A Girl's Guide to Abel Tasman, New Zealand
february 20, 2020
When I think of my time in Abel Tasman I think of the present in each moment I spent there… like spongy moss under fingers and palm, the sharp patter of a midnight storm on my tent, crisp air brushing hair to cheek, a breathtaking view that gives way after an uphill trek, salty olives on a homemade sandwich, the gentle melody of water rushing downstream to meet the bay, an internal exhilaration as I swirl above cliffs in a helicopter - a gift of full sensory exploration in every second.
With stunning scenery and serenity woven into the landscape, you can’t help but disconnect from the troubles of your everyday to luxuriate in the beauty of each moment - also, wifi is nearly non-existent, so you don’t have a choice in the matter. This wilderness preserve stretches along the northern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I had a mere 8 days in this island nation popularized by Lord of the Rings, but I was super pleased to have spent 4 of those days in what countless Kiwis identified as “the most beautiful part of New Zealand”.
See // Do
You come to Abel Tasman to hike the Coast Trek - a 60k (37 mile) stretch of walkways along beaches and cliffs. Most people spend a few days here and hike a portion of it. Others do the whole thing at their own pace, taking each day as it comes and pitching a tent where they feel like stopping for a night or two.
Hit the beach for some R&R - my favorite beaches were at the north end of the park, specifically Totaranui. FYI: Don't expect to swim. We went in early summer (mid-December) and it was far too cold. Mostly in the 40s at night and morning, and then would rise to upper 50s and low 60s on the warmest days.
Kayak excursions are offered at sites throughout the trek - we booked through Awaroa Lodge.
Glow worm colonies are found at several landmarks on the path. At night it looks like the ground is mimicking stars in the sky. Keep an eye for signage or ask a local or lodge staff.
Feed eels at Awaroa Lodge. It’s a free thrill. Equal parts fascinating and terrifying.
There are tons of other nature and adventure activities that we didn’t partake in, including canyoning, boat tours, skydiving, and biking. For a comprehensive list with booking info, click here.
sTAY // sLEEP
You have two core options: bring a tent and camp OR stay in lodgings. We’re high maintenance and decided to go the lodging route. This meant that we hiked from our accommodation each day in a different direction and then took a water taxi back at the end of the hike. I’m so happy this was the executive decision because we never had to carry all of our belongings while hiking - we just brought sandwiches, water, and a camera. We also had a sense of home base that was perfectly located and so lovely to return to each night: Awaroa Bay. Awaroa is pretty much in the middle of the Coastal Track. It is one of the most beautiful spots AND has several accommodation options based on budget.
$ Awaroa Hut is a basic bunk style accommodation.
$$ Awaroa Glamping stunned me with views and hospitality. The owner, Mike, felt like a father to me. While I wouldn’t consider this glamping, as it’s not glamorous in any way, it is truly a special place. They gave me the “honeymoon suite” a tent at the top of the hill with amazing views and privacy. Note that the bathrooms are shared!
$$$ Awaroa Lodge is absolutely lovely. They have all the modern necessities, plus a super yummy restaurant, and wifi! Brian stayed here and I snuck in for showers and work emails.
$ Aquapackers - I noticed this floating backpackers on our way out of Abel Tasman and thought it looked SO fun. If I was traveling solo, I definitely would try this option for accommodation.
eat // Drink
If you’re camping, I assume you have experience with bringing provisions. I’m not an experienced multi-day trekker, so I’m not going to expand on this.
We picked up some basics for snacks, breakfast, and sandwiches at a grocery store in Nelson, which was super helpful. We typically grazed on snacks in the mornings, packed sandwiches for lunch when hiking, and then ate dinner at the fancy-ish restaurant at the Awaroa Lodge OR had super casual clay oven pizzas at Glamping.
Getting There // Getting Around
The closest airport is located in Nelson - definitely spend a day checking out this cute town. They have charming cafes, wineries, and a lovely farmers market on the weekends. The entrance to Abel Tasman is about 1 hour from Nelson ($ take a bus OR $$ hire a driver). From there, your journey continues on foot or boat depending on your itinerary:
You can go directly to Motueka from Nelson to begin hiking or camp.
If you are staying at a lodge in Awaroa or want to start trekking further north on the trek, you must go to Kaiteriteri to get a boat taxi.
$$$ If you are bougie and exciting, you also have the option of hiring a private helicopter from Nelson, like my fun friend, Brian. The helicopter picked us up in Nelson and dropped us at Awaroa - eliminating the hour drive + hour boat taxi. Be like Brian to maximize your thrills and cut the travel time significantly. However Brian can attest that this has inverse effects on your wallet. I’m just along for the ride, so no complaints here.
Once you get to the Abel Tasman, you have two ways to get around: on foot and by boat. Most people trek up the coast and then take the boat back down to Kaiteriteri at the end of their stay. Since we stayed in Awaroa Bay, we spent one day hiking south and one day hiking north and then used the boat taxis to return after our hikes. YOU MUST BOOK THE TAXIS AHEAD OF TIME.
That’s all folks! Xx, L