Great Walk | Hiking

Ultimate Abel Tasman Coast Track Guide by an Expert

One of my absolute favorite places in New Zealand is the Abel Tasman National Park. I have been there several times and discovered many stunning beaches on my hiking and kayaking trips. I share everything there is to know about the Abel Tasman Coast Track in New Zealand in this ultimate guide. It contains tons of helpful information and tips for hikers and kayakers. 

Let’s dive into the wonders of this tropical National Park on the north of the southern island. 

Photo: Whariwharangi Bay by Kiwishirts

Abel Tasman Coast Track overview

Highlights of this 3 to 5-day Great Walk track in the northern part of the south island of New Zealand are golden beaches, Cleopatra’s pool, stunning inlet to Falls River, and playful seals. It is well marked and signposted with a compulsory tidal crossing. Consult a timetable before booking your trip. 

Marahau to Anchorage

Distance: 12.4 kilometers
Time: 4 hours
Side trip: Tinline Bay Nature Walk – 20 minutes return
Accommodation:

  • Tinline Campsite
  • Coquille Bay Campsite
  • Apple Tree Bay Campsite
  • Akersten Bay Campsite
  • Watering Cove Campsite
  • Observation Beach Campsite
  • Te Pukatea Bay Campsite
  • Anchorage Campsite
  • Anchorage Hut

Anchorage to Bark Bay

High tide track
Distance: 11.5 kilometers
Time: 4 hours

Low tide crossing via Torrent Bay estuary
Distance: 8.4 kilometers
Time: 3 hours
Accessible: 2 hours either side of low tide
Side trip 1: Cascade Falls – 1.5 hours return
Side trip 2: Cleopatra’s Pool – 800 meters return
Accommodation:

  • Torrent Bay Village Campsite
  • Bark Bay Campsite
  • Bark Bay Hut
Photo: Bark Bay by David Tip

Bark Bay to Awaroa

Distance: 13.5 kilometers
Time: 4.5 hours
Accommodation:

  • Mosquito Bay Campsite (boat access only)
  • Onetahuti BayCampsite
  • Awaroa Campsite
  • Awaroa Hut

Awaroa to Whariwharangi Bay

Awaroa to Tōtaranui
Distance: 7.1 kilometers (tidal, 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low tide)
Time: 2.5 hours

Tōtaranui to Whariwharangi Bay
Distance: 9.8 kilometers
Time: 3.5 hours
Accommodation:

  • Waiharakeke Bay Campsite
  • Tōtaranui Great Walk Campsite
  • Anapai Bay Campsite
  • Mutton Cove Campsite
  • Whariwharangi Bay Campsite
  • Whariwharangi Bay Hut
Whariwharangi Bay Abel Tasman Coast Track
Photo: Whariwharangi Bay by Kiwishirts

Whariwharangi Bay to Wainui

Distance: 5.7 kilometers
Time: 2 hours
Accommodation: not available (end of the track)

The most beautiful campsites on the Abel Tasman Walk

There are 4 huts and 18 campsites along the 60-kilometer track, which must be booked in advance all year round. It is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. Don’t forget to bring your reservation, or you could be charged a penalty fee. 

Photo: Mutton Cove by Kiwishirts

One of my favorite walk-in campgrounds on the Abel Tasman Track is Mutton Cove campsite at Anatakapau Bay. There is room for 20 tents on non-powered sites. It is a beachside campsite with stunning views, a golden beach, and crystal clear water. You can even spot some fur seals that live nearby. I found them lying on the rocks on the nearby Mutton Cove bay. It is just a short climb and descent over some rocks to the other bay.

Another stunning campground is the DOC campsite at Mosquito Bay. Don’t worry, there aren’t that many bugs, but you need a kayak to get to this campground. You can only reach this beautiful spot by the sea. That makes it very isolated, and that is how I like my tent site! 

How many toilets are there on the Abel Tasman track?

There are many public toilets along the Abel Tasman Coast Track. You can find flush toilets on all campsites and at all huts every 10 to 12 kilometers. Smaller campgrounds have compost toilets that are often situated a short walk off the main track. Although flush toilets are nicer to use, the compost toilets come in handy every once in a while. 

Photo: Totaranui to Anapai Bay by Kiwishirts

How long does it take to walk the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a well-known multi-day hike in the Abel Tasman National Park. Many hikers choose to do part of the track and use a water taxi to get back to the starting point (or vice versa). But it is worth it to make the entire trail. 

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is 60 kilometers one way and starts in Marahau or Wainui car park. It is possible to walk in either direction and takes between 3 to 5 days to finish. If you are looking for a shorter hike, you can book a water taxi to bring you into the park and walk back to Marahau. 

I would recommend taking your time on the track. The beaches are stunning, and I took a fair amount of time exploring the beaches and swimming. 

How hard is the Abel Tasman track?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a relatively easy walking track that is suitable for the entire family. However, there are some steep hills; you still only have to climb and descent around 200 to 300 meters a day. Anyone with an average fitness level and a little hiking experience can complete this coastal track. 

You can even opt for luggage transfer, so you only have to carry a daypack with water, food, jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a camera. If you take 4 to 5 days to complete the track, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the golden beaches. 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Puketea Bay
Photo: Puketea Bay by David Tip

What is the best part of the Abel Tasman walk?

One of the most tranquil and beautiful parts of the Abel Tasman Track is the trail from Totaranui to Mutton Cove. Camping at the DOC campground in Mutton Cove is a fantastic experience. You will pass golden beaches, a crystal clear ocean, and even an occasional seal. 

It is possible to do a roundtrip from Totaranui via Mutton Cove, Whariwharangi Bay, and the Gibbs Hill track, back to Totaranui. Or you can start at Wainui car park and hike up Gibbs Hill, descent to Totaranui, hike to Mutton Cove and continue onwards via Whariwharangi Bay back go Wainui car park. 

This alternative Abel Tasman Coast Track with Gibbs Hill is about 23 kilometers. Some hikers do this one day, but I took it slow and spent the night at Totaranui and Mutton Cove. It is just too beautiful not to spend the night. 

Wainui Abel Tasman Track

Where does Abel Tasman Track start?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track starts in Marahau or Wainui car park. Marahau is located near the south entrance of the National Park and Wainui at the northern border. Most people start their journey in Marahau, where you can find campsites, b&b’s, restaurants, the Abel Tasman Centre with a small shop, and many kayak rental companies. 

Almost at the end of Harvey Road in Marahar, you will find the Abel Tasman Car Park just past the river. DOC provides free parking, but you will do so at your own risk. Water taxi and kayak operators have their private car parking for clients if you decide to use one of them for taxi services or luggage transfers.

Other car parks can be found at Totaranui, and Wainui road ends. I used both Marahau and Wainui car parks during my trips in New Zealand and never had a problem. You will find public toilets at every parking. 

How far is Marahau from Nelson?

Marahai is the southern gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and is about 64 kilometers from Nelson. It is an hour’s drive through Motueka and Riwaka via the Riwaka Sandy Bay Road to Marahau. The road is sealed, and there are several gas stations on the way. The last one is in Riwaka on the main route. 

How can I get to Marahau in Abel Tasman National Park?

You can get to Marahau on the southern border of the Abel Tasman National Park by car, scheduled shuttle bus from Nelson, or taxi. A shuttle transfer costs around $40 per person from Nelson to Marahau and $95 per person from Nelson to Wainui. 

You can book a shuttle service in advance through this website

How much does the Abel Tasman Track cost?

In the summer of 2021, the Abel Tasman Coast Track costs $38 per person (adult) per night for staying in huts and $15 per person per night on a campsite. In the off-season, rates are slightly lower. You can find current prices on the website of the Department of Conservation

Don’t forget to book the track well in advance. It is a very popular national park with tourists and Kiwis alike. Some people can get a 10% discount for the Abel Tasman Track, like members of the NZ Mountain Safety Council, NZ Federated Mountain Clubs, and New Zealand Scouts. They should have a Backcountry Hut Pass to be eligible for the discount. 

You will need to book transport to/from the start/end of the track as well. Costs depend on the drop-off point and whether you need a water taxi as well. 

Photo: Abel Tasman NP by 100% New Zealand

What gear should I take on the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

Depending on the season, the number of days on the track, and your choice of accommodation, you will need to bring the following gear:

Huts on the Abel Tasman Coast Track don’t have gas cooking facilities and lighting. You will need to bring your stove to cook your meals. It is not possible to dry your clothes in the huts, and you will need to carry your food for the entire track. 

General gear

Backpack (40 to 60 liter)
Waterproof bags or liner
Sleeping bag (and liner)
First aid kit (including insect repellent)
Sunscreen
Survival kit (including emergency blanket)
Compass
Water bottle (1 to 2 liter)
Eating and cooking utensils
Matches or lighter in a waterproof container
Toiletries
Torch/flashlight (with full batteries)
Rubbish bag
Portable stove and fuel
Toilet paper
Swimwear
Flipflops or sandals (for after the hike)
Food 

Important papers

Time table tides
Map of Abel Tasman National Park
Booking confirmation letter and ID

If camping

Tent (and footprint)
Sleeping mat

Clothing

Cotton clothing such as jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts aren’t suitable. You need quick-drying materials like wool or synthetic fibers. Cotton is not a good choice! 

Walking shoes, boots, or trail runners 
Socks
Hiking pants or shorts
Shirts (long sleeves in winter)
Under layers, top, and bottom 
Jacket (wind and waterproof
Overtrousers (wind and waterproof)
Warm hat and gloves (winter)
Sunhat and sunglasses (summer)

How much water should I carry on the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

Bring at least a one-liter water bottle on the Able Tasman Track. Refills are possible very 10 to 12 kilometers (around 3 to 4 hours). You can find filtered water stations at DOC huts and campsites at Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa, Totaranui, and Whariwharangi. Other huts and campsites require to filter the water before use.

How much water you need to drink depends on your height, built, and weather conditions. You will lose a significant amount of water while hiking and climbing in hot weather. I am tall and sweat a lot, so I always bring more than the average person.

What kind of shoes should I wear on the track?

The Abel Tasman track is a relatively easy multi-day trekking with only a few advanced passages; low trekking shoes or trail runners will suffice. If you go camping, hike the entire 60 kilometers, and need to bring a lot of food, a tent, and a sleeping mat, you might want to choose a hiking shoe or boot with a slightly stiffer sole. 

Do I need walking poles in Abel Tasman National Park?

Walking poles are not necessary on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The path is well maintained, and the track climbs no more than 300 to 400 meters. Some hikers do bring poles because they provide extra stability when going downhill on the steeper sections of the route. 

I bring walking sticks on all of my multi-day hiking trips just because I like the extra stability and the versatility of the poles. Sometimes I use them to make a shelter from heavy rainfall, and they provide a sense of safety. 

Luggage transfer Abel Tasman Track
Photo: Backpackers on track by Patrick Hendry

Can I book a luggage transfer on the Abel Tasman Track?

It is possible to book luggage transfers on the Abel Tasman Coast Track on almost the entire walk. Water taxi services run from Marahau, Anchorage, Bark Bay, Awaroa, to Totaranui. On the last kilometers from Totaranui to Wainui car park, you will have to carry your pack.

Or you can take a water taxi from Totaranui back to Marahau and skip the last bit of the track. I would not recommend skipping the last bit. It was very tranquil, with crystal clear water, golden beaches, amazing views, and beautiful forest! 

What is the best time of the year to do the Abel Tasman walk?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track has a mild climate and is open all year round, but generally speaking, summer months are warmer with more daylight hours for exploring and a lower chance of bad weather. The seawater gets warmer as the summer progresses, and it will be pleasant to take a dip in February and March.

You might want to stay away from the Kiwi holiday season between Christmas and February the first. It will be bustling on the track, in the huts, and on the campsites, especially on the Tōtaranui campground, accessible by car. 

February and March are generally enjoyable months in the Abel Tasman National Park. The seawater is getting warmer, crowds are getting thinner, and tranquility returns. 

Can I do a day walk in the Abel Tasman National Park?

You can do several day hikes in the Abel Tasman National Park. You can take a water taxi from Marahau to Torrent Bay and walk your way back. Or you can start at Marahau and walk several kilometers into the park and retrace your steps. Drive up to Totaranui or Awaroa and start walking from there. 

If you are up for a full day hiking, I recommend doing the Gibbs Hill Track from Totaranui to Mutton Cove, Whariwharangi Bay, and the Gibbs Hill track, back to Totaranui. It is a long yet stunning track from 23 kilometers. You will need to carry plenty of water and food and start early. You might want to walk the trail counter-clockwise, so you start with climbing the 405 meter Gibbs Hill. 

Can you drive into Abel Tasman National Park?

It is possible to drive into Abel Tasman National Park to Totaranui or Awaroa. Take Totaranui Raod from Wainui Bay and follow the narrow road until you reach a junction. Turn right for Awaroa and left for Totaranui. The road is well maintained until the last 12 kilometers. It changes into a narrow, winding, unsealed road. But it is accessible for caravans and campers. 

There are DOC campsites at both bays. Totaranui is a large campground for up to 850 people. Don’t let that put you off; it has a unique natural tidal rapid when low tide is coming in. Be prepared to fill your swimming shorts with golden sand. Around Christmas and New Years’ it is especially busy at this campsite. For the DOC campsite at the Awaroa bay, you will have to cross the Awaroa inlet at low tide. Make sure you bring a tidal chart with the correct times. 

Is there cell phone coverage on the Abel Tasman Track?

There might be some points with cell phone coverage on the Able Tasman Track if you look hard enough, but these are few and not for all mobile networks. Just enjoy these peaceful few days away from civilization. In case of an emergency, you can find public phones at Torrent Bay and Totaranui or contact one of the many rangers in the national park. They will be able to get in touch with the outside world via radio. 

For all the Abel Tasman track and national park information, you can use the Abel Tasman app, which is available for iOS and Android phones. The smartphone app is jampacked with up-to-date information about weather, tides, points of interest, history, plants, wildlife, and walking times. It works without an internet connection! 

Can you bike the Abel Tasman track?

From Mai to September, mountain bikers are allowed in the Abel Tasman National Park between Tōtaranui to Gibbs Hill and Wainui Bay. No bikers are permitted on the Abel Tasman Coast Track!  

Kayaking in Abel Tasman NP
Photo: Kayaking in Abel Tasman NP by Kiwishirts

Other ways to explore Abel Tasman National Park

There are many ways to explore the wonders of the Abel Tasman National Park. If you only have a day to spare in your busy road trip schedule, try this Full-Day Abel Tasman National Park Hiking Tour with Cruise. A guide will take you into the heart of the park after you cruised from Kaiteriteri to one of the bays at the Abel Tasman Track. From there, you will walk (with a group of 6) to Torrent Bay to enjoy a well-earned lunch. 

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