© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Water Taxis, Kayaks and Great Walks in the Abel Tasman

© NZPocketGuide.com

96 Days on the Road

Our last day exploring the Abel Tasman National Park begins in Kaiteriteri, a larger town than little Marahau and more of a tourist hotspot for starting tours into the Abel Tasman. We get our tickets from the Wilsons Abel Tasman booking office and who should we bump into other than the lovely Lara, an Argentinian backpacker that we met at the Tombstone Backpackers back in Picton. She is now WWOOFing in the Tasman Bay Backpackers, where we stayed in Nelson, and is taking a day trip into the Abel Tasman National Park with us today. Awesome!

A mixed bunch and a split apple

We are also joined by Ashley from New Zealand and Sam from Australia. Our guide is… Well, we’re not going to butcher the spelling of his name here, but a guy from the Netherlands. So we’re a right mixed bunch here today!

After signing our lives away, making sure we have food, water and are wearing appropriate clothing to get our legs wet, we hop into the Wilsons water taxi. Along the way we make that token stop at Split Apple Rock, still looking splitty and apple-like! The water taxi then drops some hikers off at one of the bays, which is a pretty smooth transition for them.

Wet legs

“We’re not going to stay as dry as that!” Our guide informs us. As we park up at Torrent Bay, the water taxi can only make it so far to the beach in these shallow waters. We roll up our leggings and pants and wade in icy cold water half way up Laura’s thighs and somewhere around the ankles for lanky Robin.

Starting at Torrent Bay

Torrent Bay is an unusual place in the national park because it is essentially a little village of private properties. It’s a bit of politics we discuss with our guide for a bit. With him being from the Netherlands, he brings up a lot of ideas and discussions about the national park from a foreigner’s point of view – a fresh perspective!

We pick up the kayaks from Wilsons lodge and get set up for the most extensive safety briefing and kayaking instruction we have had on this trip so far.

Kayaking between dogs and a Smurf

Now, we’re heading out on the water! Our guide tells us stories about each cove and island we pass, while pointing out the unusual rock formations in shape of dogs, Tintin/Queen Victoria, and a Smurf.

Once we’ve seen the islands, we now get to meander around them taking the most extreme route between rocks. (We say “extreme” but it’s a really calm day out on the water). Lara and Ashley do, however, find themselves wedged on top of a rock having to wait for a surge of water to release them.

Seal encounter

Ah seals, we never get sick of them! We kayak right up to a small island where seal pups and their mothers are basking in the sun. We also spot a ton of shags and oystercatchers doing their thing on the beach or on the rocks.

Picnic on Medlands Beach

Our last port of call is Medlands Beach, a small and sheltered beach only occupied by one hiker who is sleeping so still that, honestly, we thought he was just a pile of clothes.

A picnic bench marks a good spot for dinner on this pristine beach. Our guide has brought along the instant hot drinks: tea, coffee, hot chocolate… All that good stuff.

Kayaking in paradise

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Let’s split up, gang!

While Lara and Ashley have opted to kayak back to Torrent Bay, Sam and us are taking a two-hour hike back just to mix things up a little! The section of track we are taking encompasses some of the highlights of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – a New Zealand Great Walk.

As with most hikes in the Abel Tasman National Park, there is a deadline to completing the hike so that we can catch our water taxi back to Kaiteriteri. The pressure is on!

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track

We shoot up the hill, getting some last views of the stunning Medlands Beach before delving into the regenerating forest. The ferns look all shiny and new on the Coastal Track, while the odd dead pine tree can be found where locals have eradicated the pest tree species.

The track navigates hills and coastal cliffs, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on where you are going to not fall down the steep sides.

Alone on a swingbridge

We arrive at one of the most popular attractions of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – the swingbridge. Ok, so it is a suspension bridge, but the long bouncy bridge looks like quite a novelty amongst the wild forest we are in. The bridge crosses a river with the trunks of old pine trees washed up on the banks.

Every so often, a break in the trees will reveal a view of isolated beaches lined with forest. Right now, it only feels like us in the national park, which is the beauty of travelling New Zealand in the shoulder season.

Away from the sandlfies!

The last lookout unveils Torrent Bay! Thankfully, the water taxi is not here yet, but we do spot the rest of our group chilling on the beach.

Another wade through the water gets us to our water taxi and away from the sand flies! Now we are shooting back to Kaiteriteri, while taking some sharp turns as the skipper shows off his mad boating skills on this super speedy water taxi.

A great taste of the Abel Tasman National Park

Back on the beautiful, but more crowded, Kaiteriteri Beach, we say see you later to Lara, who we will hopefully catch up with on the West Coast and dry our feet on the beach. We’re in no rush as we discuss how that tour was a great taste of the Abel Tasman coast, allowing us to experience the water taxi, kayaking and Great Walk side of things – three experiences rolled into one!

Concluding our time in the Abel Tasman

Now we’re driving back to the Marahau and The Barn Backpackers where we hang out with a group of American lads on a “bros” holiday around New Zealand and catch up on some work – (we’ve had so much fun in the Abel Tasman that we almost forgot about work)!

See you tomorrow, where our adventure continues to the Nelson Lakes National Park. We are national park junkies right here!

Just one of the beautiful coastal views from the Abel Tasman Great Walk

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