An Abel Tasman Coastal Track adventure

Department of Conservation —  06/01/2014

Today, our adventurous American friends John (the photographer) and Jean (the writer) Strother are on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track:

Onetahuti Bay seen on Abel Tasman Coastal Track in Abel Tasman National Park. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Onetahuti Bay, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Abel Tasman National Park

Our first Great Walk on the South Island was the Abel Tasman Coastal Track in Abel Tasman National Park.

This track is not a loop but the DOC (Department of Conservation) brochure lists several transportation options including travelling by air, bus and boat.

We had Aqua Taxi transport us from Marahau to Mutton Cove. After getting off the boat we did the short side trail to Separation Point which separates Golden Bay from Tasman Bay.

Golden Bay seen from Separation Point in Abel Tasman National Park. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Golden Bay, from Separation Point

As is common with nearly every coastal hike this track frequently climbs up over headlands before dropping back down to the coast.

Sometimes we had great views of the golden beaches and aquamarine water below…

Tasman Bay. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Tasman Bay

And sometimes the track took us through forest dense enough we almost forgot we were near the coast…

Forest. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Forest dense enough we almost forgot we were
near the coast

And, just like other coastal hikes, it was essential for us to consult a tide chart as there are portions of the track that cross estuaries.

The Onetahuti estuary and the Awaroa Inlet, can only be crossed within a specific time period around low tide. But, just because the tide is low doesn’t mean your feet don’t get wet.

Jean crossing Onetahuti Bay at low tide. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Jean crossing Onetahuti Bay at low tide

In some cases there are high tide routes available. While the hide tide route around Torrent Bay is longer than the low tide route it does take you closer to a side trail to a feature known as “Cleopatra’s Pool”.

Cleopatra's Pool. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Cleopatra’s Pool

Access is easy by boat to any number of spots along the Abel Tasman track and it is a popular track for day hiking and kayaking. As a result there seemed to be more people than on other tracks.

On our first night we were dismayed by how cramped and crowded the Awaroa Campground was. Although it was entertaining to hear a young French woman in a nearby tent explaining her “relationship issues”, which were apparently complicated by her “sensual nature”, to a fellow she had recently met.

However, our second night at the Anchorage Bay campground was great. The camping area is more spread out and most campers had their tents clustered near the cooking shelter. We were happy to find find a spot in the trees well away from anyone else so we could listen to the waves instead of hearing about “relationship issues”.

The beach near Marahau. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

The beach near Marahau

Doing the Abel Tasman Track also provided us with an educational introduction to a common native species—sandflies.

What New Zealand lacks in things that want to kill you; mountain lions, bears, snakes, etc., it makes up for with sand flies.

Anytime we sat down to rest, eat lunch or enjoy the view we did not have to worry about being tempted to sit there too long. The presence of those small but incredibly voracious insects made the decision to get going again very easy.

Bark Bay seen on Abel Tasman Coastal Track in Abel Tasman National Park. Photo: John Strother © All rights reserved.

Bark Bay

We were lucky to have had great weather for the first two days of our trip. Given New Zealand’s commonly wet weather it was not surprising that it deteriorated on our last day. However, it occurred on what we thought was the least scenic part of the track, so we had no complaints.

Read more on panafoot — Jean and John’s blog.

pan-a-foot (păn’ ũh fʊt) v. covering great distances to see more of the world under one’s own power

All of the photos used in this post were taken by John Strother © All rights reserved. See more of their Abel Tasman Track photos on flickr.

A big thanks to Jean and John for giving us permission for us to publish this on the Conservation Blog!

7 responses to An Abel Tasman Coastal Track adventure


    You should have tried to save them. The effort would have been acknowledged. To make a decision without even TRYING really baffles me. If I lived in New Zealand I’d be out there from dawn-dusk trying to help them without question. Even if ONE could be saved that would’ve been a great thing. These magnificent beings are here to help balance the Earth and are greatly needed. Even one lost is a tragedy not only for Earth, but for all humanity.


    We heard about your willing to kill 29 pilot whales. It would be a real shame for the biodiversity preservation field if this info would be right. You have proved, by the past, the abilities of New Zealand in this kind of rescue. So, please, prove it again !


      We carefully weighed up the likelihood of being able to refloat the whales. But our staff, who have extensive experience in dealing with mass whale strandings in Golden Bay, determined that due to various factors it was unlikely they could be rescued. Twelve whales had already died and rather than prolong the suffering of the remaining 27 whales we decided to humanely euthanise them:


        The conditions evoked would not be of financial order ? Not to pay the extra hours of your state employees for example ? How do you explain the change of policy in the management of the stranding in New Zealand ? Otherwise, we are sorry, but an euthanasia which is not medically motivated has nothing human, it is just a way of fixing the “problems” without getting bored, nothing else.


    & the new hut at Anchorage means you’ll never want to leave!!! I would love to hear accounts of snorkeling in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve off of Abel Tasman’s beaches… National Radio just did a piece on this reserve where a DOC scientist gave it a rave review…we found it very hard to find anyone with direct snorkeling experience in the reserve to describe the marine environment though – Horoirangi near Nelson is an OUTSTANDING ‘aquarium’ and has road access!! – if you’re in the area :o)


      Thanks John – we always appreciate your insightful comments. We’ll see if we can organise a blog post in the next few weeks that showcases the marine environment in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.

      For readers interested in listening to the Radio New Zealand piece on Tonga Island Marine Reserve, you can check it out here:

      For more info on Tonga Island Marine Reserve check out the DOC website: