Hiking the Abel Tasman Trail- New Zealand

Welcome to my first official travel and adventure post on my blog!  My hopes for these types of posts is to inspire others to stay fit and healthy in order to be able to get out and explore as many parts of the world as we can!  I hope to share with you a variety of hikes/ bike rides/ running races and other adventures I have participated in throughout Canada and throughout the world to give you some ideas for local weekend trips, or other ideas for larger travel vacations.

I’ve been travelling the world via fitness adventures since I ran my first marathon in Hawaii at the age of 17.  Personally, I think that seeing a country on foot or bike is the best way to really take it all in.  Plus- the added bonus is that often times you come back from vacation even fitter and healthier than you were back home 🙂

I hope you enjoy these blogs I post and I am really looking forward to sharing these adventures with you.

First up:  Hiking the Abel Tasman Trail- New Zealand!Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 12.16.58 PM

This past January 2017 I finished up a beautiful 4 week trip in New Zealand by solo
hiking the Abel Tasman Trail.  The trail is located on the North West coast of the South island in New Zealand, and is considered one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  The track is extremely popular, with thousands of visitors hiking parts of the trail, or kayaking the coastline each year.

There are many different routes you can take when hiking the Abel Tasman, with a variety of start points.  I won’t get into all the details here, but if you are looking to hike the track on your own, check out the Abel Tasman website for details on how you can hike it:  http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/nelson-tasman/places/abel-tasman-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/abel-tasman-coast-track/

Hiking 4 days on my own in the woods was a fantastic opportunity to rejuvenate in nature, feed my desire for exploration, foster a sense of independence, and explore some of the most scenic coastlines of my life!

Day #1:  Hike from Marahau to Bark Bay- 25 kms

After bussing from Nelson to the start of the trek I hopped on the trail and was ready to go (more details on the logistics at the bottom of this post)!  The track starts through a forested path with many beautiful overlooking points out towards the coastline.  There are a variety of off shooting paths you can take to various lookout points.  I decided against most of these because I knew I was planning a total of 25 kms this day and didn’t know exactly how long this would take me (it took me 8 hours total with a 1 hour lunch break, and a few water/snack breaks).  If you are planning your own timing for this stretch consider that I was hiking at a pretty fast pace, but was also carrying a 50 pound bag on my back.  If you are an experienced hiker you can probably do the trek in a similar time to me.

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A beautiful viewpoint along the trail.

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Happy trail hiker!

After wandering through the forest for some time the trail started to ascend out of the trees into a sandier trail before descending into Anchorage where you can rest for a nice lunch on the beach.  This sandy section reminded me of trekking along a dessert in Arizona!  As a side note- if you wanted to hike less in a day you could stay at the bunks or campsites here.  The trek from Marahau to Anchorage was 12.4 km’s.

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Heading down to Anchorage

After a nice lunch at Anchorage beach you need to consider the tide tables before moving onto Bark Bay.  During low tide you are able to cross a much shorter distance, rather than during high tide you add 3 km’s to your trek!  The Abel Tasman website has the tide tables listed for you, so you can keep an eye closely on your time if you want to avoid the high tide trek.  I didn’t make it during low tide because I had bussed 2 hours from Nelson that morning and had to make the high tide trek!  The trek into Bark Bay was another 11.5 km’s.  Whereas I came across a lot of people hiking from Marahau to Anchorage, there were very few people hiking into Bark Bay at the time I was coming along.

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Coming into Bark Bay there is a nice and scary high bridge you get to cross 🙂

Bark Bay campsite is effectively a sandy peninsula with campers packed all along it.  There are sheltered cooking facilities, toilets with toilet paper and a communal campfire pit.  It’s a beautiful spot to stop for the night.  After gobbling down a delicious? dehydrated meal that I picked up at Rollos I didn’t have much energy left for anything other than relaxing, reading, and enjoying the views 🙂

Here are some photos I took from around the Bark Bay campsite:

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A view of the Bark Bay campsite as I hiked away on the second morning of the trip.  You can see some of the tents, as well as some of the sail boats that had spent the night on shore (and are now stuck in the sand until the tide comes back in!).

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Day #2:  Bark Bay to Totoranui

Day 2 involved about 20 km’s of trekking, which took me 8.5 hours with a 1 hour break for lunch, and 2 longer snack/nap breaks due to some deadly blisters I ended up with, as well as the temperature was very hot this day!  This morning’s hike started with a pretty steady climb.  I actually ran into another young woman who was hiking alone who looked me dead in the eye and said “I thought this was going to be fun!”….haha so beware that 25 k’s the first day the legs were a little bit tired!  After a short while you get a glimpsse of Onetahuti Bay where 100’s of kayakers are setting out for some coastal kayaking.  It’s a beautiful sight.

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Me at Onetahuti Bay

From Onetahuti Bay you walk along the entire stretch of the beach before heading back into the forested area.

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This was my first encounter with a “Weka”.  I hadn’t seen one before and didn’t want to startle him so kept my distance.  Turns out they are very popular birds in the area, and obviously of no harm to humans!

At this point on the trip I unfortunately started to get a blister!  The pain was tremendous and huge blisters were growing around my pinky toe.  I had to do a few minor surgeries on the side of the trail at this point.  Let’s just say I was glad to have a well stocked first aid kit- and you should have one too!  After travelling through more of a forested area you started to get some beautiful glimpses of the Awaroa beach area below- which is where you will have to do the biggest tidal crossing of the trek, and it is imperative you time this one correctly because there is no alternative high tide cross track.

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I took off my shoes and enjoyed some fresh water on the crazy blisters on my feet!  This tide crossing was neat because there were tons of little crabs in the water around my feet.  Also, as I was crossing I suddenly ended up with cell reception and was able to make a phone call to my mom on her birthday!  From the middle of nowhere!

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After the tidal crossing was a great time to have some lunch, and dry off before the last portion of the trek which involved a steady beach walk, as well as what felt like a massive climb to the top of a mountain just to go right back down before reaching my campsite at Totoranui.  Totoranui is a huge campground where people come in to camp for a few nights out of their vehicles.  There must be a 1000 campsites in this one spot!  The Abel Tasman hikers have one reserved area right close to the beach and it’s a nice grassy area to pop up our tents.  This beach was beautiful and it was a perfect spot to lounge for the rest of the day.

Day #3:  Totoranui to Mutton Cove 

The next morning when I woke up I discovered that there was a little store open where the campground employees worked and they were selling snacks and drinks!  At this point after hiking 45 km’s in 2 days I was super excited to have a little extra treat.  I devoured a few cans of peaches and a chocolate bar, but even more exciting is I found a really awesome book to keep me company during my lounging beach morning.  This day was devoted to hanging out and enjoying the beach- as I knew I only had a bit of a trek to get to my final campsite that night. I would suggest budgeting some time at this beach for sure.  Once the afternoon rolled around and I had lazed on the beach and gone for a few swims it was time to start the 7 km trek to mutton cove.  It was a relatively simple hike, minus the landslide crossing!

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Mutton cove was definitely the most beautiful campsite I stayed at.

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Looking down at a few campers walking along the beach.  To the left of them is where all the tents are set up for the campsite.

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Day #3:  Mutton Cove circle back to Totoranui via the Gibbs Hill Track

This was a bit of an unusual trek, and is definitely not the most common ending for anyone finishing the Abel Tasman Trek.  It was about a 12 km trek, and I am not sure how long it took as I didn’t record it in my log!  Normally hikers would finish in Wanui car park, yet what I did was circle back through the Gibbs Hill track and finished back in Totoranui.  This was definitely the most strenuous part of the trek.  After wandering past Whariwarangi Bay hut there is a steady steep descent (about 400 m elevation gain) before heading back down.  I was the only person up high on the cliff edge wandering along this trail.  It was surreal, and a little bit freaky!  Also there were plenty of bugs and bees and overgrowth along this part of the trail, but it did make for some beautiful pictures.

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After descending the 400 m’s or so that I just climbed I ended up back in Torantui and waited along the beach for my Marahau Abel Tasman Water taxi.   It was a fun ride back to Marahau along the coastline reflecting on the hiking over the past 4 days.  Before retuning on the bus back to Nelson I made sure to stop in at a delicious cafe they have close to the track exit and chow down on a well deserved whole food meal!

In total I hiked about 65 km’s in 3.5 days.  It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to travel back to New Zealand to try some of their other great walks- including the Milford Sound trek.

Some logistical notes

If you are reading this as someone interested in hiking the Abel Tasman, here are a few details about the logistics on getting set up on the track.

  1.  I started my trek by staying the night at a hostel in Nelson.  I stayed at the Paradiso backpackers, and they were able to store my luggage while I hiked the trail.  Just a note- the luggage storage was one small closet with suitcases crammed on top of each other almost right to the ceiling, so if you are high maintenance with your belongings this isn’t a good bet for you.
  2. To get to the trail I booked with the Abel Tasman Coachlines  who picked me up from the hostel and drove me to the Abel Tasman Marahau Aqua Taxi location.  I was booked to finish my trek by taking an Aqua taxi back down the coastline, and needed to stop in before I started my trek to pick up my ticket.  After getting my ticket I walked about a km down the road to start the hike.  I believe the coachline could also just drop you off at the start of the trek.  I started my hike in Marahau.
  3. Make sure you book all your campsites in advance (from the link I posted above).  In some cases the campsites were full and I was happy to have reservations.  At one of my campgrounds they even came around and checked to ensure I had my pass with me, also while hiking along the trail I was asked to show my camping permits.
  4. I rented all of my gear from a local shop in Nelson called Rollos Outdoor Centre.  I reserved the gear I needed in advance by contacting them via e-mail.  I showed up the day before my hike to pick it all up and purchase a few things I couldn’t rent (gas for the mini stove etc.).  The prices were reasonable, and it made sense just to rent the gear rather than lugging it around the whole country for 4 weeks!
  5.   I brought wilderness soap, plastic ziplog bags, and a clothesline and was very happy to be able to wash out my stinky hiking clothes each day!
  6.   Be prepared for blisters, bring some kind of antibiotic cream, lots of bandaids, and whatever other blister reminders you have that work for you!
  7. There are tons of people along the trail, you never really feel alone and there are plenty of chances for good conversation, and people willing to lend a hand if you need anything.

Most of all- Have fun 🙂

Some more photos for you:

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My pack for the trip!  So important to have a comfortable bag for you, as well as a pair of sandals for once you are finished hiking for the day.

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