Abel Tasman Great Walk (Days 48-52)

Day 48

After spending a few days in Nelson to eat and resupply, I was excited to get to my next section: the Abel Tasman Great Walk! I walked a day on the Paparoa Great Walk a couple weeks ago. After experiencing the ease and convenience of the trail (wide track and well-maintained infrastructure), I knew I wanted to complete an entire Great Walk. While the Abel Tasman isn’t part of the Te Araroa, I’d heard enough about it to know that it would be worth doing a detour to complete this trail. Spoiler alert: it was definitely worth it!

From the DOC info about the trail: The 55 km long coast track extends from Marahau to Wainui Bay in Golden Bay. It takes between 3-5 days to walk and passes beautiful golden sandy beaches, estuaries, forest, and regenerating bush. There are many campsites and huts to stay in but these must be booked before you leave on your trip.

Walking the Te Araroa for the last month and a half has been fast-paced with big days. I decided to take the Abel Tasman at a slower pace with much shorter days. I knew it would be challenging to slow down, but I was up for the challenge. Since the Great Walks are so popular, it’s necessary to book huts – or camp sites – ahead of time on the DOC website. I was able to book campsites next to all four huts. I planned this way, because I knew that having access to the huts could be beneficial in case of wind or rain.

Last night, I stayed at The Barn, which is a lovely camping/dorm room/cabin accommodation. It’s also super convenient, because it’s less than a 5 minute walk from the start of the Abel Tasman track. In the morning, I packed up and was on the trail by 8:15! I knew it wasn’t going to be a long day of walking, so after just a couple of hours, I decided to embrace the leisurely day and took a nap on a beach. It was a campsite location, but the entire two hours that I was there, I had it all to myself! Such luxury! I enjoyed a relaxing lunch there, and then I continued on my way to Anchorage Hut.

From the blue-turquoise water to the green cliffs and mountains, I’m grateful for this easy track! I arrived to Anchorage by 2pm and got to enjoy the beach for the rest of the day! Bliss!

Day 49

After packing up my tent, I made my way to the trail. I stopped at the trail sign to decide if I really wanted to add on an additional 4 km to take the high tide route. There was another hiker at the sign when I arrived. After we both stared at the sign for a few seconds, he asked me which way I was going to take. “I’m thinking the high tide route. I don’t really want to wait an additional 2 hours for the tide to change for the low tide route.” He said he was thinking the same thing and asked if we could walk together.

My new hiker friend’s name is Ole, and he’s from Germany. He’s been in New Zealand for a few months already, and he’s here on a working visa. He just bought a car a few weeks ago, and the Abel Tasman is one of his first multi-day hikes. It was fun – and funny – to walk with him. He was carrying a full-size cooking pot for his pasta along with a full-size cooktop stove and a glass jar of pasta sauce. His pack was massive and incredibly heavy. The pasta was delicious though!

We walked along the high-tide route together, and then we passed a sign for a 500m turnoff to Cleopatra’s Pool. We had previously discussed how it probably wouldn’t be worth it to stop, but with it only being 5 minutes off the trail – and so early in the day – we changed our minds and went to check it out. I’m so glad we did!

I ended up jumping in (in my hiking clothes, because we still had a few hours of hiking and I knew they would dry) and wading around the pool. There were so many rocks to climb over and pools to explore. It was so fun! When I was getting ready to jump in, I met a girl who was also trying to decide if jumping in would be worth it. She said that she had skipped swimming in the Tasman Sea the day before and was regretting it, so we decided that it was worth it to jump in now! After swimming, we talked for a while. Her name is Emily, and she’s from California. She’s so cool (and you’ll read more about her in a couple of days).

After a stop at Cleopatra’s Pool, Ole and I continued our walk to the campsite. We arrived to Bark Bay quite early in the day. Our tents were up before 3pm, and the Tasman Sea invited us in for a swim! We waded in (it was low tide, so we had to walk the beach pretty far out before we got to the water, but then the water was shallow for a very long time!) and finally made it to deeper water. Before getting in the Sea, Ole suggested that we swim out to a big rock that was pretty far out. I was up for it, so we started swimming. We made it to a boat that was moored just in front of the rock, and then we turned around. We ended up swimming for 40 minutes! It was awesome!

At the campsite, we met a family with two kids who was out multi-day hiking and camping for the first time ever. They were so cool! The kids were so inquisitive and wanted to explore everything. We had fun running out to an island behind the campsite. Their dad made a fire in the fire pit, and we all enjoyed dinner and conversation. As the day grew dark, I looked back towards the island and was shocked to see that it really was an island now! The tides here are absolutely insane! Whereas the ground was muddy and sandy an hour before, now the water looks to be almost knee-deep in places. Ole, the kids, and I walked alongside the tidal area looking for stingrays. We managed to find two of them! What a cool day!

Day 50

Weka are such a pest. Weka are birds that kind of look like a combination between a duck and a chicken. They mostly look like a duck and walk like a chicken. Anyway, they are extremely nosy and hungry – all the time. I met a girl named Apolline last night. She’s also walking the TA, but she’s SOBO. She has just finished the Queen Charlotte Track, and she’ll head south after Abel Tasman. This morning, she woke up to find holes in her tent from the weka. Previously, they had poked their sharp beaks into her sunscreen and created multiple holes in the thick plastic. This time, they had created multiple holes in the netting of her tent. What a nuisance!

Anyway, today, I was up before the sunrise, and WOW, what a sunrise it was! My tent was set up right on the beach, and it’s facing east, so I watched as the sky lightened, then changed to light blue, colored with pink then orange then pale blue that almost looked yellow. It was incredible. What a gorgeous place this is!! The stars disappeared and the moon faded as the sun came to take its place. What a morning.

Today, Ole, Apolline, and I decided to walk together. The walk started off quite challenging. It was the steepest part of the track, and Ole was definitely feeling it because of his heavy bag. We walked together to Onetahuti, and then Apolline stopped to go swimming, and I continued on walking without Ole. He had a water taxi scheduled to pick him up and return him to his car park. He was definitely ready to be finished. I had been told that there was a cafe at the Awaroa Lodge, and my mind was set on finding some good food!

Walking out of my way slightly to get to Awaroa Lodge was SO worth it! Whereas I had been told the only had chips, they actually had a full lunch menu! I was able to get a full meal of udon, kimchee, with tons of veggies and spicy sauce. So tasty! It filled me up and got me ready for the rest of the day.

Because of the tides, I had to plan to walk through the Awaroa Inlet at a certain time. It’s apparently impassable during high tide. It must be crossed either 1 1/2 hours before low tide or 2 hours after. I got there a little before the “passable time,” but there were plenty of people already passing. I saw the orange triangle ahead of me, and I charged forward. I definitely entered at the wrong spot, because pretty soon I was up to my waist in water. I held my pack up to attempt to keep it dry, but my shorts and the bottom of my shirt were completely soaked. I was glad to have all my river crossing experiences to pull from. This crossing at least didn’t have a super swift current, and the ground was sand rated than sharp rocks, so I was able to get to a sandbar quite easily. After about 30 minutes (it was a large inlet crossing!), I was at the other side and ready to continue to the campsite.

I arrived to the Waiharakeke campsite at 3:30 and attempted to set up my tent. I “attempted” and eventually succeeded, but the wind was so strong! It took much longer than it usually would. I set out my shoes and socks in hopes that they would dry, and then I walked the beach. It was another gorgeous view. This place is just so stinking gorgeous! Views for days and days and days!

Day 51

Last night, Apolline and I met another TA walker. Immanuel, from Switzerland, is also walking NOBO! We all had dinner together last night and decided to walk together today. So, at 8:30 this morning, we were packed up and headed north. On the way, I had lamented that I ate my chocolate bar already. Immanuel said that there was a DOC office in Totaranui where he was going to be scheduling his water taxi pickup. I hoped they sold chocolate bars there! We walked for about an hour and a half together before arriving at Totaranui, and wouldn’t you believe – the DOC office sold chocolate bars!! They sold very little else (instant coffee sachets, cold juice, and a few toiletry items). I couldn’t believe it! The exact thing I was wanting to purchase! What a wonderful day!!

Apolline and I left Immanuel at the DOC office and continued walking. We decided to take the route that went past Separation Point, and I’m SO glad we did! We dropped our bags at the bottom of the climb and made our way up, up, up to the top of a hill before slowly walking down, down, down to get to the water again. There was a small lighthouse, but what we were after were the seals. We had been told that it was possible to see seals lounging on the rocks. It was a super windy day, so we didn’t have our hopes up too high. But, once we got near the water, we saw a baby seal bounding around on his flippers – hopping from rock to rock while his mother(?) looked on. So cool! We also saw a seal that was playing in the waves in a small inlet by the lighthouse. It would roll through the waves, dive down, and surface again. So playful!

After Separation Point, we continued on to Wharirangi Hut & Camp Site. Apolline and I enjoyed great conversation and views along the way. We got to the campsite, set up our tents, and were lounging in the sun when Emily strolled into camp! It was so great to see her again! She’s staying at the hut tonight, but she stopped and lounged in the grass with us. I was sharing about how my upper back has been bothering me, and Apolline said that her hip had been really tight. Emily has an amazing, vast skill set, and she’s super knowledgeable about muscle groups and physical therapy stretching. She showed me three different stretches for my back, and she nailed it! I was able to stretch out right where the pain was! She also had a few stretches for Apolline.

After a small session of yoga in the grass (that happened to be swarming with those annoying sand flies), we all walked up to the hut and enjoyed dinner together. Emily is so cool! I’m so glad we ran into her again!

Day 52

Wow! I cannot believe today is my last day on the Abel Tasman! It has – at the same time – flown by and seemed very long. I think it seemed long at times because (as extremely gorgeous and stunning as the landscape is) it’s a lot of repetition. What I mean by that is that you climb a hill, you climb down, you turn a corner and see an amazing blue-green inlet of the Tasman Sea. You climb a hill, you climb down, you turn a corner and you see another incredible blue-green inlet of the Tasman Sea. The novelty wears off. Yes, they’re incredibly beautiful views with stunningly clear water and perfectly sandy beaches with jaw-dropping cliffs and jungle trees, but they’re the same day after day. Every clearing is stunning. Every turn is photo-worthy.

So, this morning, I packed up my tent for the last time on the Abel Tasman, and I made my way back towards Totaranui. There’s an inland route, so I didn’t have to go back the way I came. After about 2 and a half hours, I was back at Totaranui and ready to catch my water taxi. I was an hour early, so I set out my tent to dry (it had drizzled last night), and organized my pack. At noon, the water taxi pulled up, and I was in for an adventure! The waves didn’t look bad at all – from land. However, once the skipper picked up speed, we enjoyed catching some air from a few jumps. It was fun, and we were all laughing as the boat plowed forward.

The water taxi dropped the majority of us back in Marahau, and I was back where I started five days ago. I checked into the Marahau Beach Camp and was pleasantly surprised to be told that my 5-bunk room had no one else in it tonight. I had the whole place to myself! I did laundry and enjoyed relaxing in the sun.

I’m so, so, so glad that I took the detour over to Abel Tasman. It was absolutely beautiful. I met such amazing people (shout out to Ole, Emily, Apolline, Immanuel, and the family from Lake Hāwea). And the last five days did not only consist of hiking; I got to go swimming, exploring, wading through the inlet, and flying through the waves on the water taxi. Such an adventure!

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Comments 6

  • Jabez : Mar 28th

    Hi. Just read your Abel Tasman post and subscribed to your posts. March 3-21 a group of us from Cleveland Hiking Club (Ohio) tramped in NZ-Abel and Milford were the best! Atlantis hostel in Picton looked neat-I stopped in for a visit. This was a lodge/hotel trip-unlike my AT thru in 2019. Will catch up on your post! Enjoy! ?

    • Sam Francart : Apr 20th

      That sounds so fun!! I’ve heard Milford is amazing! I’ll have to plan another trip here to hike there! Yes – Atlantis was something else! LOL

  • Sir Lostalot : Mar 28th

    Tramped the Abel Tasman on my honeymoon thirty years ago. The trail was so well marked I never got lost once. Huts were free and did not need to be booked ahead. Very few people on the trail back then. Perfect weather, incredible beauty. Thanks for bringing back memories of that wonderful walk.

    • Sam Francart : Apr 20th

      Wow! That sounds incredible! It’s wild how much has changed!

  • David Odell : Mar 28th

    Been enjoying your journal of our adventures in NZ. My wife and I hiked the Abel Tasman trail 43 years ago. Good luck on the rest of your travels in NZ. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

    • Sam Francart : Apr 20th

      Hi David! Amazing!! Thanks for reading and sharing! Happy Trails!


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