Nelson to Christchurch walking the Abel Tasman National Park – 5 days
It’s difficult to imagine the extreme diversity of New Zealand’s natural landscape from afar. But for those who love to submerge themselves in nature, there is no better way than to experience it up close and personal. New Zealand has 10 Great Walks spread across both islands. They vary in physical difficulty, but all showcase the incredible array of Aotearoa’s breath-taking flora and fauna.
The Abel Tasman National Park is one of the most accessible and less taxing Great Walks and can be easily combined with a longer road trip from the top of the South Island to Christchurch. A quick and simple way to include this incredible part of the country in your road trip is to drive in from the southern end of the park, walk the first three sections staying at Department of Conservation Huts and catch a water taxi back before continuing on through the centre of the country to Christchurch. Make sure you book in advance.
Marahau to Anchorage
After spending the night in Nelson, it’s a short one-hour drive to Marahau, the start of the park. You can leave your car or camper there but do take your valuables as there is no security. Please note there is strictly no camping allowed even if you are in a self-contained camper. It’s about a four hour walk to the hut which crosses the estuary, and traverses lush beech forest before emerging into beautiful Anchorage Bay.
Anchorage to Bark Bay
Waking to the sound of nothing but the ocean and native birds is one of life’s special treats afforded all who walk through the Able Tasman track. You need to time your crossing of Torrent Bay estuary to be within two hours either side of low tide, otherwise you need to take the longer track around. But on the other side you’ll cross the fourty-seven-meter-long suspension bridge across Falls River. After being under the canopy for the next section of the walk you’re led back to sea and the sparkling sands of Bark Bay. This is another solid four hour day.
There are two side tracks for those who want extra activity, Cascade Falls, and the clear waters of Cleopatra’s pool are both for the more adventurous but are worth the walk if you have the energy.
Bark Bay to Awaroa
After crossing the estuary, a steep climb winds through stands of manuka trees before you spend much of the rest of the day on one of the longest beaches in the Able Tasman. Onetahuti Bay is postcard picturesque: golden sands, turquoise water, dolphins, seals and even orca out in the bay.
Dipping back into the forest of the Tonga Saddle, the next stretch of beach opens up in front of you from the lookout. After a four-and-a-half-hour day you might feel you’ve earned a cold beer and food that someone else cooked, if so, the Awaroa Lodge has you covered and you can stay the night in luxury here or camp down in the Awaroa hut before catching a water taxi the next morning.
Nelson to Christchurch
After a short one and a half hour water taxi ride you can be back at your vehicle and on the road. There is a lot to see and do on the five-hour drive to Christchurch, including hot pools and incredible views in the Haast pass, so don’t feel you need to do the drive in one hit. If there is anything this part of New Zealand has to offer, it’s spectacular scenery, so we hope you enjoy the journey.