tasman National Park?
Here you can find links to all the services you might find useful when planning your big trip.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
New Zealand is best to be explored by a rental car.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!