There is an endless and often bewildering array of options for your trip in the Abel Tasman. There are roughly a million walking trip options, kayaking options, guided kayaking trips, combinations of walking and kayaking, half-day, full-day and multi-day trips…. and if you’re anything like me, you don’t go on holiday in search of bewilderment.
So, what is the most popular trip in the Abel Tasman? It’s the classic one-way water taxi trip from Marahau to Anchorage followed by the walk back to Marahau along the Coastal Track. At around $40 for a full-day trip per person you’ll be hard pressed to find another activity anywhere else in the known universe that is better value for money.
The trip starts when you board a morning water taxi in Marahau, the Abel Tasman Village. You’ll find yourself climbing aboard a water taxi while it is still on dry land and coupled to a tractor. Without any fuss you will be on your way along the road and towards the Marahau boat ramp at the southern end of the village. Once your water taxi slides off its trailer into the water the boat will head south and away from the Abel Tasman National Park. This is because the first point of call is a quick visit to what is probably the most photographed rock in New Zealand; Split Apple Rock, or Tokangawhā in Māori. Your water taxi skipper may attempt to convince you of all manner of nonsense about how this apple-shaped ball of granite came to be split in half. These myths and stories may include references to how Chuck Norris used his kung fu skills to split the rock, that Tokangawhā is actually Māori for Pacman or that the rock is a polystyrene prop left over from the filming of the Lord of the Rings. (The rock was actually split in two during a disagreement between Tāne Mahuta, god of the forests and birds and his brother, Tangaroa, god of the seas.) Your skipper will also point out the Shags/Cormorants roosting in the trees and may refer to them as ‘Tree Penguins’ in another attempt to lead you astray.
The water taxi will then head back towards the north and into the Abel Tasman. Your next port of call is likely to be the northern tip of Adele, the larger of the two islands in the Astrolabe Roadstead. There is a colony of NZ Fur Seals off Adele’s northern tip where, in autumn and winter, there are likely to be curious and playful seal pups floricking about in and out of the water.
After cruising past a succession of crescent-shaped beaches the boat will round a rocky headland called Pitt Head and into the shettled bay called The Anchorage – so named because it is sheltered by headlands to the south and north making it the perfect place for yauties to anchorage their vessels.
You will get off the water taxi here directly onto the Anchorage beach, behind which is the DOC campsite, hut and toilets. Your boat skipper will have pointed out the orange triangle marked sign in the middle of the beach where the Coastal Track will take you back to Marahau. While you could take a track to the south of the beach over to check out Te Pukatea Bay (40 minutes return) or head around the Torrent Bay estuary to visit Cleopatra’s Pool, but most people head south directly.
Now, I’m not going to kid you here: There is a sharp ascent from the beach to the top of the ridge line where you meet up with the Coastal Track. I don’t care if you represented Norway at the 1984 Olympic Games, this little hill will knock some of the puff clean out of you. But once you’re at the top you’ll get one of the best elevated views in the whole Park. Take comfort in the fact this is the only proper hill you will climb today as the rest of the walk undulates only gently.
From this high point above Anchorage and Torrent Bay directly to the north you’re a short distance from where you’ll meet the Coastal Track. Follow the signs left towards Marahau. The track takes you past a succession of beaches that are a short detour from the main track. Visit as many of these beaches as you’ve got time for as they all have they individual charms and characteristics. Apple Tree Bay is a personal favourite.
The entire walk from Anchorage to Marahau is 12-13km and takes most people 3 to 4 hours, but this depends on how many swims you have en route and whether you’ve retained any of that fitness from your glory days in the Norwegan cross country team. Whatever walking pace you settle into you will encounter a series of stunning elevated views of the beaches below the track and across to the islands in the Astrolabe.
You’ll know you’re back in Marahau when you encounter the wooden walkways across the sand-flats to the main DOC carpark. Keep walking along the track beside the road and you’ll be back at the water taxi base where it all began that morning.
Blog by Brendan Alborn
Owner Operator – Alborn Enterprises
Brendan has a 20 year 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.