Abel Tasman on a shoe string
Activities in the Abel Tasman are among the best value for money to be found in New Zealand.
Walking is free!
I’ve got two young kids so am always looking for activities that don’t need to be funded through the sale of my non-vital organs.
The cheapest way to access the Abel Tasman National Park is by foot. In fact, you won’t pay a bean to enter the Park providing you can find your way to Marahau at the start of the Coastal Track. From there, you simply walk into the Park for as far as you want to.
The first part of the track offers some nice views back towards Marahau and right across Tasman Bay as you walk north. If you don’t go in for a lot of walking, or have kids who don’t walk very far without bribes of chocolate or a shot of adrenalin, you can stop along the way at one of the small beaches beside the track. Porters Beach is the first one you will encounter.
About 2km into the track you will find Stu’s Lookout on your right hand side. It’s on the knob of land that provides an elevated 180-degree view. It even has a bench seat where you sit back and enjoy some Abel Tasman-style serenity. Keep walking for another 10 minutes or so and you’ll come to the Tinline clearing which has a toilet, fresh water and a camping site. Right at Tinline there is also a short nature walk that runs away from the coast into the bush a short way. The native bush here is surprisingly dense and the track is slightly more rugged, so it provides a nice contrast to the well-formed Coastal Track you have just covered. If you want a serious endorphin hit, then Tinline is where you can access the Inland Track. This is a reasonably serious uphill track but there are great views once you gain some elevation.
Tinline is the first camping spot in the Park. You can pitch a tent and camp the night provided you’ve booked and paid in advance. This will set you back a grand total of $15 if you’re an adult, or nothing if you are under 18 years old. Even if you are under 18, you still need to book your site here: https://booking.doc.govt.nz/.
Continuing north along the track there is small climb out of Tinline to another elevated spot with good views back towards the south. A short distance further along is the trail down to Coquille Bay, a rather nice little beach and camp site. This is the first beach that will have deep water even at low tide, making it an ideal spot for picnics, swimming or just lying on the beach.
Apple Tree Bay is the next beach accessible from the track. This is a longer beach with a private bach at the southern end.
The next beaches along the track are Stillwell, Akersten and Watering Cover, all of which are small and have their own unique charms. You can walk for as long as you like and then turn around head back to Marahau.
One way water taxi rides
If retracing your steps doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, you can catch a water taxi from Marahau to The Anchorage. That’s about a 45 minute ride on a water taxi and will set you back $35 per person, half price for kids 14 and under and free for kids under 5. This is inclusive of the Department of Conservation charges to access the Park via a commercial operator.
Once you get dropped off at The Anchorage you have two awesome options for side trips. If you walk north, around the estuary towards Torrent Bay you will come to a side track that leads to Cleopatra’s Pool. This is a stunning little fresh water swimming hole that has a completely natural rock water slide. Once you’ve cooled off, the walk back to Marahau is about 4 hours.
The other side trip option is a short 20 minute walk from the Anchorage to Te Pukatea Bay Beach. This is my favourite beach in the entire Park. It’s the classic golden sand, crescent shaped beach ringed with lush native bush. There is also a loop track that takes you back to Anchorage via Pitt Head. This will take you about an hour and is really rewarding with an elevated view of Te Pukatea and once you’re on the northern side of Pitt Head, across to The Anchorage and further north to Torrent Bay. Once you’re back at The Anchorage you’re about 13 km, or a three to four hour walk from Marahau.
Kayaking is cheap!
If you fancy some kayaking, the freedom rental prices are incredibly cheap when compared to every other activity in New Zealand. For about $70 per person you get a full safety briefing and advice on how and where to kayak, a double sea kayak for the day and all of the gear you need to stay comfortable and safe on the water. If you can find a better value adventure in New Zealand I would to hear about it!
Cheap Eats & Rehydration
If you are visiting during the summer months (Oct to April) then you will be able to get yourself a burger from arguably New Zealand’s finest gourmet burger cart, The Fat Tui. That’s about 300m past the entrance to the Park in Marahau. The burgers are huge so one burger can be split between two people without anybody finishing up hungry. The other great value deal to be found in Marahau is the daily happy hour at Hooked, the café right on the Marahau waterfront. The happy hour runs each day from 4:00PM to 6:00PM. A handle of local craft beer or a glass of decent local wine will only set you back $5.00.