Things to do and see around Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park
We are extremely fortunate to have Kanuka Ridge Abel Tasman Backpackers situated on a sunny ridge located only 4 km from the start of the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Abel Tasman National Park, who was formed in 1942, is renown for its golden sandy beaches, sculptured granite cliffs and steep forested hills. With 22,530 hectares it is one of NZ’s smallest national parks but its beauty is world famous.
Tonga Island Marine Reserve
In 1993 Tonga Island Marine Reserve was formed which marked a new era in the protection of this beautiful coastline. The reserve covers an area of 1835 hectares next to the Abel Tasman National Park extending 1852m offshore along the coast between Bark Bay and Awaroa. The marine reserve protects all marine life within its boundaries benefiting not just fish but also seals, penguins and sea birds. You can visit the marine reserve by water taxi to view the seals at Tonga Island. There are commercial seal swimming excursions by sea kayak (you must stay 20m away from seals). You can walk sections of the coastal track who pass along the edge of the reserve and use your own snorkel to observe marine life along the shoreline.
Dolphins are frequent visitors to the coast and NZ Fur Seals are commonly seen on the islands of the park all year, especially Tonga Island which is a breeding colony. Visiting Tonga or Pinnacle Island by sea kayak or water taxi, will often give you a great opportunity to photograph Seals. Orca also migrate through the Abel Tasman and a lucky sighting of these magnificent mammals from a water taxi is a once in a lifetime experience. Little Blue or Fairy Blue Penguins breed along much of the coastline and are often seen by sea kayak or boat at sea feeding during the day and live in burrows on islands along the coast. Many species of seabird inhabit the coastline including Shags (cormorant), Gannets, Gulls, Herons, Oyster Catches and Terns. See our photo gallery for pictures of wildlife found in the Abel Tasman.
Tracks and walks
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a walkers paradise which suits most ages and most levels of fitness.
There are two main options for those with a few days to spare and the desire to explore.
Walk the entire Abel Tasman Coastal Track in 3–5 days with plenty of time to explore. The track is 51 km long and can be completed by staying at the Department of Conservation huts or campsites for some nights (must be booked prior) along the way .
You can choose to walk short sections of the track over several days staying at our backpackers. You can use water taxi services from Marahau to return to your starting point. This has the advantage of hot showers, comfortable beds and fresh food at the end of each day. All you need to carry is a small day pack while walking.
The track follows the coast with spectacular views and side tracks down to most beaches where you can enjoy your picnic lunch and some swimming.
We are happy to help plan and book your Abel Tasman coastal walk including water taxis, huts and campsites. We can offer you advice on tide times so that you know the best times to cross tidal estuaries.
Staying Overnight In Abel Tasman National Park
There are four huts along the Coast Track.
Bark Bay Hut
This hut sleeps 34 people and is located 3 hours (9.5 km) walk from Anchorage Hut. There is 1 tidal crossing between Anchorage and Bark Bay Hut.
This hut sleeps 26 people and is located 4 hours (11.5 km) walk from Bark Bay Hut. There is 1 tidal crossing between Bark Bay and Awaroa Hut.
This hut sleeps 20 people and is located 4 1/2 hours (13 km) walk from Awaroa Hut. There are 2 tidal crossings between Awaroa and Whariwharangi Hut.
All huts have communal bunkrooms with mattresses, tables, benches and heating. Ablution blocks have flush toilets and washbasins with cold water only. Filtered drinking water is available in Anchorage, Bark Bay and Awaroa huts. Overnight stays are limited to two consecutive nights. There are no cooking facilities or lighting (gas cooking stoves and candles or torches are needed). Hut users are expected to leave huts clean and tidy and all rubbish must be carried out of the park with you. Hut spaces need to be booked all year.
There are 21 campsites in the park and all of them have a water supply and toilets, although most water supplies are untreated. Some campsites have cooking shelters and fireplaces. Open fires are only permitted where fireplaces are provided and when there is no fire ban in force. There are no cooking facilities or lighting (gas cooking stoves and candles or torches are needed). All rubbish must be carried out of the park with you. Campers are not permitted to use hut facilities. Campsites need to be booked all year around.
Visitors should take care to avoid dehydration, sunburn and minimise insects bites. Only walk across tidal estuaries within a few hours of low tide. While the Abel Tasman Coast is generally warm and dry in summer, remember it is a coastal environment which can change quickly so be prepared for rain, cold and windy conditions.
If you are going to be using the track system in the park for overnight trips make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared.
Sea kayaking along the Abel Tasman coastline is one of the must do’s of any trip in this area. Sea kayaking allows you great access to remote and sheltered coves and to see many more things that walking the track will bypass. Kayaking is quiet and carbon friendly and allows you to approach and get close to birds and marine life in a unique way. We can help plan and book your sea kayak tour or freedom kayak rental for 1/2 a day or up to 5 days.
For people who haven’t kayaked before, a guided trip is recommended. Guided trips have a maximum of 8 clients to a guide and have the advantage of giving you a lot of information about the park, as well as not having to worry about weather and sea conditions. Sea kayak guides have professional qualifications and know how to make sure you have a great experience and learn some kayaking skills to the same time. All equipment and food is generally supplied apart from personal items such as clothes.
For independent kayak rentals (called Freedom Rentals), there needs to be a minimum of two people and previous sea kayaking experience is essential. Before renting a kayak, the guides will go through a compulsory safety briefing with you covering everything you need to know about your kayak, equipment, local weather and sea conditions.
It is important to realise that due to the tidal range in our area (up to 4.5 m from low to high tide) it is not possible to stay at some campsites. When the tide goes out it may be up to 500m from the sea!
Sea kayaking is not recommended north of Onetahuti Bay (Tonga Bay) due to the remote and exposed coastline.
Sea kayaking is more weather dependent than walking along the Coastal Track. You need to book campsites that are within your kayaking ability and plan for the worst weather(-head winds and rough seas). This way if the weather makes kayaking slow, you will still get to your campsite. If the weather is fine and there is a tail wind, you will be able to kayak to your campsite, set up your tent and have the option to explore the surroundings with your kayak minus your overnight gear.
If your plan is to stop at Adele and Fisherman island, please plan and prepare ahead to ensure you do not accidentally take pests, such as mice, rats and weeds onto the islands as they are predator free.
Landing is not allowed on Tonga Island as it is a seal breeding colony.
Approximate paddling times for experienced kayakers in calm conditions without stops are:
- Marahau to Anchorage – 3 hr
- Anchorage to Bark Bay – 2 hr 30 min
- Bark Bay to Onetahuti – 1 hr 30 min
Visitors should take care to avoid dehydration, sunburn and minimise insect bites. Only walk across tidal estuaries within a few hours of low tide. While the Abel Tasman Coast is generally warm and dry in summer, remember it is a coastal environment. It can change quickly so be prepared for rain, cold and windy conditions.
There are several companies offering sailing experiences in the Abel Tasman National Park. A variety of tours are offered and we are happy to explain the differences and work out and book a trip that works for you.
Mountain Biking / Cycling
The Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park is located 6 km or 20 minutes by bike from Kanuka Ridge Abel Tasman Backpackers. It provides a huge variety of riding for first time mountain bikers through to experienced riders. Sorry, it is illegal to ride along the Abel Tasman coastal track.
But there are two places where you can legally mountain bike in the park. The first place is on a section of the Moa Park Track, from the Rameka Track turnoff to the Wainui Track turnoff. This track is accessed from the Canaan Downs carpark and can be used year-round. It links with a mountain bike track that is being developed in the adjacent Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve, providing a round-trip.
The Rameka Track can also be used by mountain bikers as it is on unformed legal road, outside of the park.
The second place where you can mountain bike is on the Gibbs Hill Track. This is available to mountain bikers between 1.May and 1. October, at any time of the day. The track is accessed from Totaranui, climbs up to Gibbs Hill and then down to Wainui Bay (see map below). Speak to us if you are interested in these options and we can provide you with more information.
More information about Gibbs Hill mountain biking
The New Zealand Cycle Trail project is a New Zealand government initiative, co-funded together with local Councils and charitable trusts, which is to build and operate a network of cycle routes through the country. As of mid 2011, the first of the 18 proposed ‘Great Rides’ (dedicated cycleways, mostly off-road and in particularly scenic locations) were being finished, while construction was ongoing on most of the others. The first set of ‘Touring Routes’ (mostly on-road, to connect Great Rides), had also been announced. New sections of the cycle trail are opening up and available to ride regularly. www.nzcycletrail.com for more information.