Tuesday 12 August 2014

Abel Tasman Walk- Part 1: The Boat Trip

There’s a range of options available to walk the Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk. The whole track can be walked as a multi-day(3-4) tramp staying in DOC huts overnight along the way or in your tent if you have carried it with you. Or there are multiple day walk options available where you select the section of the track you’d like to walk and then catch a tour or a water taxi to the start of that section, walk it and catch a water taxi home.

We decided on a tour with Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles and to do the walk from Medlands Bay to Anchorage, an 11.5km walk that included a number of points of interest along the way.  Before we were dropped off at Medlands Bay, the tour took us up to Totaranui, which is the furthest north the tour boats go and nearly to the top edge of the park.

Along with seven walkers, & four people on the boat for just the tour, there were eight overseas tourists doing a kayak/walk combination. Their kayaks were loaded in the back of the catamaran and we off-loaded them not too long after, at Apple Tree Bay, one of the first big bays in the park.

Our boat tour started with a visit to the Adele Island seal colony. Of course we had already seen the seals when we visited in our dinghy a week or so ago but it didn’t matter, I can never get enough of seals & especially seal pups of which there were quite a few on this visit (with their funny faces) . Most of the adults were out fishing & the pups were out sunning themselves and playing in the water. Looking back towards Kaiteriteri as we crossed Astrolabe Roadstead to the island I could see that there was snow atop Hoary Head (Mt Campbell to the left) which are both in the Kahurangi National Park.

Further on into the park, it was a surprise to see many holidays homes dotted along the bays and in the bush. Even though this is a national park there are quite a few areas that are still privately owned. These are only able to be accessed by water and now it makes sense that there is a sea barge permanently moored in our little bay; its how supplies are transported to these houses. I’ve seen various household goods being loaded on the barge while we’ve been parked at Kaiteriteri including beds, mattresses and a kitchen sink!

Just yesterday we watched as three Devan tanks were loaded onto the barge. Now that brought back memories. Today they came back on the barge with a "Pete's Takeaways" truck full of ........ unmentionable stuff. They must be cleaning out the septic tanks somewhere up the line.

As we passed through Torrent Bay the skipper pointed us in the direction of the entrance to the estuary and told us to take note of where we were in the boat; quite close to the beach. Because the next time we would see this bay the tide would be out, the estuary empty and the bay totally exposed. The tidal range on the Abel Tasman coast is one of NZ’s largest and can be up to 5 metres (around 15 feet).

The sculptured granite Tonga Arches are one of the highlights of the coastline and a destination for kayakers and tour boats. A few weddings have also taken place in the largest arch- at low tide I hope!  Approaching the headland, it looks like any other along the coast.

But as we move in closer the arches are revealed.

Must have been a small wedding party….…..in fact the wedding takes place out on the exposed sand (at low tide) in front of the biggest arch.

We passed many Spotted Shag rookeries along the way, many of them perched on near vertical rock faces like the ones we saw on Adele Island from our dinghy.

Large granite boulders and rocky headlands separate each of the many golden sand bays that make up the park but this one was a whopper! It looked like a rock in waiting, waiting to be Spilt Apple Rock II.

“I’m the king of the castle” says the Black Backed Gull atop the cairn someone had left on the boulder.

Totaranui Beach DOC camp was our turn-a-round point on the tour. The camp at Totaranui is DOC’s largest & most popular camp in NZ and can hold over 800 people at the height of the summer season. It is accessed from Takaka via a very winding & narrow gravel road. It sounds a lot like the road to Port Jackson on the Coromandel in the North Island.

It’s also one of only a few DOC camps that are not on our DOC camp pass. Once we move over to Golden Bay we are hoping to stay at the camp for a few days(or do a day trip if we can't get the van there) so it was great to see the area, if only from the water. There is also a large estuary at the far right end of the beach and a few more day walks that can be done from this end.

Our next stop after turning around and heading back down the coast was our drop off point, Medlands Bay, a tiny little sheltered cove in the corner of the bigger Bark Bay. All seven hikers aboard were doing this section of the walk, as we disembarked two of our fellow walkers had already removed their boots & rushed down to the water to have a paddle & splash about. Obviously pleased to have arrived in this little piece of paradise, even if the water was ice cold!

To be continued…….Part 2


  1. Probably mid winter is the best time to visit Able Tasman....tho it is nice to tramp the coastal track in summer with cooling swims when desired,

    1. Jimu, as you'll see in Part 2, I think winter is the best time to escape the crowds. I don't think it would be anywhere as enjoyable with dozens of people on the track.

  2. Stunning header photo at Mt Arthur Carpark... I once started a triathlon from there with a 27klm run over Tablelands down to a 6klm kayak paddle on Lake Cob...when I was young and foolish.

    1. Rather you than me! But what a stunning place to have a triathlon.


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