It’s a bold claim, and one which may not stand up to scrutiny if our hiking adventures in New Zealand continue the way they’re going. But for now, I’m sticking with the belief that our Abel Tasman hike today is the best hike we’ve done in New Zealand so far.
It was so good, I’m not procrastinating on writing a blog – it’s going live on the day as I want to share our pictures and more about our adventure without delay! It even beats all of the hikes that we did in North Island, although it’s a close call on some!
Where and What was our Abel Tasman Hike?
Located in the Nelson / Tasman district of New Zealand’s South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest and possibly the best national park in the country. Clearly I’m still pretty excited post hike, but it is genuinely one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. With all those travel guide cliches from crystal clear waters to lush tropical forest to stunning white sandy beaches, today I realised why Kiwis aren’t going on holiday to places like Fiji every Christmas when they have somewhere so amazing right on their doorstep.
There are lots of options for hiking – the Coastal Walk, part of which we enjoyed, is classified by the Department of Conservation as one of country’s ‘Great Hikes’. More on these here – they all look amazing and we know we need to come back and explore them properly.
The best way to start your Abel Tasman hike is to head down to Marahau, the small town situated at the start of the main trail. This is where you’ll find everything you need for guided tours / kayaking trips and lengthier expeditions down the trail – the full route is 60km and takes around 3-5 days on average to walk in its entirety. We chose to get the water taxi (an experience in itself!) along the coast to Anchorage and walk back through the park to make it back to the Hooked bar in time for happy hour.
Getting to the Abel Tasman Hike
Our Abel Tasman hike started with a pretty awesome speedboat water taxi which gave us an unexpected mini tour of the coastline. We were lucky enough to nab seats at the back, which meant we got completely soaked as at this stage of the day the sea was pretty choppy and the clouds grey and somewhat ominous looking.
When we bought our tickets ($35pp) we had no idea it was anything other than a straight route across to Anchorage so were pretty happy when we went in the opposite direction over to the famous Split Apple rock and accompanying beach to take some pictures. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin – an rock just off the coast that’s kind of shaped like an apple being cut in two, and is worth seeing. Next stop was Tonga Island – a popular resting point for fur seals. We were lucky enough to see a few basking on the rocks on this tiny tropical island and by this point the clouds had cleared and the sun was blazing so everything looked pretty fantastic from here on in.
Finally we finished up at Anchorage beach around 45 minutes after we left – we caught the 12pm taxi so we had plenty of time to wander the track which is supposed to take around 4 hours to complete. It’s a wet landing so be prepared!
Abel Tasman Hike Part 1 – Anchorage Beach & Cleopatra Pools (c.5.8km – just over 1 hour)
Before cracking on with our first walk to Cleopatra Pools, as recommended by the friendly water taxi guys, we decided to head along Anchorage Beach past the starting point to a tiny rocky cove at the end of the bay. The beach is beautiful itself but this little area is something else – similar to Cathedral Cove but on a smaller scale, there are rock formations and shaded sandy areas overlooking crazy blue seas.
After posing up a storm we got started and hiked up to Cleopatra Pools. It’s signposted to take around an hour each way but we went there and then back to the start of the trail to Marahau in just over an hour. A steep first section led into a pretty easy hike across to the pools – a waterfall with a kind of natural flume leading down to a swimming area. It’s pretty beautiful and worth doing – the walk here takes you past some great jungle-esque scenery.
The Abel Tasman Hike Part 2 – Anchorage to Marahau (c.13.6km – 3 hours)
After our warm up, we started the main trail back to Marahau. This is around 12.4km, but when we reached the end we discovered a further 1.2 km was necessary to get us back to our starting point at the water taxi ticket office. Including this warning so if you do decide to give our Abel Tasman hike you are aware, unlike us when aching and tired we thought we’d finished when reaching the ‘official’ end of the trail. Mustn’t grumble though, this was still actually the best hike ever remember.
This trail is again fairly flat for the most part with just a few up and down hill stretches but nothing too taxing. The 12.4km track is supposed to take around 4 hours but we spent nothing near that. Perhaps if you’re taking more pictures and exploring the coves along the way it’s wise to allow an extra hour or two for this Abel Tasman hike. We walked through beautiful sunshine for 3 hours, enjoying all the lookouts along the way and beautiful coastal scenery for pretty much the entire route.
Arriving back in Marahau, we popped into Hooked for a pint of local cider which was extremely well deserved after hiking 19.4km in 4 hours, and headed back to camp to chill, before continuing our journeys around South Island.
We’ve done tons of hiking in the last 4 months. From various trails in Yosemite Park and daily expeditions on Ilha Grande, to the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu and plenty of tramping around New Zealand’s North Island we’ve tried to explore as many places as possible by hiking around. Out of all the hikes we’ve done, many of which have had some really stunning scenery, this definitely stands out as one of the most amazing walks we’ve done so far. The Abel Tasman hike is just beautiful – the coastline is incredible, the beaches are awesome, and everyone travelling New Zealand should go there!
What hiking options are available in Abel Tasman?
Although we only went for a day hike, we met a lot of people on the way who were walking for longer – lot longer! You can actually walk for 5 full days through Abel Tasman along the Coast Track. The official New Zealand government website has a lot of information about hiking options and you can also book a camping tour through the official Great Walks booking system.