Unbelievable Beaches: Solo Hiking Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand
Exploring Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand was pretty special for me - it was the first big multi-day hiking trip that I planned and completed solo. Oh, and it was absolutely breathtaking!
One of the big reasons I chose to do Abel Tasman is because I saw in the visitors center map that there were lodges along the trail - I don’t have camping skills yet, so this was a perfect solution.
Unfortunately, when I called the beautiful-looking Torrent Bay Lodge, I learned the hard truth - it was around $500 / night…
Upon doing a little bit more research, I figured out that I could take a water taxi to different destinations along the track from the city where the trail starts - Marahau. I booked the Abel Tasman Lodge for two nights. My room was gorgeous!
Another option is to stay in one town before - Kaiteriteri - and take the water taxi from there. It looked like it was slightly bigger, but I was glad I was in Marahau when I decided to skip my initial plan on the second day, and was able to just walk through the beginning of the trail anyway.
To get to Marahua, I simply took the New Zealand InterCity Bus from Nelson, where I was staying for the month. The bus runs every day - leaving Nelson at 7:30am and returning from Marahau at 4:10pm. The bus ride is a bit less than 2 hours and costs around $15 USD one way.
I imagined that Marahau would be a small town, but I didn’t realize that it was that small… And I was there off-season in late fall! There is basically just a convenience store (think a bad 7/11), a coffee shop / restaurant that is closed most of the time in off-season - I imagine it’s extremely busy and requires reservation when it’s busy in the summer:
There was also a cool Fat Tui’s burger truck if you’re into that.
Luckily for me, I’ve been eating very healthy and mostly vegan, so I was prepared with a ton of my own food for the three days. I would have had a hard time eating otherwise - the convenience store just had a lot of junk food - chips, ramen, etc. The coffee shop had the typical sugary pastries and some meat-based sandwiches. My lodge did offer breakfast option - eggs, yogurt, etc, and they could pack a picnic lunch for the hike, which didn’t look too horrible.
There were also a few fruit / vegetable stands where you can just take the food and pay via the honor system (putting money in a can). I stocked up on some veggies that way.
I planned my three days based on the map, estimating how much I could hike each day, and the AquaTaxi pick-up and drop-off locations and schedules.
Note that even in the off-season, I had to book the AquaTaxi a few weeks ahead! Even then, one day was not available, so I ended up booking my desired stops with Marahau Water Taxis instead (which seems like an identical company). If you’re planning to do this in the summer, make sure to really really plan ahead!
My plan was as follows:
- 7:30 AM - Take the InterCity bus from Nelson
- 9:15 AM - Arrive in Marahau, Drop Things off at my hotel
- 10:30 AM - AquaTaxi from Marahau to Torrent Bay
- Hike to Bark Bay
- 3:45 PM - AquaTaxi from Bark Bay to Marahau
- 9:00 AM - Water Taxi from Marahau to Onetahuti
- Hike to Bark Bay
- 3:45 PM - Water Taxi from Bark Bay to Marahau
It ended up being super rainy that day and I didn’t feel that great, so I ditched this plan, rested at my hotel, and then hiked the beginning of the trail and back before sunset!
- 9:00 AM - AquaTaxi from Marahau to Torrent Bay
- Hike to Anchorage
- 2:30 PM - AquaTaxi from Anchorage to Marahau
- 3:30 PM - Pick up my things from the Lodge, eat a snack
- 4:10 PM - InterCity bus from Marahau
- 5:50 PM - Arrive back to Nelson
Note that my hikes were not that ambitious. Only around 4 - 6 kilometers each day. I initially planned a much more intense schedule (10 kilometers per day!), but when I reached out to AquaTaxi about a mistake in booking I made, they recommended against it.
I’m glad I did the less ambitious hikes because it allowed me to really take my time, enjoy, relax, eat in beautiful places, and more importantly, take a few really cool side-hikes instead of stressing out about whether I’d make it to the AquaTaxi on time.
The Water Taxi
Taking the Water Taxi each day was super fun. To my surprise, instead of meeting at the water, we were asked to meet in the parking lot behind the convenience store. The water taxi was attached to a truck, which took us to the water!
Since it was low tide, the truck would take us to a deeper part of the water where the boat could safely float on it’s own, then return to shore:
We didn’t have to get wet!
The AquaTaxi also did a little tour of the area, which was unexpected and amazing. They took us to the famous Split Apple Rock:
Can you imagine nature splitting a rock just like that?!!!
We then went to Adele Island, home of the cutest baby seals!!!
Oh, and just looking at the stunning emerald water was a treat enough. I couldn’t believe the color!
I love being on the water - couldn’t be happier with the entire AquaTaxi experience. What a way to get around!
It is no surprise that Abel Tasman is one of the 9 Great Walk of New Zealand. It is absolutely breathtaking!
Golden-sand beaches, emerald water… these are a few of my favorite things…
Abel Tasman has some of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen:
As you hike, you get to see stunning bird-eye views like these:
My photos don’t do it any justice.
I was therefore not surprised to learn that the beaches are filled with people during the busy summer season. Although I was more than tempted to swim in such breathtaking water, I was also happy to be there off-season, with the beaches mostly to myself.
Well, I did swim a little…
The first thing I noticed walking into the Abel Tasman were the furry palm trees! I learned that these were just giant ferns!
New Zealand is known for not having any scary predator animals like bears or snakes or tigers, so hiking there is always a pleasure. Nothing to fear! I did keep seeing this super cool bird dancing around the forest:
The picture in my hotel captured what I thought of the bird very well - royalty!
There were also a few of these fat turkey-like birds walking around:
Given that I didn’t have too much to hike each day, I took my time just sitting there and watching natural phenomenon.
I loved watching the water go down through rocks in a perfect pattern at a side hike I took to Cleopatra’s Pool:
The rest of the view - water navigating it’s way through big rocks wasn’t too bad to watch either:
But by far my favorite was contemplating how this tree could grow out of a rock!
Nature is amazing!
Around the World
On the second day, I skipped my plan and went up to the beginning of the national park instead:
Right away, it was spectacular:
As a nomad, I was so happy to see that people from all over the world have hiked here!
I took my time reading all the countries and finding more and more!
Of course, there are always a few immature bad apples from around the globe here too…
Abel Tasman is by far the safest place I hiked in. First, it is super busy. I saw people all the time, even during the off-season. I can’t imagine how busy it is during the summer. If I trip and fall, someone will for sure find me and call for help.
And, as I already mentioned, there were no scary animals (like bears!) roaming around. The most you’ll see is a bird. So even if you do miss your water taxi and get stuck there at night, you won’t be eaten by anything scary. But even in that case, I’m sure you’ll find some people camping who would let you join. They even have some super nice camping grounds there, with a full kitchen and running water.
Finally, the paths are mostly flat and easy:
You’re unlikely to trip and fall. But even if you do, you’ll just fall on the ground, not off a cliff like in some other places.
There were some optional hikes that included a bit of climbing, but I don’t remember those being that bad either. Maybe because the views at the top made me forget…
Did I mention the golden sand and emerald water?
You seriously don’t want to miss this hike. It’s easy, fun, stunning and easy to get to! I’ll definitely be back to finish off the some of the remaining trails I missed… and to swim!