Thinking of planning an Abel Tasman day trip?
Imagine this: golden sand beaches, lush native forests and crystal clear waters – the perfect adventure setting for a walk from Anchorage to Bark Bay. This is one of the most popular sections of the Abel Tasman National Park for day walkers and kayakers and one of the most varied Abel Tasman day trips.
Bark Bay is a lovely sweeping bay with rocky headlines at both ends and a tidal estuary behind the main beach. Bark Bay’s northern point is where the Tonga Island Marine Reserve starts, stretching to Awaroa Heads up to the north. However, you’ll be heading back to the south on this walk, past a relatively new addition to Bark Bay, a pou whenua keeping a watchful eye over the bay from that southern end.
Bark Bay to Anchorage
Bark Bay to Torrent Bay
Distance & Walk time: 7.8 km – 2 to 3 hours
Torrent Bay to Anchorage
High Tide Distance & Walk time: 4 km – 1 to 1.5 hours
Low Tide Distance & Walk time: 0.9 km – 20 mins
Activity Level: Intermediate
Side Trips: Medlands Beach, Sandfly Bay and Cleopatra’s Pool.
The first part of the track sidles a large slip caused by a weather event a few years back, but it is not difficult to navigate. When the trail rejoins the original route on the Coast Track you’ll pope out just past Medlands Beach, which you can access a very short distance back towards Bark Bay. Medlands is worth a look as it offers a lovely elevated view that makes for a good photo. A short time after you start your walk back to the south, you’ll find a track down to the left providing access to Sandfly Bay. You’ll need to scramble over some boulders to get to the beach, but Sandfly is another little gem of a bay with a large tidal estuary that is also where the Falls River flows into the sea.
Back on the Coast Track the trail is only slightly undulating, through some thick, mature native bush and before too long you’ll reach the Falls River Swing Bridge. The views down Falls River back down to Sandfly Bay are postcard perfect and are often many shades of green. Once you’ve soaked in the view you’ll want to brace yourself for a climb from the swing bridge up to the ridgeline. I don’t care how fit you are, this seemingly never-ending series of switchback corners will result in some grunting and potentially some gnashing of teeth. It’s one of the sharpest, nastiest climbs on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, but like all things, it does end. The trick is finding the end with your sense of humour still intact.
The walk along the ridgeline is relatively flat and it provides a wonderful view down to Frenchman Bay before you eventually arrive at a high point overlooking Torrent Bay. Torrent has the largest collection of private holiday homes in the Abel Tasman. You’ll walk through the little village and will need to ensure you stick to the public pathways or you’ll risk incurring the wrath of the property owners who, understandably, won’t want you using the decks of their holiday homes for your picnic. Instead, head straight to the beach where you’ll see Balloon Rock to the right and Pitt Head plus Anchorage across the bay to the North.
The Coast Track starts again at the southern end of Torrent Bay village which is where you’ll find the tidal estuary. This estuary is the reason for the large variance of walking times and distance as those times are completely dependent on the status of the tide. If the tide is low it’s possible to simply walk across the estuary to Anchorage, and that only takes about 20 minutes. However, if the tide is high when you reach Torrent Bay you need to walk right around the estuary, climb to the top of the ridge and then drop back down to Anchorage. The longer, high tide route might sound like hard work, but the walk around the estuary is one of the most underrated sections of the coastal track. The views across the estuary from the track are lovely, and at about the midpoint of the estuary walk you have the option to take the short side track to Cleopatra’s Pool, a wonderful freshwater swimming spot with a natural rock waterslide.
Anchorage is a long crescent shaped beach with a DOC hut and popular camping ground. The Abel Tasman AquaTaxi pick up point is directly in front of the steps that lead up to the hut and camping ground.
Here's a few day trip suggestions that get you right into the heart of the park!
Words by Brendan Alborn
Brendan has a long association with the Abel Tasman, visiting it for the first time when his parents moved to Marahau in 1997. After spending much of his life overseas, Brendan and his family moved to the area at the end of 2010. When Brendan is not spending his time in the outdoors he seems to spend much of his time creating even flimsier justifications for spending more time in the outdoors.