If you like tree roots and a good workout, but aren’t too interested in views, then this is the track for you. The Inland Track is a 41km 2-3 day tramp through the middle of Abel Tasman National Park, starting and ending at the same places as the much more well-known Coastal Track (one of the nine Great Walks in New Zealand). Rather than hug the coast it heads up and over the Tasman Mountains, a more direct but tougher route.
It is far less busy than the Coastal Track, even at the start of December I saw no one on the track in ten hours of walking, and only a couple of people at the huts. This is for two good reasons though. Firstly it’s much harder, despite being 14km shorter, the track climbs over 1,000m compared with about 200m on the Coastal Track, and the path mainly consists of tree roots and mud. Secondly it’s nowhere near as scenic, with few views other than at the start and end when on sections of the Coastal Track.
I started the track from Marahau, less than two hours by bus from Nelson, and shared the Coastal Track for the first half an hour around Tinline Bay. It’s obvious when you start the Inland Track itself as the path halves in width and heads up hill continuously for the next 5.8km, with the occasional stunning view back reminding yourself of why you’re doing this. Unfortunately there weren’t many more of these views for the next eleven hours…
The Holyoake Clearing shelter made a good lunch stop and there’s a couple of mattresses inside so you could stay the night. I had much further to go though before being able to sleep, further than I really appreciated at the time.
The 6.6km to Castle Rocks was far harder, with gnarly tree roots everywhere and zero views other than endless bush. There was a small obstacle soon after leaving the shelter in the form of a massive tree truck across the track requiring a bit of scrambling around.
Castle Rocks Hut was the perfect place for a much needed rest, set in a nice clearing, and small but tidy inside. Had to force myself on though as had another 13km to go and it was already 4pm.
Comments in the hut visitor book recommended the side trip to Porters Rock, which did help me get my bearings and appreciate the scale of the forest around me.
As did a viewpoint a bit further along the track.
Moa Park shelter was an old school hut set in a brief respite from bush, though the interior had clearly seen better days.
Got to this sign by 6pm as I headed toward Awapoto Hut, had already been a long day by this point…
Between here and the hut was a huge amount of devastation from numerous storms over the years, resulting in endless felled trees, despite their enormous roots.
Awapoto Hut was a very welcome sight at 8.30pm before the sun set. The toilet block had interesting surroundings!
I wasn’t in the hut for long though as had a 5.45am start the next day to finish the track. The 5km to Pigeon Saddle was mostly more scrambling up and down tree root covered hillside, though there were some welcome views.
The final 8km stretch to Wainui was far easier thankfully, mainly as it rejoined the Coastal Walk track just after Gibbs Hill. The hill offered panoramic views, but better were had heading down toward Wainui, where an early lunch at 11am and a three hour bus journey to Nelson airport beckoned.
There were as impressive views from the bus than the track, as it headed over Takaka Hill.
The Inland Track is certainly a good workout, particularly pushing yourself to do it in two rather than three days, but it was the least interesting of the eleven multi day tramps I’ve done so far (Great Walks, Tongariro Around the Mountain and Great Barrier Island). The Coastal Track shows Abel Tasman National Park at it’s best, just try and avoid doing it over the summer months when it’s swarming with people.