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One of New Zealand’s most popular great walks is the 53km Abel Tasman Coast Track, which starts from the idyllic seaside village of Marahau, taking you on a journey through lush native forest and along golden sandy beaches. Your senses will be awakened to the sweet sound of birdsong, the result of ongoing restoration efforts undertaken by the local business community and iwi. Truly extraordinary all year round, the walk is best experienced on a multi-day adventure that will see you staying overnight at one of the beachfront lodges, camp sites or DOC huts, before continuing on with your scenic walk the next day. For those who are looking for a slice of paradise, but don’t quite have time for a multi-day experience, there are plenty of half and full day walk/kayak or walk/cruise options available. Top tip: If you have time, take a short detour to Cleopatras Pools, where you can slide down a moss-lined chute into the pristine natural rock pools below.
Photo: Wilsons Abel Tasman
2. Leave your comfort zone and go canyoning
Nestled in the heart of the Abel Tasman National Park is a pristine paradise, one that is seen by few, but loved by many. An adventure with Abel Tasman Canyons will have you testing the limits of your comfort zone as you abseil down gorgeous granite canyons, zip through unspoiled rainforest and slide into some of the purest water and natural rockpools one can find. The friendly guides will show you a few hours of uninhibited fun in this extraordinary place, and you’ll be guaranteed to leave with a massive smile on your face and a whole new appreciation for the stunning natural landscapes that surround us here in Nelson Tasman.
Photo: Abel Tasman Canyons
3. Kayak around crystal clear bays
All year round, you’ll find people out on kayaks in the crystal-clear waters of Tasman Bay, exploring the hidden coves and arches that are nestled amongst the sweeping coastline. A lot of this idyllic scenery cannot be seen from land, and there is an endless array of discoveries to be made. Take it at your own pace with a freedom rental, stopping off to picnic on a golden sandy beach, or join in on one of the guided trips to learn more about the unique history of this extraordinary coastal paradise.
Photo: Kaiteriteri Kayaks
4. Stay overnight in the national park
Trust us when we say that you don’t know the true meaning of the words ‘peace’, ‘serenity’, and ‘tranquility’ until you have spent a night in the extraordinary Abel Tasman National Park, where the sound of the waves will soothe you to sleep and the sound of birdsong alerts you to the dawn of a new day. Pitch your tent at one of the designated campsites along the track, or charter a boat where you can 'rise and shine' as the sun emerges above the horizon, darting its rays onto the glistening waters surrounding you. Or, if a dose of luxury is what you need, enjoy modern comforts in the depths of the national park with an overnight stay in one of the beachfront lodges, where you will be treated to delicious home-cooked meals and true kiwi hospitality.
Photo: Wilsons Abel Tasman
5. Take a scenic flight
Witness the picturesque beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park from a different perspective with a scenic flight. Marvel at the stunning views of the parks sweeping coastline, golden sandy beaches, lush native bush, and pristine clear waters of the many inlets and lagoons as you experience it all from above.
Photo: Helicopters Nelson
6. Hop on board a cruise or sail boat
Explore the secluded hideaways and stunning golden beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park, watch the playful seal pups rolling through the water at Tonga Island Marine Reserve, and hear the stories of the park’s iconic landmarks, all whilst relaxing on board a comfortable sailing catamaran or scenic cruise. Relax as you lay on the bow of the catamaran and close your eyes, listening to the sound of the waves lapping below you, and feeling the gentle rock of the boat as it glides swiftly through the water. Or, ride top deck on your scenic cruise for unparalleled views of the wondrous coastline and a great vantage point for spotting playful wildlife in the ocean below. Top tip: Mix it up a little with one of the half day cruise/walk or cruise/kayak options, and see the beauty of the park from a different perspective.
7. Visit the iconic Split Apple Rock
Nestled in between Kaiteriteri and Marahau, the gateway towns to the Abel Tasman National Park, is a hidden landmark that easily rivals the worlds’ natural wonders. How exactly Split Apple Rock was formed is unknown, and regularly debated. Scientists believe that the rock was split due to a natural occurrence called ice wedging, when water entered cracks in the rock and froze, causing it to expand and split. On the other hand, Māori legend has it that the boulder was split in half when the God of the Ocean fought with the God of the Land over who would have possession of the rock, given that it was both sitting in the ocean, but also on firm ground. Other iconic landmarks in the Abel Tasman National Park include the Tonga Arches, the rock stacks at Anapai Bay, and elephant rock at Anchorage, all of which can be viewed during a walk of the Coast Track, a scenic cruise or kayaking trip.
Photo: Kaiteriteri Kayaks
8. Admire the wildlife at Tonga Island
Whether you’re taking a guided kayaking trip, snorkelling, on an eco tour or sightseeing from the comfort of a scenic cruise, Tonga Island Marine Reserve is like paradise for nature lovers. Abundant with a fascinating array of marine life, the best snorkelling can be found among the rocks between Tonga Quarry and Foul Point, whilst scuba diving is most rewarding on reef systems around Tonga Island. Here you’ll bear witness to red rock crabs, crayfish, snapper and hermit crabs as they swim and scuttle through the caves and crevices around you. Little blue penguins, shags, gannets and dolphins are also regular inhabitants of the marine reserve, and the wildlife sanctuaries that are home to playful seal pups on Tonga and Pinnacle Islands are best viewed from the water on boats or kayaks. Note: It is important to remember that all animals and plants are totally protected, and must not be touched, disturbed or removed. Please admire marine mammals from a distance, and always keep at least 20 metres away.
9. Paddle a waka along the coastline
Share in New Zealand’s treasured heritage by paddling in a double or single hulled waka (Māori canoe) along the length of the stunning Abel Tasman coastline with Waka Abel Tasman, weaving around islands and iconic landforms until you reach Split Apple Rock. The manaakitanga of your guides will be sure to provide you with a unique cultural experience unlike any you’ve ever been a part of before, as your paddle glides through the crystal-clear waters below, and you listen to the extraordinary stories of Abel Tasman’s history.
Photo: Waka Abel Tasman
10. Explore the national park's gateways
Kaiteriteri, Marahau and Motueka are the gateways to the Abel Tasman National Park, but are all popular destinations in their own right; equally beautiful, and equally intriguing. Start your adventure in Motueka, exploring the weekend artisan markets, jumping out of a plane, or dining at the famed Toad Hall. Marahau is a great place to try something a little out of the ordinary, such as horse-riding along the golden sandy beach. We recommend finishing your evening with a delicious meal in the waterfront beer garden at Hooked. Or, if the golden paradise of Kaiteriteri is more your thing, why not spend the morning swimming or kayaking in the crystal-clear lagoon, or taking a short stroll up to one of the picturesque viewing platforms nestled in the surrounding bush? Top tip: If you’re looking for a bit of pampering, head to Kimi Ora Eco Resort for a rejuvenating massage or facial.