The Abel Tasman Village with rural village charm.
While Marahau is the closest access point to the start of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, it is also a charming rural village that is well worth a visit in its own right.
Located right at the southern entrance to the Coastal Track, Marahau is also known as The Abel Tasman Village. Most visitors chose Marahau as the launch-point for their excursions into the national park because it is located at the entrance to the Park and also because it is where most of the commercial water transport and activity operators are based.
Entrance to the Park
If you accessing the Park on foot, the entrance to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track is located at the northern end of Marahau, where there is also a large Department of Conservation carpark.
Marahau is also the departure point for those accessing the Park by water taxis and kayaking trips. Because Marahau has one of the largest tidal ranges in New Zealand, and the bay out from Marahau is shallow, the water recedes a long way during low tides. This means water taxi trips start on dry land with the boat still on its trailer which is coupled to a tractor. With you onboard, the tractor will then tow the boat to waterline before being launched into the water. This is a rather unique and fun way to start your trip.
If you’re travelling into the Park via kayak, you’ll first go through your safety briefing and do your other trip prep at the kayaking base in Marahau. Then you’ll either be taken down to the waterline in a van or walk across the sand flats to launch your kayak.
The Abel Tasman Village website has listings and contact details for almost every commercial operator in Marahau.
Colourful traditional holiday baches line the Marahau foreshore exuding a real sense of traditional Kiwi summers of the past. You can feel yourself relax as you approach the village beside the Otuwhero Inlet and then turn along the waterfront to reveal the view across to the islands in the Astrolabe Roadstead
Marahau means ‘windy garden’ in Maori, suggesting it was the site for the growing of crops well before any European settlers showed up. In the not too distant past tobacco was grown in Marahau, back before it developed into the village community is is today. A big part of Marahau’s charm is that it has never been over-developed. It is not glitzy, tacky of ostentatious. Instead, Marahau has successfully maintained its laidback, authentic village vibe while also being full of fun and energy. Marahau is an authentic rural village with its year-round community of farmers, artisans and tourism operators. With a backdrop of farmland, forestry and lush native bush, Marahau is paradise without the crowds or fussiness you will encounter in some of the more commercialised visitor hotspots.
Marahau is one of the places where local residents from Riwaka, Motueka and beyond take their families and visitors to for a day at the beach. Marahau has two long sweeping beaches that provide safe swimming even for young family members.
The first beach you come to when entering Marahau is at the southern end of the village. Referred to as ‘the sandspit end’ by the locals, this spot has a lovely beach on one side and a sandy estuary of the other side. If you wander to the end of the sandspit where the water flows into the estuary when the tide comes in, you’ll probably have the place to yourself, even during the summer peak season.
The beach at the northern end of Marahau, opposite the Outdoor Education Centre, is the ‘main beach’, a long golden cove perfect for relaxing on. Marahau has one of the largest tidal ranges in New Zealand so the tide recedes out a long way revealing rutted sand flats and small tidal pools. This means the foreshore is changing constantly, and along with the constant flow of kayakers and other watercraft, there is always something interesting to look at.
When in Marahau you might see people carrying buckets out at the low tide mark. These people will appear to be engaging in a strange dance as they wiggle their toes around in the sand before bending down to retrieve something. These people will be collecting shellfish, Tuatua and Cockles, which you locate by wiggling your toes in the sand until you feel something hard.
For people from the surrounding district, Marahau is a dining destination in its own right with some of the best dining options in the whole area, all of which are open during the peak visitor season from October to April each year.
Hooked is the café, restaurant and beer garden located right on the Marahau waterfront with wonderful views down the Astrolabe Roadstead in the southern section of the Abel Tasman. Hooked serves the best local fare they can lay their hands on along with a great selection of local craft beers and wines. The sunny beer garden is place to head for the happy hour that runs every day from 4 to 6 every afternoon. This is where water taxi drivers, kayak guides and other locals mix with visitors, often sharing stories about the day’s adventures in the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Park Café is located right at the start of the Coastal Track so is the perfect spot to stop when entering or leaving the park for a coffee, beer or café meal. The Park Café also has legendary open mic nights on Thursdays where you will encounter many of the colourful local characters that make Marahau such a special place.
Further along the road a few hundred meters, the Fat Tui makes the best gourmet burgers in the known universe. These burgers are so good that locals from throughout the surrounding area will travel to Marahau just to get their fix. You will find burger places around New Zealand with bigger reputations, but you won’t find any that are better than the Fat Tui. Trust me on this one, my research on this topic has been extensive, comprehensive and is still being carried out for scientific purposes.
Because most of the land in and around Marahau is farmland, you will often see horses grazing in the paddocks before you reach Marahau, and even in the middle of the village.
Marahau also contains a lot of beach area, particularly during low tides. Both of these factors provide the perfect environment for horse treks.
Horse trekking has been as an organised activity has been in Marahau for many years, being run by small family businesses that just love to share their passion. If you’ve never ridden a horse across a golden-sand beach, then Marahau is the perfect place to do so!