Hiking the Abel Tasman is one of the Classic Kiwi Adventures. The simplicity of the trail makes in inviting for all ages with rolling hills and awesome beaches for a swim at the end of the day!
There are four huts for you to stay at along the way. These are spaced out so that you can stay in each hut each night without having to push too hard each day.
If you are just interested in doing the hike, we will lay out what to expect and how to book yourself in below. You can easily pick how many nights you want to spend out there as the transport boats largely stop in at the Bays that have huts. It is possible to just put your head down and go faster through this itinerary while missing all the side tracks if you are a bit short on time. We have written the distances with no detours include. However, we like to explore the nooks and crannies, and so have included these as additions in each section below.
If you are just doing the walk it is pretty simple to book yourself in at the DOC Accommodation, and if you need a one-way boat trip organized, we can easily line it up on the day from The Barn reception, with transport included. Or feel free to add it to your booking during our online booking process you want to stay with us in Marahau. Else you can contact the water taxi company.
The Trip is usually 4 nights, but feel free to pick and choose which sections you want to do. A great one is to arrive In Marahau the night before, get the boat to Totaranui first thing the next morning then walk out. If the Awaroa Tidal crossing does not allow it, just reverse the direction!
The biggest decision is how far to go on the first day. Anchorage is the largest and most set up campsite / hut in The Abel Tasman, and we would highly recommend that you spend your first night here. From Marahau it is only a 3-4 hours hike, so an easy first day. On the way to Anchorage, there are a series of cool little beaches you can explore (which add on a bit of time), such as Apple Tree Bay or Water Cove.
Once you arrive at Anchorage and set up for the night, you can go split some firewood down at the shed on the way to Te Pukatea Bay and the Pitt Head. This is a very nice 1-hour loop track and Te Pukatea beach is great for a swim.
Anchorage beach itself is awesome. Being the first main beach in The Park it serves as a bit of a logistical hub for operations in the Park. It is great viewing while sitting on the beach to watch these highly skilled operators at work. Anchorage is the start of our favourite section called The Gullet.
This section from Anchorage to Bark is one of our favorite sections. Our favorite sidetrack through here is up to Cleopatras Pools. Some natural rock pools and rock slides towards the end of the Torrent River will add ~45mins to your day. (Note: It is possible to Canyon down this River).
Another sidetrack you can do is up to Falls River Falls. It is approximately a 3hr return trip detour up the hills to some meandering waterfalls further up the falls river. This one will turn this leg into a big day, so is optional depending on your group and the time available.
Next up is the Falls River swing bridge. The coolest bridge in the Abel Tasman. (Note: If you were keen to Kayak up this river as well there are trips for this).
Once you enter Bark bay the Campsite is on the sand spit at the front of the tidal lagoon and the hut is on the back end of the Lagoon. Both are great options.
From Bark Bay to Awaroa you are in the Marne Reserve section of the Abel Tasman. (note: is possible to do awesome Kayaking trips through this).
Upon leaving Bark Bay, you can check out the Waterfall before a short climb up the hill and over to Tonga Quarry before getting to Onetahuti. Before becoming a National Park in the 1940’s this quarry was used to help build Nelson and Tasman.
Onetahuti is one of our favourite beaches. A large open beach with limited accomodation on it, we think it is fantastic and largely overlooked for some reason. Sometimes storms can washout the high tide access across it so check the doc information on this beach for updates.
From here you are up over another minor hill before dropping into Awaroa. At this point we usually feel incredibly deserving of a drink and maybe some hot fries at the Awaroa Lodge restaurant or even a pizza at there pizza bar! The pricing is fair for a 4-star eco lodge in the middle of the Abel Tasman proving high quality accommodation and services. Otherwise, after you have finished your meal the DOC hut and campsite is just another 2.9km to the inside of the Awaroa inlet.
Like many lucky New Zealanders, we got to spend our childhoods camping at Totaruni for a week over summer. This beach and campground hold massive nostalgic memories for a wide range of South Islanders.
But don’t get too excited just yet, you still need to make the tidal crossing from Awaroa. Check the tide times here as you can only cross 1.5 hours on either side of low tide. The Crossing takes ~30mins and we recommend going as early in that tidal window as possible.
The two additional bays you can stop in at, Waiharakeke and Goat, are also great! However, there is something magical at Totarunui. The tidal inlet at the north end is great for the kids to play in. There is a DOC office, but no shops or huts. However, Totaruni is the only bay in the Abel Tasman that has road access and a boat ramp!
All this being said, it is a relatively short day to get from Awaroa to Totaruni. The Tidal crossing dictates a lot of your movements this day. If you wanted to push on and get into the Norther Loop it is possible to get to Whaiwharangi Hut on the same day as it is only 7.5km past Totaruni (one way). Else it is possible to do the full loop with an early start and still get the last boat out of Anchorage leaving at 3:15
The Northern loop is a beautiful walk starting along the Coastal track visiting Anapai Bay and Mutton Cove. From here you will reach Separation Point between Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. Make sure you visit the Gannet Colony they are trying to establish by attracting gannets over from the end of Farewell Spit.
From the Farewell Spit, you are ~30mins to Whaiwharangi Hut/Camp. A converted pioneering homestead, this is a cool place to spend the night. The North Coast up here has more of the rugged beauty. A mix of golden sands with West Coast exposures.
The inland route back to Totaranui is gorgeous but also a bit of a workout. A 400m vertical ascent to the top of Gibbs Hill will leave you out of breath with the views back over Wainui Bay. From here you can follow the track down to Totarnui visiting the old homestead there as well.
To get back to Marahau we recommend the Water Taxis as it is just so much fun boating back down one of the great coastlines of New Zealand. There is a bus service that will take you to the inland route. We recommend you seize the opportunity to release your inner pirate and take to the seas!
We can have all your meal requirements ready for you when you arrive at The Barn so you are ready to go.
We would love to hear from you if you have any questions or would like us to help book an awesome Abel Tasman Experience. We can fully book and organise day trip and over night trips in the Abel Tasman.