The Abel Tasman national park was in our minds ever since we came to New Zealand. It’s renown for its tropical like plant life with an abundance of birds, a unique warm climate and beautiful sandy beaches. It is not only regarded as a national park, but as one of New Zealand Great Walks as well. It’s very popular and it gets an amazing amount of visitors each year. Luckily for us, we did it in April when the weather was still pleasant. It was the perfect timing as from April to November the park is significantly less crowded than in the summer high season when it’s swarming with tourists.
There are many ways of visiting the national park and doing the walk itself. The whole trek can be done in 3-5 days one way, with accommodation available in a couple of huts and many camp grounds. The only downfall of this option is that the huts and obviously camp grounds have no cooking facilities and you have to carry all your food and a cooker for the whole trip.
Apart from walking, you can also explore the park with a kayak. There are many different companies offering different types of deals for kayaks. guided tours and water taxis. For us, the best way to make the most of the Abel Tasman national park was combining walking and kayaking in a two-day trip.
We opted to book a guided kayaking tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks that included a water taxi to our starting point at the end of the otherwise hard accessible marine reserve. Our deal also included an overnight stay at one of the huts from where we walked back the following day.
We started our full day kayaking tour on a water taxi that drove us up and in to the national park. The view from the boat perspective was very interesting and it reminded us of some tropical islands we’ve seen in Thailand. After the nearly one hour long drive we were dropped off at an empty beach where we switched the boat for our kayaks. We were only three couples in three kayaks and a very adventurous looking guide. He was very relaxed, funny and well experienced. He guided us along the coastline of the marine reserve and pointed out all the wild life that included a plethora of sea lions and various birds nesting on the shore line.
The highlight of the tour was when we rowed in a cove inside the forest that is only accessible at high tide. In this secluded cove we had a very pristine, wild and extraordinarily personal encounter with a cute little sea lion pup that curiously swam around our kayak. He was playful and interested in us as he was nibbling on our paddles and swimming under our kayaks from one side to the other. At one point he even let us to pet him slightly. It felt amazing and we were so happy to have encountered a completely wild animal in this way.
Kayaking further we stopped on a couple of beautiful beaches that are not accessible by foot. We had a nice lunch and even ate some fresh mussels picked straight from the sea rocks. It was a wonderful day of kayaking as we made a lot of ground and seen much more that one could do on foot on this stretch of the national park. We got dropped off at the beginning of the marine reserve and we spent the night in the basic hut.
The following day we walked all the way back to the beginning of the national park. It was a long walk as we walked close to 30km, a stretch people usually do in 2 days. But we didn’t complain too much as the walk was very level. There are no big ascends or descends as on the other Great walks and we made a lot of ground with time to enjoy the scenery, nature and a couple of stops on the sandy beaches.
Combining walking and kayaking through the Abel Tasman national park would be the best choice if you want to make the most of it. First of all, this combination will allow you to go through the park quicker and therefore easier to carry all the equipment you need for the walk. As mentioned before, walking through the whole park would take you at least four days, and without having the proper cooking facilities in the huts or camp sites, carrying everything in your backpack can be a nightmare. However, for a two day trip you don’t even need to carry a gas cooker; just prepare a couple of sandwiches beforehand and they should do for a two day trip. Second of all, by kayaking and walking through this amazing national park, you’ll get two totally different perspectives on it: seeing its beautiful beaches from the kayak, and then again up from the hills makes this trip very special in every way.