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The Abel Tasman hike: Everything you need to know!

One of the most popular ways to see the Abel Tasman National Park is by hiking the coast track. The Abel Tasman coast track itself is only 60 km long (one way) and can be accomplished in anywhere from 1 – 5 days. The good thing is there are many half day and full day hiking options. So, if you are struggling for time you are still able to see some of the turquoise bays, exotic forests and incredible view points.

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1 Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

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Located at the North end of the South Island just 60 km from Nelson (the closest city with an airport). Click here to view the Department of Conservation PDF map and information sheet. 

The most common starting point for the Abel Tasman coast track is in Marahau just 1.5 hours drive from Nelson. The second most common point is Wainui which is located 2 hours drive from Nelson, over the Takaka hill and into Golden Bay. Heading to Wainui is a popular option for those wanting to complete the Northern section of the park.

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How to get to the Abel Tasman Coast Track:

The most popular way to get to the track is by driving to Marahau or Wainui. If you need to rent a car the closest spot is in Nelson. There are car parks located at both ends of the park.

Public transport options: 

To the Southern end of the park there is one bus company called ScenicNZ Abel Tasman. They drive from Nelson through to Marahau once daily and can pick you up from Nelson, Richmond, Motueka or Kaiteriteri. Click here to view their website. They also depart in the opposite direction at the end of each day.

If you are needing a bus to the Northern end of the park head over to Golden Bay Coachlines website by clicking here. They run a service from Takaka (the closest town to the Northern section of the park) to Wainui car park and Totaranui (a popular Northern campsite in the park). They also return once daily.

If you have booked a water taxi tour you will be able to use the companies transport options. Check this with them when you make a booking.

Where to stay before you enter the park:

Marahau, Kaiteriteri, or Motueka if you are wanting to start from the Southern end of the park and Takaka if you are wanting to start from the Northern end.

How long does it take to walk the Abel Tasman coast track?

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Hiking the Abel Tasman coast track takes as long as you want it to. Most people take an average of 3 – 5 days to complete it. This is what the Doc brochure recommends.  But, if you are reasonably fit you are able to complete majority of the track in 1 night and 2 days. There is only one thing that can stop you completing it in 2 days and that is the tide. This is important for everyone to be aware of. Looking up the Abel Tasman tide times prior to your hike can make all of the difference

There are tidal inlets at Awaroa, Onetahuti and Torrent Bay that can only be crossed up to 1.5 hours before low tide and up to 2 hours after. Torrent Bay is the only exception as it has a high tide route. You will need to be aware of the tides no matter how long it takes you to do the track and plan your hike accordingly. Check out the tide times Abel Tasman on Doc’s website by clicking here.

What are the Abel Tasman coast track conditions like?

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The Abel Tasman coast track can be walked in either direction from Wainui (Northern end) or Marahau (Southern end) but is most accessible from the small Southern village, Marahau. The Abel Tasman Coastal track is one of the easiest hiking tracks in New Zealand and is well sign posted, wide enough for 2 people most of the time and absolutely stunning.

The only things you have to be aware of is the tidal crossings at Awaroa, Onetahuti and Torrent Bay mentioned above.

There is no cost to enter the Abel Tasman National Park and you do not need a permit.

Okay, so now you’ve got a little bit of background information lets delve into your hiking options…

Abel Tasman national park walks

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Apple Tree Bay

Hiking options WITHOUT A WATER TAXI:

If you have: 0-1 days to spend in the park:

Option 1:

The most popular choice for people on limited time who don’t want to get a water taxi is a hike to Apple Tree Bay and back. Apple Tree Bay is located about 1.5 hours walk from the Abel Tasman car park in Marahau. Apple Tree Bay is the closest bay to Marahau that resembles many of the beaches further up the park meaning, you get a good taster and feel for the entire park without actually hiking it all, WIN! The Apple Tree Bay campsite offers a beachside camping experience for anyone wanting to take in the views a little longer and spend the night.

Option 2:

Your other option is to hike all the way to Anchorage Bay the first major bay in the park. One of the most popular beaches for its location, accessibility and beauty. Sitting around 12.4 km (one way) from the Marahau Abel Tasman car park means you’re in for a big day out! But, the coast track is extremely well paved meaning you can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time. I’ve hiked this a few times with friends of all different fitness levels and we always finish the return trip in around 5 – 6 hours.

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Other options:

If you’re not keen on walking too far is taking your time and walk to any of the gorgeous little bays located anywhere from 15 minutes – 1 hour from the car park in Marahau. There is no entry fee to the park so you can walk in as far as you like! But, my recommendation is to walk to at least Apple Tree Bay to get the best feel for the park.

If you have 1+ days to spend in the park:

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You are able to walk in and out of the park at your own pace as the track can be walked in either direction. So, if a water taxi is not an option for you then you can walk into any bay of your choosing, starting in Marahau or Wainui and then return down the same track. You could spend anywhere between 2 – 10 days travelling up and down the park!

The only issue is the tidal crossing at Awaroa, Onetahuti and Torrent Bay (mentioned above) where you have to be aware of the tide times. Just keep in mind you want to cross as close to low tide as possible but have a window of anywhere between 1.5 hours before and up to 2 hours after low tide to cross the inlet. Outside of these times you will not be able to cross (except the Torrent Bay high tide route).

The option I recommend if you’re not keen on getting a water taxi is an overnight hike to Bark Bay if you’re prepared to walk 24km (one way). Bark Bay is one of the most beautiful bays in the park and a great option for a challenging 2 day hike. The hike should take you around 6-8 hours and you can stay at the Bark Bay campsite in a tent or hut for the night. Click here to view the prices and to make a booking. 

Hiking Options WITH A WATER TAXI:

Split apple rock

Split Apple Rock

In my option, catching a water taxi is the best option to see a good chunk of the park on limited time. As part of their service heading up the park most water taxi companies take you down to Split Apple Rock for photos and then up to Adele Island to view the seal colony which is a little added bonus!

If you have 0- 1 days to spend in the park:

The most popular option for those of you who want to catch a water taxi and hike some of the track is a one way water taxi to Anchorage Bay. Spend 30 minutes on the water taxi, checking out Split Apple Rock, the seals at Adele Island and a cruise into Anchorage bay. Leaving from Marahau the cost is $37 per person and departs Marahau at 9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm or 1:30 pm (in summer, times change in winter). Then, you are left to hike the easy (well sign posted) 12.4 km (around 2.5- 3.5 hours) track back to Marahau.

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Anchorage Bay

You can also catch a one way taxi into Torrent Bay (14 km) or at the most Bark Bay (24 km) to walk back to Marahau in a day.

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View into Torrent Bay

Your other abel tasman day walks options include 2 water taxis departing from Marahau or Kaiteriteri, taking you further up the park with a walk in between bays. You can walk between the following bays:

  • Torrent Bay – Anchorage Bay (or reverse), 20 minutes at low tide or, 1-2 hours at high tide (4 km), $71 per person. 

  • Bark Bay – Anchorage Bay (or reverse), 4 hours, 11.5 km, $76 per person.

  • Torrent Bay – Bark Bay (or reverse), 2-3 hours, 7 km, $76 per person.

  • Bark Bay – Onetahuti Bay (or reverse), 1-2 hours, 6.4 km, $79 per person.

  • Bark Bay – Awaroa Bay (or reverse), 3-4.5 hours, 13.5 km, $79 per person.

  • Awaroa Bay- Onetahuti Bay (or reverse), 1.5-2.5 hours, 7.1 km, $79 per person.

You can hike between Totaranui and Awaroa bay (or reverse) if the tide times work in your favour. Remember you can only cross the Awaroa inlet 1.5 hour before or up to 2 hours after low tide. Abel Tasman tide times can change your whole hike. 

You are able to visit the more Northern bay, Totaranui via water taxi and walk as far as Anapai bay in the one day. It is not advisable to go to Mutton cove. This is because the water taxi schedule is fixed. You will likely miss the boat if you try to make it that far. For a trip to Mutton Cove or further you will want to spend a night in the park or, head in from the Wainui car park end.

To see the trip options above explained in greater detail and to book your trip head over to Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi by clicking here.

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If you have 1+ days to spend in the park:

My #1 option for you IF THE TIDE TIMES AT AWAROA WORK IN YOUR FAVOUR…

Is to catch a water from Marahau – Totaranui for $49 per person. From there depart south, cross the Awaroa inlet and camp at Bark Bay for the night. This is not an option for those of you who do not want to hike more than 6 hours in a day. The distance between Totaranui and Bark Bay is 20.6 km and can take between 6.5 – 8 hours.

If the tide times don’t work in your favour. Meaning the taxi times don’t get you there between optimal abel tasman low tide crossing time. Then, your best option is to get a water taxi into Awaroa Bay. Then hike South and stay at any campsite/ hut of your choice. You can take as long as you like!

To book a hut and or camping ground on the Doc website, click here. 

Whariwharangi hut

Whariwharangi Hut

There really are limitless options for you to spend more than 1 night along the Abel Tasman coast track. It just depends on how long you want to stay, where you want to go and what your budget is. Some people stay many days in the park. By, boating in to a bay and just purely camping, then catching a taxi back out! Or, catching a taxi, walking a section, camping and then catching a taxi back out! Or x100 other options!

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I know it can be hard to decide what section you want to hike and where you want to stay. So, below I have outlined the best part of the track in my opinion. (After spending nearly 1 year exploring the area) and the best beaches to visit.

The best part of the Abel Tasman coast track:

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Separation Point

I have 2 favourites:

1) The section between Torrent Bay and Bark Bay. This is because there is a swing bridge, the most original section of native bush and the best views.

2) North of Mutton Cove. This is because there are less people travelling on this section of the park. As well as it being home to some of the most incredible views and my favourite detour, Separation Point.

Where are the best beaches along the Abel Tasman coast track?

This is a whole other post in itself and good news! I’ve written all about it! Click here to view my post: The best 3 beaches in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Water taxi companies I recommend:

There are 4 water taxi companies running in the Abel Tasman National Park. Only 2 that run directly from Marahau. I quoted the prices from above from Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi and Marahau Water Taxis .

Click here to learn more about Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi or click here for Marahau Water Taxis.

Where to stay throughout the Abel Tasman hike track:

Camping:

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There are 18 campsites throughout the park and 4 huts located at Anchorage, Bark, Awaroa and Whariwharangi. Click here to make a booking and view the campsites and prices.

Have a look at the Abel Tasman brouchure by clicking here to learn more about your camping options in detail.

Your other options:

If you’re not keen on camping you could try a floating backpackers! My personal favourite. Click here to view the Aqua Packers website.

A few things to remember:

  • Water taxis only go as far north as Totaranui.
  • You can only get fresh drinking water from the bays with a hut. Anchorage, Bark, Awaroa and Whariwharangi.
  • You need to pre book your abel tasman camping or hut accommodation. If you want to get into a hut in Summer you will need to book weeks in advance.
  • There is a low season in the park running from May – September. The bus timetables change and hut and camping prices are cheaper.
  • There is limited cellphone reception throughout the park. But, in Summer there are Doc wardens at every hut and are often seen walking along the track. There is also a phone at Torrent Bay and Totaranui.
  • There are no gas facilities at the Huts or campgrounds so take your own cooker, fuel and lighters with you.
  • You can’t buy food on the track and there are no rubbish facilities. Pack in, pack out!

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And that’s all from me! I hope this post has given you some useful tips and information for your Abel Tasman hiking adventure. If there is something you think I’ve missed or have any questions please drop me a comment below!

P.s If you’re keen to check out more of what NZ has to offer and add to your New Zealand travel plans, head on over to my post: 15 Unforgettable Things To Do In New Zealand! 

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