How to enjoy one of the world’s best national parks – Abel Tasman

This is not my first time in the Abel Tasman National Park.

The Anchorage

Longer than I care to remember, I set off with my sister over New Year to walk the park with a heavy pack, food and goons of wine. We spent eight days in the park and didn’t even make it to Totaranui, which is a tale in itself.

Being a couple of young chicks we had fun, met people and felt completely safe because it’s just that sort of walk. This time all grown and on a mission to complete the walk we actually planned our trip. But, what I love most about the Abel Tasman is it oozes options.

If you’re a hardened tramper, knock yourself out. Stay in DOC hut, carry your gear and food and do it like a trooper.

But, for me while I love walking, I hate carrying a heavy pack and I certainly don’t do DOC huts or eat reconstituted dried food.

You can walk all, part of or whatever takes your fancy as a myriad of water taxis go in and out of the bays regularly transporting people, luggage and kayaks.

Kayaks being loaded onto a water taxi at the Anchorage.

Our glamping experience was fantastic, with a comfortable bed and delicious dinner cooked by owner of Abel Tasman Guides, Chris.

Although we didn’t kayak we observed many being loaded onto a water taxi after a group of day trippers had paddled the first leg of the park to the Anchorage. It’s the most flexible national park in NZ to be enjoyed by all ages and levels of fitness and ability. It’s just a matter of deciding how you’d like to do it and then piecing together your preferences or engaging a company to do it for you, like I did.

Eating dinner at the Anchorage with other glampers.

Abel Tasman Guides put together our itinerary, glamping the first night at the Anchorage and staying at the Awaroa Lodge and Ratanui Lodge over the next two nights. They also organised our transport from Nelson to the beginning of the walk, lunches, luggage transfers and everything in-between, including maps.

In total we walked just over 60 km from the beginning of the track at Marahau to the Wainui Inlet.

If you are planning a trip to the Abel Tasman National Park here are some options and a few tips for maximum enjoyment.

  • You can walk or kayak the park or a bit of both.
  • You can opt for a day trip or do the whole park in as many days as you like but 3-4 is the norm.
  • The first third of the track is the busiest as day hikers and kayakers come as far as the Anchorage, but the further north you go the less people.
  • There are two tidal inlets on the track, one just after the Anchorage and the Awaroa Inlet. Make sure you are aware of low tide times as they can only be crossed 1.5 hours before low tide or up to 2 hours after. Take water shoes to cross the inlets.
  • There are several water taxi companies operating between Marahau and Totaranui providing flexibility if you don’t want to walk the whole track, or don’t want to carry your luggage.
  • The most popular places to stay are at the Anchorage, Awaroa and Totaranui although there are many smaller huts and campsites along the way.
  • DOC provides a number of huts and camping grounds in the park, but these MUST be booked in advance – $14 to camp and $32 for a bed in a hut.
  • If you want a higher standard of accommodation I would highly recommend the company we used, Abel Tasman Guides.
  • Owners, Chris and Wally (father and son) provided us with a seamless experience from beginning to end with our own personal itinerary. From our pickup in Nelson to our return four days later, everything was taken care of.
    • Our luggage was transported to our nightly destination enabling us to only carry a small day pack.
    • Delicious packed lunches were provided daily.
    • Accommodation sorted – we glamped at the Anchorage for our first night as there is no lodge. It was excellent with a comfortable double air bed, delicious cooked dinner and breakfast and of course alcoholic refreshments. Abel Tasman Guides are the only company to have a concession with DOC to glamp. The only draw back was the lack of showering facilities, but what the hell.
    • Night two was at Awaroa Lodge. Comfortable basic rooms, but the lodge has a lovely feel. We opted for dinner at the Pizzeria, but there is a lodge café and a la carte restaurant.
    • Night three we stayed at Ratanui Lodge in Golden Bay, a delightful lodge with wonderful hospitality by owners Peter and Steve.

Having reached the Wainui Inlet on the third day, our host Peter from Ratanui Lodge met us with a well deserved chardonnay before taking us back to the lodge!

If you haven’t walked the Abel Tasman National Park, put it on your bucket list.

Useful websites

Abel Tasman DOC (Department of Conservation)

Abel Tasman Guides

DOC Abel Tasman

Map of Abel Tasman National Park

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