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There are 9 “Great Walks of New Zealand” and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of them. The 54 km walk is not very difficult and takes 2-5 days. It’s extremely popular in summer, but practically desserted during the winter. Burt and Hilary, my wonderful hosts in Waikanae, told me about the Track and recommended I walk it when I arrive on the South Island, weather permitting. The weather cooperated.

I was able to make it from Wellington to Nelson via the Picton Ferry, arrange my transportation to Abel Tasman, and reserve the huts for the walk in the same day. Huts are $32 NZD per night and roundtrip transport including boat taxi was $66 NZD. The next morning I took the shuttle to Marahau, the starting point at the southern end of the Track. From there I took a water taxi to the northern end of the Track, so I could do the walk from north to south. Shortly after departing, the boat cruised by some rocks that were featured in Lord of the Rings. We also went by an island that was filled with baby seals and their moms, several beaches and bays, and dropped off other passengers before arriving at the last stop of Totaranui.

The start of the Track is 5 km to the north of Totaranui in Whariwharangi. There are a few tide dependent estuary crossings along the Walk and I had some time to kill before I would be able to make my crossing for the day. I used this opportunity to walk up to Whariwharangi and then looped back down. The estuary crossing at Awaroa was very wide and, even at low tide, not easily crossable. I spent my first night at the Awaroa Hut, where I was joined by a lovely Dutch couple who were on their honeymoon. The firewood at the hut was wet, so we weren’t able to make much of a fire. With no electricity and a 5:30 sunset, I had a very early bedtime.

Onetahuti Bay, the first estuary crossing of the next day, was not passable until the afternoon, so I was able to take it easy and relax. This crossing was much shorter and very easy. Onetahuti Beach was long, sandy, and beautiful, but the tide had brought in some unexpected drift. I came across a dead baby seal and a dead cormorant. A few hours later I arrived at the Bark Bay estuary crossing. It wasn’t the joke that Onetahuti was, but wasn’t the challenge that was Awaroa. The rocks in the first stream I had to cross in the estuary were covered in oysters and mussels. A few of them made their way into my belly. Bark Bay Hut is located just across the estuary and was my home for the night. This time I had the entire hut, which sleeps 34 people, to myself.

The third day was when I covered the most ground. I walked to Torrent Bay, then took the high tide route to Anchorage, checking out Cleopatra’s Pool along the way. The pool was just a short detour from the high tide route and was very pretty. From Anchorage I did the Pitt Head/Te Pukatea Bay excursion. It wasn’t that great and I would pass if you’re concerned about time. A day’s walk that was supposed to take nearly 11 hours, took just seven and I made it back to Marahau with time to spare before the shuttle back to Nelson.

People questioned why I would go to New Zealand in the winter. For the first 2.5 days of my walk, I saw 6 people. There was a couple from the UK that got off the boat with me in Totaranui, I spent the night in Awaroa with the Dutch couple, and I briefly saw a Malaysian couple on Onetahuti Beach. That was it. I pretty much had the entire Abel Tasman Coastal Track to myself. It was beautiful, peaceful, and serene. Although it certainly wasn’t hot, I was down to shorts and a t-shirt when I was on the move. July was a great time to walk Abel Tasman.

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