© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Kayaking Golden Bay to Abel Tasman

© NZPocketGuide.com

93 Days on the Road

We are idiots! We did not schedule enough time in Golden Bay. This is one of those places in New Zealand that you need to spend a few days, no, a week or two in, to visit all the must-see locations. We’ve had an awesome run in Golden Bay so far, squeezing in the magically clear pools of Te Waikoropupu Springs, travelling down New Zealand’s longest sand spit, visiting one of the world’s “most beautiful beaches”, delving into the Labyrinth Rocks, catching and eating the freshest salmon we’ve ever had, and hiking in the lesser-known areas of the Abel Tasman National Park known as the “Promised Land”. Phewwwww.

On our fifth day in Golden Bay, we are leaving to ascend back up the mighty Takaka Hill and make our way to the other side of the Abel Tasman National Park. But, we have a chance to redeem ourselves by checking out the Golden Bay-side of Abel Tasman before we leave.

A crazy coastal drive to Tata Beach

After eating our last delicious homemade muesli breakfast free at the Bare Foot Backpackers, we hop in the van and head to Tata Beach – the start of our kayaking trip into the Abel Tasman National Park.

Just as if Golden Bay is torturing us with how much beauty we are leaving behind, the drive to Tata Beach is like no other that we have seen in New Zealand. Golden sand beaches and dramatic granite cliffs are what we are squeezed between on the Tata Beach road. We are taking our van through natural arches to get to the beach!

Exploring the “other” side of the Abel Tasman National Park

Tata Beach is like a taste of the Abel Tasman with its golden sand. It’s also the base of Golden Bay Kayaks.

Our guide for the day, Tony, who is also the owner of the business, is really keen to get out on the water and show us this side of the Abel Tasman National Park that so many backpackers often aren’t aware of.

We like to think we are kind of experts at the double sea kayak now, considering we’ve been paddle buddies in the Coromandel and Taranaki.

New Zealand’s largest shag colony

Now, we’re in water once again! Straight ahead are two islands that Tony says hold the largest shag colonies in New Zealand. That would explain why are see so many shags running on the water in preparation to flight and hanging around on the coast.

With the water being super still (and a turquoise blue colour even on a grey and cloudy day like today), kayaking over to the islands are a breeze.

Indeed, there are shags nesting on the jagged granite rock formations. We don’t know what we are more intrigued by: watching the shags building their nests or the crazy rock formations they are nesting on?!

Punk rocker shags

Shags are a pretty common sight throughout the coast of New Zealand and no doubt they are a pretty seabird, but we realise we have never seen adult ones with green eyes and a Mohawk. They look like punk rockers!

Sh*tting shags

“Don’t get too close or they might unload on you,” Tony warns as we paddle under the island’s cliff for a close look. We just miss a shower of white splatters as we start to paddle backwards.

Just over on the next island is another species of shag, nesting quite differently on trees sticking out of the cliff, rather than on the cliff itself. Underneath it all, a seal relaxes on the rocks. He lifts his head at the sound of our presence, looks at us, then puts his head back down to continue sleeping. Ah, the life of a seal…

Kayaking through the hole in the rock

Out of all the kayaking we have done in New Zealand, we have never explored an area so condensed with things to see. We’ve paddled and got up close to islands, we’re paddling between rocks every two minutes, there’s the coastline itself changing from granite cliffs speckled with flowers and other vegetation, seals are either relaxing on rocks or swimming beside us eating an octopus (true story!). Did we mention the shags?! And now we are paddling under an archway. No, two archways known as the Hole in the Rock – original name.

We see all of this in only about 45 minutes to an hour, and that’s with all the bird and seal watching time!

Our own private beach in the Abel Tasman

On the way back to Tata Beach, we land on one of the golden beaches that enticed us on the way up. It’s our very own private beach right now! (With the exception of one shag).

Tony has a super amount of knowledge about every area we visit, all the while being open to what we want to do – it’s the best of freedom kayaking and having a guide.

Consider ourselves redeemed!

We land back at Tata Beach, after passing a few caves along the way. We are so glad we took the time to do this one last activity before we go! It couldn’t have come at a more meaningful time than right before we head to the nearest settlement on the other side of the Abel Tasman National Park, Marahau.

One last haul up Takaka Hill

Grey and cloudy weather might not be everyone’s thing but it makes the Takaka Hill look mystical with the clouds weaving in and out of the mountains. We drive into those clouds, Robin working on his biceps as he steers around the relentless amount of uphill and downhill turns.

Welcome to the other side of the Abel Tasman National Park

One hour and a half later, we are back along the coast again in the small town of Marahau. We check-in at The Barn Backpackers and Holiday Park, the most buzzing place in the town as it seems to be the only place open, plus, this is one of the characteristically remote locations that the Stray backpacker bus stops at. We can’t wait to spend the next four days exploring this side of the Abel Tasman National Park!

The amazing Abel Tasman coast from every angle!

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