Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Having never spent much time in the Golden Bay or Nelson area, and desperate for a last-ditch attempt at having some summer, I decided to do the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk in March 2017. I convinced my lovely friend Lynne to come along with me for the trip. Her accompanying me on an annual photography mission is becoming somewhat of a tradition, and she has self-appointed herself as my assistant (or, as she puts it, slave) for these journeys.

We started our walk at Marahau, heading north. My planning on this particular trip was not up to my usual standards, and it was only long after booking our DOC accommodation on the walk that Lynne pointed out that I had managed to schedule us two days of the hike into one. However, our first day was definitely the more leisurely of the three we had planned, and we had a fairly relaxed start. As this trip was first about photography, second about summer and third about the actual hiking, I figured we would take the easy and extravagant option, and have our packs carried by water taxi. Given I was carrying almost 6kg of camera equipment, not having to carry our main gear was very welcome.

When investigating hiking the Abel Tasman, I found the information available to be a bit lacking in detail or direction. It’s only since doing the walk that I have realised that there are almost in unlimited ways you can arrange your trips in the area, that there is no single obvious “best” way to do it. You can hike or kayak (or both), skip whole areas, do day trips, catch boats in or out…. We even came across one group doing the entire track in a day! However, because of the lack of really clear and concise detail, I basically shrugged off doing too much investigation and really had no expectations about what I would see or experience.

Within minutes of leaving Marahau I had stopped to take photographs. The scenery honestly just blew my mind and exceeded any expectations I did have. This was obviously helped by the warm, sunny weather we had. However it soon became apparent that the scenery was destined to just get better and better. I took a lot of photos on Day 1, and was constantly in awe of how stunningly beautiful the area was. With having no real time pressure, we dawdled our way to Anchorage Hut, spending some time just sitting on the beach at Apple Tree Bay.

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Marahau Nelson
A beach in Abel Tasman National Park, near Marahau

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Marahau Nelson
Scenery becoming increasingly more spectacular!

We arrived at Anchorage Hut in the mid afternoon, finding our packs waiting for us outside the hut and the beach busy with people enjoying the sunshine. Anchorage Hut ($32 per night) really is something else. Only a few years old and with a communal area with floor to ceiling windows looking out over Anchorage Bay, I could see real temptation on coming here and not ever leaving (probably the exact reason there is a 2-night maximum restriction). I was also stunned by the flush toilets, the WiFi (provided by Project Janszoon) and the solar powered charging station for devices. Seriously, and perhaps unnecessarily, flash.

It was a beautiful sunset out on the beach, which was much quieter in the evening as the day trippers went home.

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Anchorage Hut
Impressive views from Anchorage Hut

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Anchorage Hut Sunset
Sunset on Anchorage Beach

The next day was the day typically done as 2, which I condensed into one. Instead of walking Anchorage to Bark Bay Hut, which seems to be popular, we skipped Bark Bay and went straight to Awaroa Hut. This made for a 22km day so, after catching sunrise on Anchorage Beach, we got an early start. Luckily our leaving time coincided with low tide so we could take the low tide route rather than the longer high tide option shortly after leaving the hut. We enjoyed a short stop at Bark Bay, lamenting on how beautiful it was (from above, it completely looked like a tropical island) and what a shame it was that we needed to move on so quickly.

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Anchorage Hut Sunrise
Sunrise at Anchorage Beach

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Anchorage Hut
Golden sands and blue skies of Abel Tasman Coastal Track

The section from Bark Bay to Awaroa Hut was a little more challenging, with a couple of steep climbs and long walks on the sandy beaches. As we neared Awaroa Hut, it became apparent that my lack of careful planning had unintended consequences once again. Due to the siting of Awaroa Hut at the end of a long tidal estuary, packs transported by water taxi were dropped at Awaroa Lodge (a Peppers Resort). What I didn’t realise was that was a 45 minute walk away from Awaroa Hut, which meant we had to double pack for that period of time. On the flip side, while we waited for the tide to retreat enough to take the shorter low tide route to the hut, we were able to enjoy pizza and beer at Awaroa Lodge. After 22km in the hot sun, a pizza and Corona really couldn’t taste much better. 

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Bark Bay
Beautiful Bark Bay Estuary 

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Bark Bay
The almost tropical waters of Bark Bay

After our dinner, we made the 45 minute onward journey to Awaroa Hut. It’s nowhere near as flash as Anchorage, feeling much more like a true DOC hut than the former. It was a very busy, full night at the hut, though Lynne and I spent some time taking sunset photos down in the estuary.

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Awaroa Sunset
Sunset at Awaroa Inlet, Abel Tasman National Park

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Awaroa Sunset
Sunset at Awaroa Inlet, Abel Tasman National Park

 The following day we had planned to walk out the last section of track to Totaranui Campsite, but once we realised we would have to cart our packs back to Awaroa Lodge, then walk back to the hut and then make the onwards journey to Totaranui, we started rethinking our options. Given the whole purpose of the trip was 1) photography, 2) sunshine and 3) hiking, we decided that there was little need to bust a gut trying to make the logistics happen and that instead, we would just relax. Thanks to the WiFi (!!) we were able to contact the water taxi company and advise them of a change in pick up point. We headed back to Awaroa Lodge with our double packs, and we parked ourselves in a little beach hut made of drift wood for the day. From there we explored Awaroa Beach (the beach bought back by New Zealanders from private ownership in 2016 after a crowd funding campaign) and a little of the inlet, and just completely gave ourselves over to some good kiwi summer relaxation.

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Awaroa
Beach Hut, Awaroa Beach

Beach Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk Awaroa
Awaroa Beach, the beach kiwis bought back from private ownership in 2016

Our water taxi picked us up in the late afternoon, and after a scenic boat ride back past where we had walked over the previous two days, our Abel Tasman Coastal Track adventure ended. We were super lucky with the amazing weather, and the scenery completely exceeded any expectations I had. Although the track was busy, it didn’t feel over-crowded and we could walk for long stretches on our own. I would expect that peak time December – February would be more busy, but March was a great option for hiking the track. I’m totally intending on bringing my boys here for a couple of days soon as it’s such an easy, accessible and family friendly Great Walk. Thoroughly recommended!


Day 1:
Marahau to Anchorage Hut (12.4km)
Hut fee $32pp
Pack transported by Aqua Taxi 

Day 2:
Anchorage Hut to Awaroa Hut (22km)
Hut fee $32pp
Pack transported to Awaroa Lodge by Aqua Taxi (and carried on to Awaroa Hut)
Beer and Pizza available at Awaroa Lodge

Day 3:
Pick up by Aqua Taxi at Awaroa Lodge, return to Marahau

For more information and examples of my photography, please visit www.lauriewinterphotography.com