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An Introduction to Abel Tasman

abel tasman new zealand

No matter where I go in New Zealand, I am constantly amazed at how universally beautiful the country is.

No no, snow-capped rugged mountains, turquoise lakes and conical volcanoes aren’t enough, there also has to be crystal clear sea that collides with white sandy beaches too. New Zealand really does have it all.

At this point, I am not even surprised anymore.

While exploring the South Island with Haka Tours, I woke up excited each and every single day because I knew everywhere we went would be mind-blowingly beautiful AND diverse. Not many countries can boast those kinds of landscapes all packed into 2 islands.

abel tasman new zealand

For New Years we were looking to spend a couple of days up in the Abel Tasman, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and most famous national parks on the top of the South Island.

We arrived at Marahau as the sun was setting spectacularly in preparation for 2 days of exploration. The evening was spent drinking far too many beers and way too many jello shots with the locals at the backpackers around a bonfire and singing classic songs while making new friends.

What a place to ring in 2014!

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

Up bright and early the next morning, we were ready and packed for 2 days of exploring the park, with just our backpacks and our feet.

Abel Tasman has some of the most beautiful walks and hikes you can take in New Zealand, and because of the coastal setting it’s really different from most of the mountainous treks I’ve been on, cough cough, it’s a lot easier too.

It’s so beautiful that it’s one of the 9 Great Walks, some of the most popular multi-day hikes around Middle Earth, I mean New Zealand. Normally it’s 3 to 5 days to cover the 55km inside the park.

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

Catching the Aqua Taxi in Marahau, we zoomed up through the turquoise waters towards Bark Bay where we start the 2 day hike back out of the park. Because the long track curves along the coast, it’s ideal to boat in and walk out or vice versa, even combining parts of the walk with kayaking.

That first boat ride was the beginning of me being soaked until dinner time. Disclaimer – usually this part of New Zealand has the most sunshine of the whole country, but of course I brought the rain.

Claiming the back seat of the boat for photos, the roof tarp ended in the row in front of me leaving me uncovered, which I was totally fine with, I settled in for the ride. As soon as the boat started up and the front lifted up out of the water, the roof tarp tilted at the perfect angle to dump all the rainwater that was on the roof right on my lap. Think waterfall.

Sigh, why me?

abel tasman new zealand

Any residual grumpiness from my unexpected early morning shower was quickly washed away (pun intended) as soon as we spotted a group of baby seals basking on some rocks on the shores.

Cue girlish squeals. Is there anything cuter than a baby seal flopping around?

Nope, don’t think so.

Cruising along the Abel Tasman coast, the feeling of love and respect I have for New Zealand’s natural beauty was piqued. Again. Surprise surprise.

Often when traveling around this part of the world, I feel myself start to roll my eyes and think, “seriously?” questioning how such a place can be both consistently and diversely gorgeous.

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

Hugging the coastline in the little boat as we made our way towards Bark Bay, gazing at the seemingly untouched forests, beaches and coves, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like to experience New Zealand long before it was colonized.

As it turns out this part of New Zealand was the first to be “discovered” by Europeans way back when by, you guessed, Abel Tasman, in 1642, over a century before James Cook would arrive.

Abel Janszoon Tasman ( I shit you not, that’s his real name) was a Dutchman mapping for the East India Company in the Pacific when he anchored in Golden Bay and was promptly attacked by the local Maori and left.

Well done Maori!

abel tasman new zealand

Walking the first day was easy and beautiful, in spite of the occasional deluge, soaking whatever dry parts of me were left. It was also the day I learned that my old North Face rain coat was not 100% waterproof. Fabulous.

Luckily the sun came out in the afternoon as we neared the end of the hike and into the magnificent Torrent Bay. One of the coolest features of Abel Tasman are the tidal ranges.

There are extreme tide changes here. At low tide the water recedes so far out to sea that you can cross the sandy bay on foot. I recommend removing your boots first. Obviously this means you have to pay attention to the tide times otherwise you might get left stranded.

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

By the time we arrived in Anchorage, the sun was shining and it was the first time I felt properly hot in New Zealand!

As my last night with Haka Tours, we went out with a bang and got to sleep on a boat backpackers!

Anchored in the Anchorage harbor, AquaPackers is New Zealand’s only floating accommodation. AWESOME!

Grilling out, we had an amazing barbecue dinner on deck while getting to know the crew and few other guests before being treated to a spectacular sunset, which of course made the earlier rainfall worthwhile.

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

And it only got better when the sun went down.

That night was one of those serendipitous travel moments where a great group of people from all over the world spend the evening talking about anything and everything drinking a lot of beer and watching the bright stars twinkle above.

There are many spectacular places in New Zealand to watch the stars, but from the deck of a boat in the middle of a national park slightly drunk might top them all.

abel tasman new zealand

abel tasman new zealand

The next day was spent walking out of the park, bouncing across rope bridges, wading in the water and taking a million photos.

I labeled this story as an introduction for a few reasons, mostly because I wanted to introduce you all to this glorious area of New Zealand that often gets overlooked by those stomping down the traditional tourist track, though it’s still very popular.

But I also wanted to remind myself that I only had a little introduction to Abel Tasman too, and I can’t wait to go back! This is one of those areas you can see yourself (ok, me) returning to for an annual summer vacation or getaway with friends. Still very kiwi and untouched, Abel Tasman definitely makes the top 10 list of my favorite places in New Zealand.

Have you been? Have you heard of Abel Tasman? Could you have imagined that New Zealand is home to such fine sandy beaches? 

abel tasman new zealand

 Many thanks to Haka Tours for hosting me in on the South Island. Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

24 Responses to An Introduction to Abel Tasman

  1. Kathi April 15, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Ooh, wonderful pictures! I spent two nights in Abel Tasman three years ago. We spent two days kayaking and the last day walking and then took a water taxi out of Totaranui. Even though the first day was really exhausting because of waves and wind it was one of my best times there. Baby seals, yes! I especially loved sleeping at the Tonga Quarry campsite – it was beautiful and not busy at all.

    If you ever want to go back I’d recommend kayaking. That way you get to see the park from two sides properly. 🙂

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      I can’t wait to go back and go kayaking. It was really bummer weather the day we were going to do it, and it was new years day so they were closed. Just means I have to go back!

  2. Rachel of Hippie in Heels April 15, 2014 at 4:21 am #

    wow it looks stunning. I’m trying to think of where I want to go on my next big trip. Because I’m in India, places in this area are appealing, for money saving purposes- but you’re blog is making me want to go to NZ so bad! My bf’s employees are divers and most come from NZ so they’re always telling me how great it is.

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      No joke, NZ is expensive, but let me tell you, it’s worth every penny!

  3. Christie @ The Butterfly Editions April 15, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    I love the Abel Tasman, I was lucky enough to grow up in Nelson so I have spent many a summer holiday there! My favourite bay is Torrent Bay, I used to go and stay every holiday with my best friend at her family bach there. Aaah the memories!!

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      LUCKY!!!

  4. Kayla April 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Beautiful photos! Sounds like a great adventure 🙂

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      Thank you, it was really amazing!

  5. Mike of Mapless Mike April 15, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    Love the photos and descriptions! You said that everything was “mind-blowingly beautiful AND diverse.” I could not have described this any better. I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I am constantly looking forward to your new photos and posts. They’re all so beautiful and filled with life. Can’t wait to see more, Liz!

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      New Zealand never ceases to amaze~

  6. Syd April 16, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Never made it to Abel Tasman…Guess that makes it Reason Numero 20038420934 that I have to go back to New Zealand…

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      Get back here now!

  7. Marie @ Budgeting for Travel April 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    Wow, I have my interest now with Abel Tasman. Nice photos.

    • Liz April 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      thanks!

  8. Jen Seligmann April 16, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Planning my NZ south island itinerary at the moment and this post came at the perfect time. I am tossing up whether to visit Abel Tasman or not. I’m not a big walker, I’m happy for maybe an hour and everything after that really puts me in a bad mood. Do you think it’s worth it to just visit by boat for a few hours instead of doing the day walks?

    • Liz April 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      Yeah do boat trips and walk for shorter times, it’s not a bad walk either, pretty good path and flat all along hte coast so it’s really beautiful, not challenging at all

  9. Erin April 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Gorgeous skies and seas. It reminds me a little bit of Costa Rica.

    • Liz April 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Yeah! I can see what you mean 🙂

  10. Elizabeth B. April 29, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Just returned from an amazing time in Marahau and Abel Tasman and am already dying to go back in the summer. Holler if you ever need a kayaking buddy. Gorgeous photos!

    • Liz April 30, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      will do! I definitely want to come back for a kayak – didn’t get the chance on this trip!

  11. Dwayne May 13, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    Hey Liz, thanks for such a complimentary blog about my country! Great place to grow up as a kid.

    Have you eaten snapper, NZ mussels, bluff oysters, scallops or fish and chips yet? When you get fish and chips make sure to ask a local for a good shop because good ones are like hens’ teeth these days. The best places are usually proper fish shops (fish mongers) not just the local greasy.

    I haven’t yet been to Abel Tasman National Park, thanks for the pics, the park is now on my agenda.

    When you head up north be sure to check out the Coromandel Pennisula, especially hot water beach, and Cathedral Cove (great for snorkelling). Another good spot for snorkelling is Goat Island near Warkworth.

    ¿Cual fue tu favorito lugar en españa? Me gustaria viajar a España. ¿Como fue la comida alla?

    Have fun!!

    Cheers

  12. Sarah Chant June 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    What gorgeous photos!! If you don’t mind me asking, what type of camera do you use? Thanks!

  13. Kate August 6, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    Wow, your photos are wonderful! They instantly take me back. Sadly, I ran out of time to do the full Abel Tasman and only did a day hike, but it remains one of my favourite treks from New Zealand. I must agree though, one of the things I loved was how easy it was (not that you always want that, but it was a nice break!!)

    • Liz August 6, 2015 at 10:58 am #

      haha totally agree xx

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