Updated: Feb 23
Our first family multi day hike was spent exploring the stunning bush and white sandy beaches of the Abel Tasman, we want to share our journey and all the things we learnt along the way with you.
Abel Tasman is one of NZ's Great Walks, it is a 60km track (one way) located in the Nelson/Tasman region.
It is a well posted costal track that weaves you thorough lush NZ native bush and along beautiful golden sand costal beaches, although there are a few steep hills this track is amazing for young families to complete.
You can compete the track in sections doing day walks, tramp the whole track taking approx 5-6 days or just do smaller sections of the track at a time.
It is also an amazing place to Kayak the coast along the track, or sail up the coast as well.
The most common part to walk is Marahau to Totaranui over 3 or 4 days, this is the section that we did with the kids. We will go back and do the top section (Totaranui to Wainui) as another adventure.
The easiest way to get there is just to drive to Marahau, about an hour out of Nelson, there is plenty of parking options for your car while you stay. You can also get a bus during the busy season from Nelson to Marahau as well.
TRANSPORT AROUND THE TRACK
Because the track is not a loop track, you will need to transport your self either back to the start after you finish or up to one of the bays you are choosing to start your walk from. The easiest way (and fun way) to do this is via a water taxi, there are several companies who run water taxis in the national park. We personally used Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi who I would highly recommend, they have smaller boats that can take you in an out of the little bays and channels.
Outside of the water taxis there are a few buses that can drive you to and from Marahau and Totaranui, although we did not do the top end of the track (Whariwhangi Waini area) it is my understanding it is a little harder to find transport around this area. A lot of people loop back down to Totaranui via the inland track from Whariwhangi over Gibbs hill tack, this is not part of the great walk track but will get you back to Totaranui where you can catch a water taxi or bus from.
ACCOMODATION ON THE TRACK
There are several options for accommodation on the track, ranging from tent sights right up to private lodges.
On the map above or via the DOC website you can see a list of all of the great walk huts, campsites or scenic campsites. During our stay we choice to stay at the great walk campsites, these are well services sights which include toilets and sheltered cooling facilities, also most importantly for us they also offered water.
All of these DOC huts and campsites MUST be booked in advanced all year round, all of these have a DOC ranger checking to make sure you have booked and paid.
Other options for accommodation are private lodges or accommodation, a lot of the bigger bays has several private facilities you can book, company's like Wilsons or Abel Tasman Guides offer fully guided or unguided packages along with lodge accommodation. Other wise you can search for accommodation on places like Airbnb or Booking.com, I would definitely like to go back one day and do it again with a bit more luxury.
There are 3 tidal crossings on the track, one between Awaroa and Totaranui, another across to Bark Bay and the third between Torrent bay and Anchorage. The crossing between Awaroa and Totaranui is the only one where there is no alternative track, you have to cross here so it is very important to make sure you line it up with the tides before you start walking.
The other one to Bark bay and between Torrent bay and Anchorage there is an alternative high tide path, so you can use that if you miss the tide.
Also very important is to take some water shoes with you so you do not get your boots wet, you do not want to be crossing in bare feet as there is a lot of shells you could cut your feet on.
So now that we have that all covered, let me fill you in on our adventure to the Abel Tasman as a family, with our 8 year old daughter, 9 year old son and our 13 year old niece and her mum also joined us.
After reading up a bit on the track and the tidal crossings, we made the decision to do the walk over 4 days, 3 nights, We water taxi up to Totaranui and walked out to Marahau. Our thoughts behind doing it this way was because we did not want to be stressing or rushing to meet the tidal crossing between Awaroa and Totranui on our last day of the walk especially with tired kids also adding to the stress of having to make sure we meet our boat pick up time as well. So we decided to tackle that part on the first day catching a taxi up to match with the tides and then carry on walking with no worries or time frames.
Photo: Meika (8yr) and Marcus (9yr) under the arch at the start of the track in Marahau.
Day One; Totaranui to Awaroa - 2hrs, 7km
We started day one with a two hour drive from where we live in Rai Valley to Marahau then followed by a two hour boat ride from Marahau up to Totaranui bay.
We used Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi not only do these guys store your vehicle for you but they are a certified zero carbon business. The amazing boat driver gave us a we scenic tour along the way, firstly dropping down to see split apple rock then stopping in to different inlets along the way. We even see the seal colony and stopped to watch a huge pod of dolphins pass on bay along the way as well.
Once we reached Totaranui we had lunch then started off on the short 2hr walk to Awaroa bay for the night. Knowing we only had to do a short 2hr walk that day we made the most of the incredible views and beautiful beaches along the way, stopping to take in the views with plenty of photo opportunity's. This stretch of the track was an easy walk with not to many large uphill's, you pass on by Goat bay and Waiharakeke bay along the way.
When we reached the spot where you cross the inlet over to Awaroa bay we had to wait for about 30min for the tide to go out just a bit more so the kids could cross with our getting there packs wet. Luckily there was a toilet there and lots of places for the kids to explore and play while we waited.
After crossing the inlet we made our way past the DOC hut (26 bunks) and up to the campsite (36 campers) and set up for the night.
The Awaroa campsite has neat wee nocks and areas to pitch your tents in, giving you a bit of privacy from other people although on the night we stayed there was only two other tents there. It also has a clothes line, a block of flushing toilets and a sheltered kitchen area with the added benefit of some filtered drinking water!!
We sorted out our camp site, cooked some dinner, then headed off to explore the inlet a bit checking out the beautiful beach and walking past the nesting area in the sand dunes for what I believe was the Pateke/Brown Teal. It was definitely and awesome end to our first day on the track.
Day Two; Awaroa to Bark Bay - 4hrs 30min 13.5km
Day two started with a steep climb out of Awaroa camp site to the top of the hill where you could look down to Awaroa beach, there is also a side track down to Awaroa lodge were you can buy coffee and woodfire pizza!
We decided not to walk down the hill to check it out as we didn't want to walk back up to the track with our heavy packs on.
After winding down from the top of the hill through some stunning native bush we came out to the boardwalk leading in to Onetahuti bay, crossing the board walk and walking up the beach we stopped at Onetahuti camp site (40 campers) which only took us about 2hrs from Awaroa.
If you had wanted to walk a bit further on day one this would have made a great wee camp spot alternative to Awaroa, approximately 4hrs 30min from Totaranui.
We decided to stop here for lunch and a swim, the camp spot is right by the beach and you can look out over to the ocean from the kitchen shelter.
There is also a flushing toilet here and again filtered drinking water as well.
Just a short 5min stroll up behind the camp site there is Onetahuti pool - a very cute wee waterfall with a shallow pool of water at the bottom of it. Despite it been freezing cold our kids decided to take a wee dip under the waterfall, in the summer I could imagine this would be amazing after a long hot day walking on the track.
After lunch and a swim we headed off again to make our way to Bark Bay, we headed up a small hill dropping down into Tonga Quarry checking out the old stone works sight.
Then carrying on up over the hill and making our way way to the inlet to Bark bay. There is a high tide track up around the inlet which only takes 15-20min but we decided since it was almost low tide we would just take our boots off and walk over the inlet.
Bark bay would have to be my most memorable stop on our trip, we pitched our tents at the DOC campsite (80 campers) which is out on a beautiful stretch of sand not far from the DOC hut (34 bunks). We found a great spot under some Rata trees right next to the Kayak racks to make our camp away from the other 10 or so tents there that night, this turned out to be the best decision. Not only did we get the most incredible views but the resident Kaka who had been realised there loved to play in the trees around our camp site. These Kaka were amazing and were a highlight of the trip for me!!!!!
You can read up a bit about the Kaka who were realised at Abel Tasman on the Project Janszoom site.
Day Three; Bark Bay to Anchorage with side trip to Cleopatra's pools - 4hrs 12km Day three started with the most amazing sunrise over Bark Bay, laying in our tents watching this incredible sunrise just added to Bark Bay been my top spot on the track. It also added to our perfect camp site spot we managed to get, we definitely picked the best spot to set up camp for the night !!
After watching the sunrise we packed up camp and headed off on day three from Bark Bay to Anchorage. Like the day before it started with a bit of a hill climb, but not long in to the walk we came across a wee track down to Medland's Beach. We left our packs up on the look out and walked down to the beach to check it out, it was a really beautiful wee spot. After that we carried on along the track passing through more stunning bush, part of the track even carry's on through two large boulders creating a pathway. After that we reached the Falls river swing bridge, a 47 meter long swing bridge over a very beautiful stretch of river, we even seen a water taxi and jet boats coming up the mouth of the river.
After the Falls river bridge we carried on to Torrent bay for lunch, the view down to Torrent bay is incredible. It is unlike any other part of the track we had been on so far, you come off the hill right next to private land. There are lots of signs and a marked track that you must follow, it all felt a bit strange but we weaved the path past all the privately owned places and made our way to the wee DOC camp ground where we stopped for lunch.
To be honest it did not make for the nicest of lunch spots as you felt as if you were not welcome there with lots of stares from land owners as you walked by and big signs telling you to keep to the track, the DOC sight was tucked away around the bay out of sight.
We did not take time to explore at all so I am not sure if there are nicer areas, we quickly had lunch and carried on to find Cleopatra's pools.
There are two ways to get to Anchorage from Torrent bay, you can take the low tide track across a rather large inlet which will take about 1hr off your walk. Or you can take the high tide track that takes you past the short walk into Cleopatra's pools but is apparently 1- 1.5 hours longer. After checking the tide times the night before we had made the decision to take the high tide track up past Cleopatra's pools and do a wee side walk in to the pools for a look and a swim. Our original thought had been to get up early and take the low tide track across the inlet to Anchorage, set up camp them go off for a walk to the pools and back. After seeing how large the inlet was and also the very steep climb we would have had to make out of Anchorage to back track to the pools, I was very glad we made the decision to take the high tide track instead and I would recommend this to anyone walking with kids.
Cleopatra's Pools were beautiful!!! we were lucky enough to have the place pretty much all to our selves. Although the water was freezing cold, I mean really freezing cold !! we all still jumped in to have a wee swim and wash off after 3 days in the bush.
While we were swimming a small group of people came down from the top of the canyon, they were a group out with Abel Tasman Canyoning who had been on a trip up the top of Torrent river and come down the canyon abseiling, scrambling, ziplining and sliding there way the rocks to where we were at Cleopatra's pools. After chatting to them for a bit we defiantly will be back one day to have a go as it sounded amazing!!!
After a splash and a wash we grabbed our packs and headed to Anchorage bay for our final night on the Abel Tasman.
The Anchorage campsite was the biggest one we has been to so far, with 100 campers sites and a hut that bunks 34. Once again it have fantastic facilities including flushing toilets, a huge cooking shelter and even a phone docking station where you could charge things. There was even two outdoor fires with grills that you could light (there was a wood shed stocked with wood as well. We found our selves a nice spot to make camp, we were one of only two other tent sights there that night.
Day Four; Anchorage to Marahau - 4hrs 12.5km
Our last day on the track, it was a bit sad to think after all that planning and dreaming about doing the Abel Tasman we were finally on our last day on the track.
After snapping a few photos before heading off, we started with a very very steep climb straight up! Nothing like a big climb on our last day out, but the views yet again were incredible !!
Once at the top we slowly made our way back down taking in all the stunning views on the way, winding our way down the track checking out all the beautiful wee waterfalls along the way.
Once on the flat we made our way to Apple tree bay for one last lunch stop, back in 2018 we had brought the kids to Apple tree bay for there first over night tramp.
Although it was hot and the water was incredibly inviting we carried on to finished the last 1.5hrs of the track.
Once we hit the board walk with the end in sight there was a sigh of relief and also a bit of sadness to know we had finally finished it.
The kids had done an amazing effort over the last four days, carrying about 5kgs each the walked all the up hills, along the beaches and over the inlets with little to no complaints. As soon as we walked through the arch way at the end of the track we were all saying how amazing it was and would 100% go do it again one day.
We had the most amazing time on the Abel Tasman walk, I would definitely recommend it with kids. Just take your time and do smaller days and enjoy the trip.
I have done up another blog after several requests around what gear and food we took for the four days with kids. You can read that here -
If you are heading away to do the Abel Tasman with you kids we hope you have an amazing time and we hope these blogs have helped you a bit.
Till the next adventure xoxo