When it comes to unadulterated outdoors and authentic wildlife experiences, New Zealand over delivers: here is No. 37 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
Blanketing a stretch of coast at the top of the South Island/Te Waipounamu, Abel Tasman National Park is famed for its golden beaches, hidden coves, sculpted granite and lush native forest. Its crystal-clear waters, which support significant marine life including dolphins, seals and penguins, combine with a rich human history and friendly climate to make it a brilliant place to relax or get active at any time of year.
The most popular national park experience is walking the Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks. It winds 60 kilometres around a series of bays, inlets and headlands, dotted with nature campsites and hiking huts as well as a few private lodges and holiday homes. Sea kayaking trips are also deservedly popular and achievable by reasonably fit beginners. Excellent visitor facilities and polished tour operators make it easy to explore the park in a way that suits you.
- Multi-day cruise, hike and kayak combo trips are the ultimate way to explore the park. Family-run Wilsons Abel Tasman offers lots of options thanks to its neat fleet of boats and two fabulous but laid-back lodges with en suite rooms. Enjoy a scenic cruise, explore beaches and inlets by sea kayak, hike the coastal track or just kick back on the sand.
- Paddle in a Māori waka (canoe) on the exciting, fun two-hour trip run by Waka Abel Tasman. This hands-on adventure sees you and your fellow crew paddle a traditional waka from the golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach to the striking Split Apple Rock/Tokangawhā, learning Māori traditions along the way. It’s suitable for all ages, too.
- Admire Abel Tasman from the air on a scenic flight with Helicopters Nelson. Its local pilots know all the best spots and can arrange heli-hike and heli-bike add-ons, as well as grand tours around the top of the south. They’re based at Nelson airport but other pick-up points are available.