The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a stunning walk on the South Island of New Zealand. You can visit the Abel Tasman National Park for a day or a couple of days depending on your time. I would recommend the longer the better as there’s plenty to do there. You can kayak along the coast or do what I did and go on a mini 3-day adventure.
Here’s all you need to know about hiking one of the best walks in New Zealand, the Abel Tasman Coast Track plus a few tips on how to get there, what to wear and what to take. Have fun!
Arriving at the Abel Tasman Coast Track
Nelson is the closest town to the start of the trek, about a 67 km drive. It’s a perfect place for buying last-minute walking supplies as there are plenty of outdoor shops. And great for buying food for your hike.
It’s best to stay overnight at Nelson and catch the early morning bus. My bus was at 7.45 am but there are various providers you can travel with to the start of the walk at Marahau. (Times change depending on the season).
Day 1 – Abel Tasman Coast Track
Hike Distance – 15 miles/24.5 km
Hiking Time – 7-8 hours
Accommodation – Bark Bay Hut
The Abel Tasman Coast Track on the South Island of New Zealand starts along a little wooden walkway (at high tide), then takes you on to the main track. The track starts with beautiful scenery, luscious green trees and ferns line the route, with birds tweeting and scurrying around in the bushes. The track winds in and out giving you glimpses of the stunning coastline and its golden beaches. Be patient, you can get closer but that’s further along.
Anchorage hut (7.7 miles/ 12.4 km = 4 hours)
Day 1 is a long walk, but reaching the halfway point at Anchorage Hut ahead of schedule was a good feeling. For two reasons, this is where we were going to stop for lunch. And more importantly, there are toilet facilities here! You can stay here the night and break up this long hiking day with two shorter days.
Along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you will have to navigate tidal crossings. Some a few inches deep but others can be up to and above your knees. You’ll always need to take your shoes off and paddle across! And dipping your toes into the cool water is very refreshing, so much so that you won’t want to put your hiking boots back on!
Read next: Hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania
Out first one was the Torrent Bay crossing, we all made it safely across. I think I was nervous as I was carrying my belongings with me but it’s really straightforward and nothing to worry about.
The beauty of the Abel Tasman Coast Track is the changing nature and scenery around you, from dense green forests to the winding coast you really have it all. The section after lunch stop takes you up a few steep tracks and then across a narrow suspension bridge. Take your time on these swing bridges and ensure you follow the instructions about the number of people on each one.
Arriving at our accommodation ahead of schedule is a great feeling. Bark Bay Hut is a 34-bunk hut with basic sleeping facilities. Although on a rainy night it’s the perfect place to shelter, cook your dinner and rest for the next day’s adventures!
Day 2 – Abel Tasman Coast Track
Hike Distance – 7 miles/11.4 km
Hiking Time – 3-4 hours
Accommodation – Awaroa Hut
A shorter walk today, so you can take your time to enjoy more of the scenery around you. Although be ready for a steep climb up the track to begin taking you inland. Arriving at Tonga Quarry there’s a beautiful beach so if you’re brave you can go for a swim in the sea. The water looks very inviting but it’s freezing cold so I settle for a quick paddle.
If you look out you’ll see Tonga Island, apparently, there are lots of seals around here but it’s not easy to spot from land. I can imagine if you’re kayaking you have a better chance of seeing them. But nature is still close by, there are plenty of Oyster Catcher birds along the sandy beach. Next, we arrive at another tidal crossing
Onetahuti Beach Crossing
- Important – This is one of the deeper tidal crossings on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. You can only cross 3 hours before and after low tide. And there’s no hide tide alternative route so you’ll have to wait to cross safely
Arriving at Awaroa Hut, a slightly smaller hut (26-bunks) you can see the onward route on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. It’s important to research the tidal times for the time of year you are planning to do the hike to ensure you have enough time to get across.
At high tide, it’s not possible to cross and would be dangerous. My plan was to do an early morning crossing the next day. Since I had arrived early I tried out a practice walk to see how long it would take. Crossing time = 20 minutes.
Day 3 – Abel Tasman Coast Track
Hike Distance – 3 miles/5.5 km
Hike Time – 1-1.5 hours
In order to walk across the tidal crossing safely, a 5.30 am alarm call was needed! Of course, you could wait for the afternoon to walk across if you wanted to. This was a memorable part of the walk. Paddling through ice-cold water up to my knees in some places. But once across you can enjoy watching the tide slowly crept across the whole area until it was completely impassable and the glow of sunrise across the water.
The wonderful thing about doing the tidal crossing so early meant we had the track to ourselves for the day. No-one could follow us from behind and there was little point in anyone hiking from the other direction as the route was closed until low tide later that day.
Waiharakeke beach is another great spot to stop for a swim in the sea. I did brave it on this occasion and it was a wonderful experience. Running up and down the beach afterwards to warm up was not so fun!
At Goat’s Bay, the hide tide catches us out a little bit with a few waves coming close to the cliffs. But if you time it right then you shouldn’t get wet feet! And finally, I arrive at Totaranui in time for the bus at 10.15 am.
Visiting Kaikoura on your trip? Read about my whale watching experience here
Further information on the Abel Tasman Coast Track
As well as accommodation you’ll also need to plan your route and transport beforehand. Shuttle buses can drop you at the start and pick up from various points along the path.
See details above on ‘Arriving in Abel Tasman National Park’
Where to stay?
The options for accommodation staying directly on the Abel Tasman Coast Track are either camping or staying in the wooden huts. You need to book the huts and campsites in advance, earlier during peak periods to guarantee a spot. There are 20 campsites from $15 per night and 8 Huts from $32-$38 per night (depending on the time of year).
The fee for the Abel Tasman National Park is included in this price. Do not turn up with booking as you may be charged a penalty fee.
The huts are basic but give you warmth and shelter from the ever-changing weather. They have shared dorm rooms, plus a communal social, cooking area and a fire for those cooler months.
What to bring?
Camping & sleeping gear
- Sleeping bag
- Cooking equipment and gas
- Cooking pots, bowl, cutlery
- (And a tent if you are camping instead of staying in the huts, haha kind of obvious!).
Food & drink
- High energy food
- Lots of snacks and trail mix are ideal for the hike.
- A decent sized rucksack to carry everything – 35-50 litres
- Water bottle or flask (Check out the Sigg Hot and Cold)
- A head torch – useful for night walks and finding your way around at night!
What to wear?
- Walking trousers or shorts
- Base layer and t-shirt. Plus a fleece for when it gets colder at night
- Waterproof jacket
- Hiking boots or good trail shoes
- Hiking socks
- Something warm to wear at your camp
- Warm hat and gloves
Abel Tasman Coast Track Rules
- Use the toilets provided to avoid contaminating waterways
- Be completely self-sufficient, including taking all rubbish away with you
- Native plants and animals are protected – Do not pick plants or feed animals
- Fires are only permitted at certain campsites
For more information, before your trek read the Department of Conservation (DoC) website.
Are you planning to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track in New Zealand? Ask me any questions in the comments below or via my Facebook page Becky the Traveller
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