The Great Abel Tasman Coast Walk

Abel Tasman Coast Walk is one of the premier Great Walks of New Zealand. It’s easily accessible, well laid out and well-marked, with many huts and campsites offering the possibility for shorter walks for families. There are many people walking this track in different ways, some of them kayak part of the way and then walk back, some take water taxis to different points and then walk part of the track and some just walk either whole track or part of it with their bags being transported between the places.

Huts and campsites must be booked before starting the track, and there is a penalty fee for not having valid tickets. As the walk is so popular everything needs to be booked well in advance. We happened to be in the Abel Tasman Park during the Christmas time which is the busiest time of the year. In the tourist information centre we were told that all campsites spaces have been booked, so there is no point for us to start the walk. However, as we were already in Abel Tasman Park we wanted to check why this track is so popular, so we did some research while staying at the campsite in town. We found out that there are still few camping places available at the beginning of the track and towards the end of the track. We considered different options. The track includes one compulsory low tide crossing and couple of others which can be walked around, so we had to take into consideration tidal times as well. We made arrangements and booked the campsites for the first and last night of the walk. That meant one night without accommodation. We came up with an idea to walk through the night and do the compulsory low tide crossing during the night. That would solve our accommodation, as we won’t need it, but that meant one sleepless night which we weren’t that worried about as the track did not look very challenging with short daily distances. With the plan of action we were ready for next walking trip.

We hitchhiked from Motueka, and luckily we managed to get to Marahau in one go. We were dropped off right at the starting point of the track. It couldn’t get any better. We had only 3 kilometres of walk to our first campsite. We set up the tent and had relaxing afternoon and evening exploring the nearby beaches.

There were Weka birds everywhere, and we had to hide everything from them. One has stolen our sunscreen, and while we were chasing it the other one tried to get some of our dinner! Cheeky birds :) Anyway, we found the sunscreen next morning.

In our original plan, the second day was to be a long one as we wanted to walk through the night and do the low tide crossing at night. We slowed down a bit, although it was difficult for us as the track was very easy, we could almost run it with backpacks on:) However we had lot of time to enjoy the walk and fantastic scenery. Before midday, we arrived at Anchorage Bay, where we had nice long coffee break while waiting for the low tide crossing of the Torrent Bay estuary. It was cloudy, but nice and warm. We crossed the bay, part in shoes and part of it barefoot and then continued our walk through the lush green bush and across sandy beaches at a relaxing pace. We stopped at Tonga Quarry for our late dinner break. It started to rain a bit, so we hid ourselves under the trees between rocks. It was after 7 pm when we moved on. Everyone else seemed to settle down for the night, we were the only one walking at that time. Soon we arrived at Onetahuti Bay and started ascending Tonga Saddle. It was getting darker, but there was still so much time till the low tide and not much further to walk. We quickly revised our plans and instead of continuing through the night without any sleep and then potentially having tiring day because of it, we decided to stop for the night and do the crossing the following day. We found small space for our tent, between trees and set up very basic camp. It was already dark, but as we were setting up tent so many times we could do it almost with our eyes closed :)

We woke up early next morning and were up and walking before other people. After short walk we descended to the Awaroa Beach, where we stopped for breakfast and longer break. We watched the world go round, people started arriving at the beach, walking dogs, taking strolls or swim, first water taxis were coming with more tourists. Marcin enjoyed swim in cold waters and I enjoyed the sun and beautiful views. About midday, we moved on and came on a path that required low tide to cross, which we did not expect. We tried to cross, but there was still too much water. When we were trying different places to cross, the water came down enough, so we could cross to the other side of that small bay. We continued along the beach and soon arrived at Awaroa Hut. There we had to stop and wait for the afternoon low tide. We still had few hours of waiting, so we made our coffee break while observing people from both sides of the bay checking water levels and trying to cross. There were many people waiting as we were. One and a half hour before low tide time we decided it was time for us to cross. The water was mostly knee-high, just bit higher at places. It’s long crossing, about 1 kilometre and by the time we crossed it, the water level dropped down very quickly and when we looked back there was no water at all. Also, we could see how many people walk this track, when they all at the same time had to walk this part. We put our shoes back on and started walking through the bush. There were about 7 kilometres to our campsite. We managed to set up the tent and eat some dinner before it started to drizzle.

On the last day we woke up to very drizzly weather. After breakfast, we started the last leg of our walk. Once we got into the bush the rain wasn’t that bad as we were protected by the trees. We wanted to go along the coast to the Separation Point with the lighthouse, but because we had troubles finding the track and because of the weather we decided to skip it and walk the inland track. We soon arrived at the car park where the finishing point is. The sky cleared by the time, and we had nice weather for the rest of the day.

We enjoyed the walk, it was nice and relaxing, not very challenging, but that was good change for us. We could see why it’s so popular and it was good to see whole families enjoying the great outdoors. However, when we look back we both came to conclusion that Queen Charlotte Track was more interesting for us.