Abel Tasman

Between Christmas and New Years 2023 we walked the Abel Tasman track. We’d booked campsites earlier in 2023 when bookings opened on the DOC website and joined the mad rush to secure our places. Initially we’d thought that we’d get beds in the huts on the track but these spaces disappeared in seconds, and as it turned out the campsite places sold out in less than an hour. That’s the price for booking at peak season. Thankfully we got the sites we wanted for the dates needed. We spent the next few months putting our gear together as we needed to buy tents (1 for Keryn and I, one for Alayna to share) and a bunch of other equipment.

We stayed in Nelson for a few nights before Abel Tasman hike and kept an eye on the weather forecast. Thankfully the walk was mostly dry, just a bit of mist/drizzle on the first day and the morning of the second. We drove up to Mārahau from Nelson, cars parked at the car park provided by the water taxi company we’d booked for the return journey to Mārahau after our walking was done. Before parking we dropped all the bags at the start of the trail and then Drew and I drove to the car park and walked the 500m to the start point. Bags were shouldered, walking poles made ready, straps adjusted and then we were off.

Day 1: Friday 29 Dec
Walk start and end: Mārahau to Anchorage
Time/Distance: 4 hours, 12.4km
Elevation Gain: 436 m

The first day would be the longest of the three days walking we had planned. We weren’t walking the whole track, we figured a shorter version of the track was enough for this time around. This was also the longest Alayna had ever walked, and day one tested her limits. It started easy enough, the weather wasn’t too hot and there was plenty of shade as the track skirted around the coast. We saw a few weka on the track and more when we stopped for lunch at Apple Tree Bay. It was steady walking after lunch as there were more hills as we edged closer to Anchorage. The light drizzle and breeze made it a little cool as we reached the peak of the hill and Alayna needed some encouragement to keep going, being downhill helped. We came out on to the golden sands of the beach at Anchorage and were thankful to get to the campsite and catch our companions.

The tents went up fairly easily and we had time for some relaxing. Playing on the beach erased any unkind memories of the walk. The campsite has busy with people getting dinner sorted, a mix of walkers, those staying for a longer time and groups on organised tours, their tents already set up and crew cooking their meals. There were plenty of birds around the campsite, tui and korimako singing long past sunset, gangs of kaka raucous in the distance, all joined by ruru as night came on.

Day 2: Saturday 30 Dec
Walk start and end: Anchorage to Bark Bay
Time/Distance: (low tide crossing) 3 hours, 8.4km
Elevation Gain: 395 m

We were up early to make sure we could take the low tide crossing over Torrent Bay, low tide being at 6:35am and we had a 2 hour window. I’d been up before day to catch the sunrise and we were on our way not long after 7am. We walked down the beach and then over the hill to get to Torrent Bay. The crossing over the mudflat went well, we were glad we used sandals rather than boots as we crossed the multiple streams that were slowly rising over the bay. The DOC campsite ranger had told us about a shelter at the far side of Torrent Bay for hikers and we stopped there for breakfast, grateful for the running water and toilets. Come 9:30am we’d finished breakfast and were back on the trail.

The early start and breakfast break meant we were able to arrive at Bark Bay for lunchtime. Along the way we traversed some beautiful forest and coastline, little bays visible through gaps in the vegetation and plenty of people seen enjoying the track, the beaches and traversing the coast in boats and kayaks. Alayna found her walking mojo and led much of the way with Clara. Getting to Bark Bay meant the girls had all afternoon to play, either in the calm waters of the lagoon behind the campsite sandspit, or in the ocean-side waves. We pitched the tents on the sand of the sandspit and the wind was getting up and threatening to blow the tents away, so we spent a good while finding large rocks to hold down our tent pegs.

Groups of kayakers came in and settled in their pre-pitched tents while the tour leaders sorted out food and drink. Alayna and Clara were the happy recipients of hot chocolate that was surplus to requirements. Lying on the beach in the shade of large pohutukawa trees we watched bees and birdlife feeding on the nectar of the vividly red flowers. Kaka seemed to be quietly making there way from flower to flower while tui chased korimako from tree to tree. That night we slept to the sound of wind and waves.

Day 3: Sunday 31 Dec
Walk start and end: Bark Bay to Onetahuti
Time/Distance: 2 hours, 6.4 km

Our last day was relatively short and it felt much more relaxed, we weren’t on the trail again until shortly after 9am. While shorter in distance, in the end it didn’t feel shorter as towards the second half there was what felt like a never-ending climb up a hill. Part of the track had been washed out so rather that go around the hill the track now went over the top and it was a slog. It was much more pleasant at the start, the track going around Bark Bay with some nice estuary views and a couple of attractive waterfalls to be seen. The walk was still beautiful, lush green bush and teal water all along the coast. It took us less than 3 hours to arrive at the start of the beach at Onetahuti which left plenty of time for a relaxed lunch and beach time. All in all it was a great three days of hiking, the weather great and the company wonderful. Now we’ve got a multi-day hike with Alayna under our belt we’ll have to start building up for some bigger adventures!

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