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Abel Tasman Coast Track

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The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.  It mostly follows the coast between Marahau and Wainui and takes between 3 – 5 days to complete.  As we only had one day available for walking, we had to make a decision on which section to walk.  In the end, we decided to walk the section of track between Awaroa Bay and Torrent Bay, as to us this was the prettiest section.  Our walk was one way and began by water taxi at Awaroa Bay.  From there we walked to Torrent Bay which was 15.7k taking 5 hours 30mins.  We then left by water taxi.

This post is a very detailed account of our day hike along the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s top National Park in the South Island. The one-stop destination for beaches, bush, and rivers. Grab a backpack and experience the walk with us.

How to kayak the Abel Tasman Coast instead of walking

Kayaking around the Abel Tasman Coast is not only a great way to see the coast from a different view, but you’ll get to see bays and beaches you wouldn’t see on the walk. You can either hire a kayak and explore on your own or take a full-day guided kayak tour with lunch on a secluded white sandy beach. Kahu Kayaks offer an awesome deal on a 1-day freedom rental for as low as $55 pp (normally $80).  Or get a great discount on the full-day guided kayak tour.

How to see the Abel Tasman Coast by boat

Ok, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a big walk, some of you might not be able to do the walk but still want to see the beauty without kayaking or walking. Taking a boat tour or scenic cruise is the best way for you. Some cruises also include a self-guided walk.

Water Taxis for Abel Tasman Coast Track

There are a number of different operators for water taxis, we couldn’t say which one would be better. Check them all out yourself first.

Quick Facts

        • Location: Northern tip of the South Island
        • Distance: 15.70 km
        • Time needed: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
        • Difficulty: Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: One Way
        • Elevation: 150m
        • Wet Feet: Yes
        • Toilets: Yes
        • Dogs: No
        • Mobile Coverage: Yes
        • Last Updated: November 2020
  • Track Highlights

    Spectacular golden sand beaches, crystal clear water lagoons, awesome coastal views, sightings of seals and dolphins from the water taxi

  • Track Quality

    Good firm walking surface. Wide track. Can be easily walked in sandles. Heavy boots not required.

  • Hazards

    Tidal – estuary crossing. You can only cross into Onetahuti Bay 3 hours either side of low tide; there is no other track. If you miss the tide, you could lose a whole day. Check tides before you leave.

  • Transport

    Buses from Nelson & Motueka all year round. Plenty of water taxis will take you to the start of the walk.

  • Water

    Purified drinking water is available only at Anchorage, Barks Bay, Awaroa Bay, Toaranui Bay and Whariwharangi Bay. Otherwise, there is tap water in other locations which must be boiled or filtered before drinking.

  • Driving Instructions

    From Nelson, head onto State Highway 6 to Richmond. From there follow the signs to Motueka and Collingwood on Highway 60. Once you are in Motueka, keep driving north on State Highway 60 straight through the township for 7.8km. On a very sharp hard left-hand corner, Kaiterteri Rd runs off to the right. Be very careful, turning to the right on this corner. It is well signposted. From there it is only a 5.5km drive to Kaiterteri.

  • Shops or Restaurants Nearby

    At Kaiteriteri Beach

  • Area & Track History

    The Abel Tasman National Park is named after the sailor Abel Tasman and was opened on 18 December 1942.  This date was chosen for the opening as it coincided with the 300th anniversary of the great sailor’s visit. Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest at 23,000 hectares. The full Abel Tasman Coast Track is 52 km long and can be walked in 3 -5 days and is suitable for families. The coastline is popular for sea kayaking as well.

  • Best Things To Do Near This Walk

  • Map location of Abel Tasman Coast Track

    Map of walk

Points of Interest Along the Walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description of each one.

Point 1: Start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track by Water Taxi

You need to take the water taxi to the start of the track, it leaves from the water’s edge at Kaiteriteri Beach and arrives 1¼ hours later at Awaroa Bay. This travel time can vary depending on how long you spend at the seal colony. We were a little late because a small pod of dolphins were cruising by Tonga Island. Once we got off the boat, it was a 5min walk to the Awaroa Lodge where we spoiled ourselves with a flat white coffee and a slice of cake at the cafe at the Lodge. We left the lodge at 11.15 am and followed a small sign pointing left to the coastal walk. Keep looking for the signs; it is a zig-zag walk. Head for the organic veggie garden, then turn to the left, and you are on your way. Up to date prices on the water taxis can be found by doing a Google search.

Point 2: Top of the Saddle

It is only a 30 min walk to the top of the saddle. Don’t take the track off to your right; this will take you down to the Awaroa Hut.

Point 3: Downhill to the Beach

At the top of the saddle, it is downhill all the way to the beach. As you walk downhill, keep an eye out to the right, you can see over to Onetahuti beach. The campsite is at the southern end of the beach.

Point 4: Watch Out For the Tides – Time It Right

At the bottom of the track, is the tricky part. If you have not timed the tides right, you could be sitting there for hours waiting for the tide to go out far enough for you to cross safely. We were lucky; we didn’t realise we had to be so careful with the tides, so we only got wet up to our knees.

Point 5: Onetahuti Camp

After crossing over the estuary onto the beach, we took off our sandals and walked barefoot along the beach to Onetahuti Camp. We were amazed at how many people were walking the track, but I guess it will be at this time of the year. We were fascinated by the 100’s of fish swimming up and down right on the water’s edge. What we thought was a big patch of seaweed seemed to be drifting 2 to 3 metres out from the water’s edge in the same direction as we were travelling, but hang on there was no current. After wading out into the water, we were excited to see a stingray was following us!

Point 6: Freshwater Waterfall

We arrived at Onetahuti Camp at 12.30 and spent 15 minutes walking around admiring the camp facilities. With your back to the beach looking at the cooking shelter, there is a track running off to a beautiful little freshwater waterfall. At the bottom of the fall is a sparkling pool just deep enough to wash off the salt and sand from your dip in the ocean. This is a very beautiful campsite. You have trees for shelter from the sun, some grass to pitch the tent and a kitchen shelter to cook under. Yes and even a flushing toilet! The tap water there has to be boiled or filtered.

Point 7: Fantastic Views Back to Onetahuti Camp and Beach

The section between Onetahuti Camp to Bark Bay is 4.3 km and took 1 hr 40 min.  The track starts from the southern end of the beach. After 3 minutes of walking, you can look back and get a fantastic view of the Onetahuti Camp and beach. From here it is an effortless 15-minute walk to Tonga quarry with fantastic coastal views. A couple of minutes short of Tonga Quarry you can look down onto the beach.

Point 8: Tonga Quarry With Stunning Views

We arrived at Tonga Quarry at 1.04 and stopped for lunch and admired the million-dollar views. Started walking again at 1.26. Tonga Quarry is not my choice of campsites. It’s very sandy and not very flat, but interesting in history. In the early days, the granite rock was mined in this bay because it tended to split evenly when steel wedges were driven into the cracks between the rock. The big square slabs of granite were then winched down to the beach and shipped off to Nelson and Wellington. Today squares of granite can still be seen sitting on the beach waiting to be shipped out.

Point 9: Climb to Long Valley Creek

From Tonga Quarry, it is a 60-metre climb up into Long Valley Creek. This is a fascinating walk as you will see large outcrops of granite and a good variety of New Zealand ferns and trees. The day we were there, a mob of wild pigs had just been through the valley routing up the ground looking for fern roots and bulbs leaving their telltale signs (as if someone has had been through with a spade digging up the ground ready for a garden).  Once you pass over the ridge and start heading down to Bark Bay, you’ll see a track running off to your left. We took the chance and headed off down the track hoping that we could cross Bark Bay Inlet to save ourselves half an hour’s walk to Bark Bay campsite.

Point 10: Quick Crossing or Take the High Tide Track

Confucius say “better spend 1-minute reading tide chart then ½ hour walking up big hill” The channel was far too deep to cross so back up the hill we walked and back on to the high tide track.

Point 11: Barks Bay Hut on Abel Tasman Coast Track

Once we got to the bottom of the ridge and crossed over a small bridge, it was a 15-minute walk to Barks Bay Hut. There were fantastic views of the various small inlets and swimming holes along the way.

Point 12: Walk to Barks Bay

Once you cross the Huffam Stream, you’re only a few minutes away from the bay. You would have seen a lot of photos of this creek in tourist brochures.

Point 13: Barks Bay DOC Campsite

Top up here with fresh filtered drinking water from the tap provided by DOC. Be careful; make sure you get the right tap; there is a sign next to the right one to use. Make use of the flushing toilets while you’re here. If the tide is out, you can take a short cut to the campsite. Walkout to the beach in front of the hut and straight across the inlet to the campsite. This will save you about 4 minutes of walking time.

Point 14: Barks Bay Campsite

We arrived at the Bark Bay Campsite at 2.50 to find a steady stream of campers arriving to pitch tents; it looked like Queen St on a Friday night. Tap water here has to be boiled. The ground at the campsite is made up of dirt and sand and could be very sticky if it’s been raining, you could end up with a lot of dirty gear. This campsite has a flushing toilet and a fireplace. It’s only 30 seconds to walk to Abel Tasmans most popular beach.

Point 15: Medlands Bay

Medlands Bay is only 8 minutes walk from Bark Bay. From here it’s a steady climb up to Southern Heads ridge which overlooks Sandfly Bay.

Point 16: Water Falls River Swing Bridge

From Southern Heads ridge it’s a downhill walk to Water Falls River swing bridge. It’s a 47-metre long suspension bridge. From the swing bridge it’s an 80-metre climb up to the next ridge, the hardest climb of the day, just enough to get a sweat up and work off the flat white and rather large slice of carrot cake with yoghurt icing, I knew I should’ve bought two pieces.

Point 17: Frenchman’s Bay

Isn’t this, the bay of your dreams! It’s called Frenchman’s Bay and it’s stunning. If we had more time, we would have liked to walk down to the bay. The track to the bay is at the top of the ridge after you’ve climbed up from the swing bridge. Be careful one track runs out to a lookout only.

Point 18: Abel Tasman Coastal Bush

From here on it’s an enjoyable walk around two small valleys, we were amazed to see on this section of track so many young Rimu trees. We wondered if DOC has been planting native trees to try and rejuvenate the coastal bush.

Point 19: Views to Torrent Bay

Dropping down the last ridge, there is a fantastic view of Torrent Bay and to top it off they even built us a seat to take the weight off our weary feet.

Point 20: Arrived at Torrent Bay

At 4.20 pm we arrived at Torrent Bay. We were pleased that we had time up our sleeves to sit down and rest up a bit before the water taxi arrived to take us back. Even though our legs were a bit tired, the other side of the inlet looked fascinating and got the better of us, so we went to investigate.

Point 21: Abel Tasman Coast – Torrent Bay

There were more people on this side of the inlet than the ocean, probably because the tide was out making it hard for the boaties to get in and out. If you were travelling further south down the track, you could save a lot of time by crossing this inlet at low tide. You can’t quite see it from this photo, but there are 3-meter posts stuck in the sand marking the way across.

Point 22: Abel Tasman National Park Coastal Walk

Beautiful golden sandy beaches are guaranteed.  If you can spend more time in the Abel Tasman National Park we recommend you do so, try not to rush. Appreciate the full beauty of the park, before the park turns in to a tourist mecca.

Point 23: Related Pages: Tours, activities and other things to do in Abel Tasman

All walks in Abel Tasman National Park…

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