Abel Tasman was the first European to land on the islands now known as New Zealand. He sailed in 1642-1643, and according to the Dutch East India Company who sent him, his voyages were unsuccessful: he found no new shipping routes nor any promising area of new trade. His name, however, is everywhere (Tasmania, Tasman Sea, Tasman Glacier…). Our first stop on New Zealand’s south island was exploring gorgeous Abel Tasman National Park.
When I began looking into visiting, it seems Abel Tasman has cornered the market on gorgeous coastal walking tracks. Everywhere I turned, I heard about how amazing Abel Tasman was. What makes it so beautiful? The golden beaches and clear, teal water. It’s just a coastal color combination that you don’t quite get anywhere else.
We took the first water taxi of the day (booked the previous day) from Marahau, the end of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, to Bark Bay to begin our 24km (15 mile) trek back to our car. You can explore most of Abel Tasman over a 2-3 day tramp, but since we left our camping equipment back in the states, we decided to see as much as we could in one day.
Thinking the one hour water taxi ride was simply a means to get us to our destination, we were happy to find our skipper took the time to show us some sights, too. First, he pulled us up close to Split Apple Rock, a famous granite formation for obvious reasons.
He also pulled up close enough to nearby Adele Island for us to see some native New Zealand fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks. These little guys were hunted almost to extinction by early settlers but their population has bounced back a bit since the 1800s.
To get off the water taxi, we had to take off our shoes; it couldn’t get us close enough to the sandbar to keep our feet wet. We put our shoes back on and headed down the trail, treated instantly to some great views.
After a few hours, we reached Torrent Bay, and hiked right along the beach.
Just beyond Torrent Bay, we could take the low-tide track and save ourselves an hour’s walk up to the high-tide track. Seeing as the timing was right, we opted for the low-tide track.
That doesn’t mean it was easy. Low tide means you can walk across the water, up to your knees in places, to cross to the other side. At first I was excited to take my shoes off and cool my tired feet, but then I realized the crossing was nothing but a blanket of broken shells and hermit crabs. Doable. But not fun.
The walk continued rolling up and down and winding around each mountain curve. Smells of leather and cumin curiously curled around us in the forest. It was pleasant and easy, which is good because 15 miles is a long way to walk. We saw some incredible views and enjoyed being in the native bush after being in the city a few days before.
After every hike in New Zealand, there seems to be at least one little cafe near the carpark offering sustenance and refreshment for weary trampers. We happily treated ourselves to some local beers after ripping our shoes off and downing our water. It seems everyone is always barefoot in New Zealand, so we fit right in.