Abel Tasman Coast Track
This is arguably NZ’s most beautiful Great Walk – 60km of sparkling seas, golden sand, quintessential coastal forest, and hidden surprises such as Cleopatra’s Pool. Such pulling power attracts around 30,000 overnight trampers and kayakers per year, each of whom stay at least one night in the park. A major attraction is the terrain: well cut, well graded and well marked. It’s almost impossible to get lost here and the track can be tramped in sneakers.
You will, however, probably get your feet wet, as this track features long stretches of beach and crazy tides. In fact the tidal differences in the park are among the greatest in the country, up to a staggering 6m. At Torrent and Bark Bays, it’s much easier and more fun to doff the shoes and cross the soggy sands, rather than take the high-tide track. At Awaroa Bay you have no choice but to plan on crossing close to low tide. Tide tables are posted along the track and on the DOC website; regional i-SITEs also have them.
It’s a commonly held belief that the Coast Track ends at Totaranui, but it actually extends to a car park near Wainui Bay. The entire tramp takes only three to five days, although with water taxi transport you can convert it into an almost endless array of options, particularly if you combine it with a kayak leg. If you can only spare a couple of days, a rewarding option is to loop around the northern end of the park, tramping the Coast Track from Totaranui, passing Anapai Bay and Mutton Cove, overnighting at Whariwharangi Hut, then returning to Totaranui via the Gibbs Hill Track. This will give you a slice of the park’s best features (beaches, seals, coastal scenery) while being far less crowded than other segments.
The track operates on DOC's Great Walks Pass. Children are free but bookings are still required. Book online (www.doc.govt.nz), contact the Nelson Marlborough Bookings Helpdesk, or book in person at the Nelson, Motueka or Takaka i-SITES or DOC offices, where staff can offer suggestions to tailor the track to your needs and organise transport at each end. Book your trip well ahead of time, especially huts between December and March.
This track is so well trodden that a topographical map isn’t essential for navigation. The map within DOC’s Abel Tasman Coast Track brochure provides sufficient detail, and you can readily buy more illuminating maps at local visitor centres.