The Abel Tasman Inland Track often goes unobserved and is definitely the trail less travelled. Once you’ve explored the Abel Tasman coastline and picked your favourite beach to return to time after time, the call of somewhere new and undiscovered, even if it’s also on your doorstep, isn’t exactly deafening!
The Inland Track often gets a bad rep because of the excessive walking in the thick bush without many breaks. I’ve heard many tales of long slogs uphill without rewarding views. One mate even said they got so bored they turned it from a three day tramp into a one and a half day hike. So it was no wonder that I had minimal expectations and had not gotten around to visiting any of the inland huts, nor it’s trails, until my second summer in the park.
A relatively easy, accessible trip to Awapoto hut (3 hours) provides a fun, mini-adventure to escape on. I was stoked that it was a bluebird day and the promise of panoramic sea views called. Even the drive to the trailhead was a scenic tour in itself. A steep start for over an hour or so is eventually rewarded with a clearing in the bush. On a sunny day down below the sea glints as it stretches out vast before you. Along this open stretch of trail you are spoilt for choice as you look to Wainui Inlet in one direction and then across towards Awaroa in the other. The hut itself has a gorgeous veranda; the ideal spot for a morning coffee as you watch the sunrise out to sea. It also has one of the most scenic views from a loo that I have ever come across.
If you don’t fancy an overnight trip and such a long drive, then stop near the top of Takaka hill and go for an explore around Canaan Downs. For those that don’t mind walking back the same way they have already walked, the hike to Wainui Saddle is a refreshing day hike through an open hilltop and then along a refreshing trail through the bush. You can wander up to a lookout view right at the top, a one minute detour from the main track. This would make a great trail run. If you wished to push on further you could head to Moa Shelter, although a good key point on the trail to aim for, is not really a destination in its own right.
If you wanted to get really creative and carry on further, you could do a shuttle or get some mates to drop you off at Canaan and do an overnight trip. Hike into Castle Rock hut over Wainui saddle and then down, down, down the next day to join back up to the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This is a good option for those who don’t like uphill hikes or simply want to try out a different tramp. If you are still feeling fresh in the morning before departing Castle Rock Hut, wake up early to catch the sunrise over Marahau Valley and Tasman Bay from the granite outcrops – the real castle rocks.
As you can see, the inland track has lots of options on offer for those itching to explore some less visited huts and go deeper into the Abel Tasman National Park and see it from a new angle. It definitely fueled my appreciation for the area!