Exploring New Zealand’s Smallest Yet Magnificent National Park
Why Travel to Abel Tasman, New Zealand?
Beautiful stretches of sandy beaches, turquoise waters, long scenic coastal hikes, and great kayaking. What more do you need?
Top Things to Do in Abel Tasman, New Zealand
1) Hike Abel Tasman Coast Track
This under 60 km (37-mile) track runs the coast of Abel Tasman National Park and is one of New Zealand’s many popular “Great Walks”. You can traverse the entire route in 3-5 days while staying in huts, campsites, or more luxurious accommodations. You also have the option to book water taxis or guided cruises to take you to various popular sections of the Abel Tasman Coast track.
We opted to do a self-guided day-trip and tried to cover as much ground as we could while also being able to relax in the areas we wanted. Our trip took a total of seven hours.
Here are some of the highlights along the way:
A series of beaches that bend and twist around the coast.
Abel Tasman 101: Be sure to come in the morning for a swim as the water recedes in the evening
Check out just what difference tides make from the beginning of our hike and coming back.
It was really cool seeing the different water levels at low and high tide when we left and returned from our hike
Apple Tree Bay
Abel Tasman 101: You may camp here overnight for up to two days
Apple Tree Bay is a perfect place to stop to enjoy a packed lunch.
This Bay can be an excellent spot for a quick stop or a private swim, and it is easily accessible from the track.
There are many camping areas around Anchorage Bay, which makes it the ideal stopping point (especially for overnight stays).
Anchorage is one of the most stunning Bays, which is a common spot for yachts.
Further inland, there are places for you to jump off the rocks into swimming holes. There is also the famous Cleopatra’s Pool, the best freshwater swimming spot in Abel Tasman National Park.
This rocky beach has plenty of swimming spots.
Te Pukatea Bay
A crescent shaped golden sand beach surrounded by forested hills just north of Anchorage Bay.
Pitt Head Lookout
This is the best short walk within the Park. Walk the Pitt Head Loop Track via the stunning Te Pukatea Beach to get to this amazing view.
We thoroughly enjoyed our walk along the Tasman Track, however, we would not put that as a must do thing to do in New Zealand solely based on the fact that New Zealand has so many epic adventures available. We had beautiful sunny weather, worked up a good sweat, and saw some beautiful beaches. However, we didn’t see many animals (we saw more kayaking), or hear many birds. We also saw great panoramic vistas from the walking path; however, the flora on the path was consistently normal trees and shrubs, nothing extraordinary. This could be something to do with the time of the year we visited however. It should also be noted that we only trekked a short portion of the walk.
Bottom line, if you are here you need to explore the coast somehow, whether it’s kayaking, walking a part or the whole Tasman track, or taking taxis/boat rides.
Abel Tasman 101: There were not any steep inclines as part of the trek so a person of average fitness should not have a problem walking it.
Immerse yourself in the amazing Abel Tasman National Park by kayak. Enjoy a relaxing ride around secluded beach islands, paddling alongside seals, and exploring lagoons and hidden coves. Kayaking is a nice option as you’ll be ale to see many things that you cannot from the land. We chose to do a self-guided tour so that we could paddle freely around the coastline and stay or go as we pleased.
We booked with Kahu Kayak, a locally-owned company that offers several kayak tour options that span one to three days. We rented a double-kayak with the paddles, skirt, and life jacket all included for $130 NZ$.
The Company will provide a map of the area you can take with and getting around is as simple as following the coast and distinct landmarks. We stopped at several bays and islands while kayaking. Here are some of our favorite photos:
At Tinline Bay you can see this abnormal tree growing on a rock formation in the middle of the Bay.
When kayaking, you simply MUST visit the uninhabited Fisherman Island. This can take upwards to three hours to get here.
Abel Tasman 101: Take a kayak out to Fisherman Island
There are several stunning islets off of Fisherman Island
You’ll see many postcard worthy cave formations carved into rocks that have trees growing out of them
The kayak trip was the highlight of our Abel Tasman stay.
3) Enjoy The Drive
Kaikoura to Abel Tasman: We don’t have pictures of our drive from Kaikoura to Abel Tasman, but as per usual, there were many scenic views. As we neared Abel Tasman, there was many tight winding roads through the mountains. Unfortunately, at one point the road was all broken up into small rocks/boulders that Kurt was worried he wouldn’t be able to get the car through without causing some damage. Luckily, we made it. We found an easier route the next day going into town, however, they fenced it off on the way back. Rather than drive 30 minutes out of the way and risk going over those rocks again, Kurt decided it was best to “reopen” the road…..(see below).
Abel Tasman to Picton to Wellington: When we left Abel Tasman, our next destination was going to be Wellington on the North Island. As part of this trip, we stopped off at the Pelorus bridge, then hopped on the ferry in Picton with our rental car, and drove the remaining route to Wellington.
Along the route we enjoyed the :
This scenic stop off was a little over 2 hour drive from Abel Tasman.
New Zealand 101: Lord of the Rings fans should recognize the Pelorus bridge as one of the film locations for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The scene where the dwarves were traveling down the river in the barrels.
Ferry Ride from the South Island to the North Island
Another hour + from the Pelorus bridge we reached Picton where we had prepaid $180 NZ for our tickets and our car to be transported to the other side. The trip was three hours and had some beautiful views as shown below.
The views from the Interislander Ferry service through New Zealand’s Cook Strait help make the steep price be more palatable.
Where to Stay in Abel Tasman, New Zealand
Kanuka Ridge Abel Tasman Backpackers and Lodge
This lodge was ideally located close to the beginning of the Abel Tasman National Park. Pro tip: This hostel came equipped with both the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies on hand.
Other Recommendations of Things to Do
These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:
- Enjoy overnight camping at a private beach in Abel Tasman National Park . There are a few that are that are only accessible by kayak. We hear Mutton Cove has an amazing view of the Milky Way at night.
- Wainui Falls Track – One of the largest and most easily accessible waterfalls in the Park, located inland of Tata Beach. With less than a two hour short return, it would be worth it.
- Tonga Island Marine Reserve – A small island accessible by boat or kayak that has abundant wild life. If you are snorkeling or scuba diving you can see rock crabs, crayfish, snapper, hermit crabs and seals. If you are lucky you may also see penguins and dolphins while visiting the marine reserve.
- Canyoning – Apparently there is a canyoning option where you abseil, climb, leap and scramble through the river canyons of the Abel Tasman National Park. I’d be interested to know how adventurous this activity it, but we would highly consider it the next time we go.
- Walk the full Tasman Track and stay in huts/campsites. If we had the time we would like to experience the full great walk and be able to enjoy the stars at night while camping on the beach.
- Water Taxis and Boat Cruises: If we were strapped for time, we would opt for either the water taxi’s or a scenic cruise that stopped at various destinations we were not able to make this time along the Tasman Track.
- Take a Dip in Cleopatra’s Pool, the best freshwater swimming spot in Abel Tasman National Park.
Questions For You
- Would you prefer to visit Abel Tasman National Park via seven-hour hike or a six-hour kayak excursion?
I loved Abel Tasman! It’s such a beautiful place! The Tasman Trail was a great hike too! We stayed at Kanuka Ridge too – and of course had to watch Lord of the Rings!
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Yes, we did similar things! We would strongly recommend a kayak trip around the islets and bay. It is the perfect way to get around Abel Tasman. Next time maybe try an overnight kayak and camp.