One Day Hike in Abel Tasman National Park

We had so many amazing experiences in our 12 days exploring New Zealand’s South Island, but hiking in Abel Tasman National Park was one of our favorites! It probably goes without saying, but if you haven’t been to New Zealand, you have to add it to your travel bucket list.

We traveled with my cousin, Walter, and his wife, Melanie, and though it was their third time to the country, this was their first time to Abel Tasman. The national park is a bit “off-the-beaten path” in the far northern tip of the South Island. From Nelson (our jumping off point), it is about an hour drive to the national park entrance.

Anchorage to Marahau via Abel Tasman Coast Track (North to South)

Our hiking group in Abel Tasman National Park

We chose to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track from Anchorage to Marahau. It’s noted as a 7.7 mile point-to-point trail but we took several offshoots that added some mileage to the total. Below we’ve recapped what you need to know for planning your hike and what you can expect to see along the way.

Planning Your Hike & Getting Started

To get to the starting point of the hike, you’ll need to take the Abel Tasman AquaTaxi from Marahau. We drove over early from Nelson arriving just around sunrise. It’s such a beautiful spot and worth the early morning wake up call!

Sunrise in Marahau, New Zealand

Since we arrived early, we had enough time to get breakfast and coffee at Hooked on Marahau.

Our breakfast at Hooked on Marahau restaurant

From there, we headed over to the water taxi for our 9:00 am departure. Parking is free in the lot while you’re in the national park. We recommend booking your water taxi in advance. They can get pretty full, especially on a beautiful weather day. The taxi cost $208 USD for four adults with fees included.

The Water Taxi Ride

The first water taxi stop is to Split Apple Rock, a famous rock formation in Tasman Bay. The taxi driver will slowly loop the boat around so everyone has an opportunity to snap a photo.

Split Apple Rock, Tasman Bay, New Zealand

After spending a few minutes at Split Apple Rock, you’re on your way to Anchorage. The ride takes about 30 minutes and can be a bit chilly in the morning but the views are fantastic!

We did the one-day hike from Anchorage back to the parking lot in Marahau, but many people stay in Abel Tasman National Park for multi-day hikes. When you get off the boat in Anchorage, you’ll see one of the park’s overnight huts, Anchorage Hut, which holds 34 bunks. There is also a public bathroom you can use before starting the hike. As this is one of the major entrances to the park, you’ll also find a poupou (carving) which pays respect to the history the area holds for the Māori indigenous people. I learned this after we were home from the trip and did a little research. The Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa Iwi Trust (NRAIT) website has more details.

Once you’re ready to start hiking (or tramping as they call it in New Zealand), walk along the beach to the trailhead. It’s scenic from the very start!

Starting view of the Abel Tasman Coast Track in Anchorage

The Trail: Anchorage to Marahau via Abel Tasman Coast Track (North to South)

The Beginning of the Track

The trail starts off a bit steep but takes you up to some dramatic views of the coast and mountains. We stopped for a bunch of photos in the first mile or so because it was just so pretty.

The Middle of the Track

As you continue along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you’ll find yourself walking through forested areas with lush foliage. It felt a but like being on a hike in Hawaii with the water views and greenery. Well maintained wooden walkways take you over small canyons and running water in several areas. They also make great photo opps!

Wooden walkway in Abel Tasman National Park

The offshoots to the beaches are well marked with signs but take note of the estimated times. In the case of Observation Beach, we hiked for more than 10 minutes off the main trail and didn’t get down to the beach. I would say everyone in our group is an average or above hiking skill level. The signs only provide estimates so just keep that in mind if you’re pressed for time.

There’s two offshoots we recommend not skipping. The first is Yellow Point Lookout and takes you to a scenic viewpoint over a cove and the bay. There are large rocks you can sit on if you’d like to take a rest or have a snack.

Our favorite offshoot took us down to the beach at Apple Tree Bay. It’s only a short hike down from the main trail and you’re rewarded with a gorgeous sandy beach.

On the beach in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand's South Island

We made friends with a weka while relaxing on the beach. He likely just wanted some of our jerky but, of course, we did not share. Never feed the wildlife!

Weka bird on the beach at Apple Tree Bay, New Zealand

End of the Track

After such phenomenal views during the majority of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you may be a little underwhelmed on the final bit heading back into Marahau. You’ll still get beach views but they’re much rockier and less dramatic.

Near the end of the trail in Marahau (or beginning of the trail if you’re walking the opposite direction of us), you’ll find another poupou. WC is actually Polynesian (Samoan) so it was cool experiencing some of the Polynesian culture while in New Zealand.

Poupou carving in Abel Tasman National Park

That’s a Wrap on the Abel Tasman Coast Track!

Whether you spend one day or multiple, you won’t be disappointed tramping in Abel Tasman! If you want some additional information, the New Zealand Parks & Recreation website is a great place to start.

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