The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is a 55km, 3-5 day walk around the coast of the gorgeous Abel Tasman National Park, and is the most popular Great Walk by some margin. This is primarily as there are endless day trippers, taking advantage of water taxis to start anywhere along the track, which does rather spoil the tranquility but it is still a beautiful place. There are countless beaches and coves, with great swimming opportunities.
Most people start from Marahau, the end of the road, or are dropped off on the track by water taxi from Kaiteriteri. Thankfully the water taxis don’t go beyond Totaranui so the final and possibly most scenic section to Wainui is relatively quiet.
As a bit of a challenge I did the track in an energetic day and a half rather than the 3-5 days recommended. Didn’t leave time for swimming but did set a PB by covering 36km in one day. Thankfully Awaroa Hut was the only hut I’ve stayed at that has a shower. Also unexpected was that my neighbour in the bunk room was a friend of mine from Auckland. New Zealand can be a very small place!
You need to carefully time crossing the Awaroa Inlet to catch the tide right, check the times before you leave. It’s never completely dry though so you’ll need to take your boots off and do a bit of wading. There are a couple more tidal sections (Torrent Bay, Bark Bay) but there are track detours if you miss the tides (as I did).
Worth noting that though the track is never more than 200m above sea level (compared with 1,000m plus for more of the other Great Walks), there are a lot of hills, and they are steep. There are also far more buildings than one would expect in a national park, a legacy of it being created relatively recently (1942), from the generous donations of many private land owners. My favourite building was the historic Whariwharangi Hut. Would have been a great place to spend the night.
My favourite section was the final downhill stretch to Wainui, both for the views, and the sense of relief of making in time for my transport back to Nelson.
Highlights: Vast beach at Onetahuti Bay, crossing the Awaroa river at sunrise, cold water showers at Awaroa Hut
Lowlights: Number of people on the track, number of baches including an entire village at Torrent Bay, few sand flies at dawn and dusk
Route taken: One night, started at Marahau and staying at Awaroa Hut and finishing at Wainui Bay, crazy 36km first day, really should be done over 3-4 days
Tips: Bring your togs as plenty of great places to swim, start on track early to avoid the day walkers, check the tides for Awaroa to be able to cross, and just past Anchorage (only new hut on track) there is a short cut at low tide