Far and away, the Abel Tasman is the most popular Great Walk in New Zealand. While the Milford is the most well known and hardest to get a spot on, the ease of access, natural beauty of the golden sandy beaches, wonderful weather and generally easy hike make this an extremely popular spot for everyone. I had already walked a portion of the Abel Tasman with my parents, and now I was back to do a larger portion of it, and in a different fashion. Via sea-kayak!
You cannot kayak by yourself here (safety), plus it is more fun to have someone share the work anyways, so I met Katharina, a traveller from Germany, and we planned out our journey. Here is what we did:
So on another gorgeous April morning, Kat and I met up with the kayak company we were with (MSK), and after our safety briefing and packing of the kayak we hit the beach. Since it was lot tide we had quite a walk to find the water. Thankfully we didn’t need to drag the kayaks!
The kayaks were towed out by tractor. Not this one, which looked like it might float away. I hope the engine is waterproof…
Final checks of our kayaks before we hit the water. I was amazed, 2 large backpacks and camping gear fit easily into the kayak, and there was lots of room to spare!
After one quick final meetup on the water for safety with an instructor, we were off on our own to explore the Abel Tasman for 2 days. First, we paddled through a huge flock of sea-birds.
Then made our way to nearby Fisherman’s Island, and found this cozy little cove.
We beached the kayak and took a stroll and snack break.
It was a peaceful and picturesque Island, and this was just the first stop!
Back on the water, we continued to see lots of bird life.
We also came across our first group of seal pups! They happily played in the water with each other.
Lots of nice rock formations in and along the shores.
Paddling along a little canal near Adele Island, we were nearing our lunch spot.
A very popular kayaking lunch spot on Adele Island, we were here quite late (about 130pm), so we had the beach almost to ourselves. After a tasty lunch(read sarcasm into that, I’ve grown rather tired of tuna sandwiches by now!), we pushed off the kayak for the last time that way and started making our way to our campground for the first night, at Te Pukatea Bay.
We certainly didn’t head straight there though. With having our own kayak and lots of time left in the day, we visited some caves and various other things along the way.
By evening though, we were tired and found camp. It was a pretty little campsite, and nice and quiet.
Day 2 started with the same weather as pretty much the rest of April – GLORIOUS SUNSHINE!
We packed up the kayak and made a short trip to Anchorage Bay, the site a big hut and a massive campsite (100 person, compared to 14 people at Te Pukatea). It was important for us to stop here…
As we needed water! The water in the Abel Tasman needs to be boiled/purified, but at the huts you can get purified drinking water from a tap. So, it saved us having to boil it ourselves.
Back on the water, we visited Pinnacle Island, which had even MORE seal pups.
These ones were very curious, coming over to visit the kayak for quite some time.
But the highlight of the kayaking was definitely Tonga Island. Here, we found a sheltered lagoon…
FILLED with seal pups! After a few minutes, we were surrounded by the pups, which we figured numbered well over 25. A note on the seals – you are supposed to keep a 20 meter distance, but when the seal pups swim directly at you…there isn’t much you can do but enjoy the show! 😀
The pups both looked very cute and quite alien. Their eyes are HUGE!
They also loved to try and jump on the kayak, bite the paddles when we tried to back away from shore, and generally were adorable.
After that, we headed to Onetahuti Beach for the night. The next day was more of the same weather wise, but this time we were on foot for the remainder of our time in the Abel Tasman!
After hiking across the beach, we came to a private lodge area, with it’s very own landing strip.
Then it was to Awaroa Bay. This is a massive expanse of beach, which can only be crossed at or near low tide.
The view from the hut at Awaroa. I think it would be really cool to spend a day there, just to see the water come and go.
Once you start crossing the Awaroa Inlet, you get a good appreciation for just how massive it is. The crossing took probably 25-30 minutes.
And just because the tide was out didn’t mean your feet weren’t getting wet. There were several (easy) river crossings that had to be navigated, which helped wash the mud off your feet.
After regaining the forest and crossing over a few hills, you pop out at beautiful Goat Bay.
After Goat Bay, we were on the home stretch. For Totaranui wasn’t far now, and we could see the beach after climbing our last hill.
All in all, it was an outstanding 3 days exploring the Abel Tasman National Park. While I didn’t ‘walk’ the track quite as much as paddle a good portion of it, I enjoyed my time immensely. And really, paddling made things SO much easier. You don’t have hills! And you can take breaks and things keep moving (especially if you take a break and don’t tell your partner, so they keep paddling away :P). A very beautiful park and a fantastic way to spend a few days.