On the way through NZ, part 12: Abel Tasman National Park

Golden beaches. Sapphire-coloured water. Palm trees and sunshine. We’re talking about a Pacific Island, don’t we? Well…not exactly. This well-known area is the Abel Tasman National Park, likely one of the most visited national parks. The two most common ways to explore this, even for New Zealand standards, extraordinary environment are hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track or kayaking along its shoreline. I did the latter and it was certainly a good decision for a first time kayaker! If you think about exploring the Abel Tasman via the waters too and want to get an idea about it first, read on.

Most kayak trips originate out of the small village Marahau, which is approx an hour’s drive from Nelson. When I was there in February 2014, Marahau regularly hosted Reggae music evenings with performances from local artists: The whole Golden Bay area is sort of “hippie territory”, meaning you’ll find a lot of organic food, Reggae music and marihuana. Not exactly my cup of tea, but the evening was a welcoming different event for me…best thing about it: There’s no mobile phone reception in Marahau whatsoever, which ensures people socialize with each other rather than staring on their phones – a rare thing in this digital age!

We booked a two-man kayak and a one-man one for two nights, as we planned to explore the shores for three days and go hiking for another day. The big two-man kayaks are surprisingly spacy, bringing your hiking gear is mostly not a problem if you don’t exaggerate. Our company also provided us with a water-proof map and life vests – off you go! Whatever option you opt for, usually the kayaks will be left at one of the designated beaches and picked up and brought back to Marahau by water taxis, which can also be used to get quickly around the national park.

For those who prefer hostels over tents, Anchorage Bay (which is sort of the “middle” for both hiking and kayaking trips through/along the park) features a swimming hostel. It’s not cheap of course, but apparently always booked out and breakfast included. Give it a go if you like, it looked like fun! What’s not fun however are the sandflies in the park, so be sure to bring insect repellent. All in all it’s well worth the trip, especially for the last inlet called “Shag Harbour” – see images below. It’s very calm and everything looks a bit weird, we saw only two other kayakers going in and it’s not accessible by foot, so it was the best part of the trip. That’s all for today, enjoy!

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