Review: Abel Tasman, Great Walk

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With its white sands and blue waters, the Abel Tasman National Park is a slice of beach paradise in the middle of the mountainous country that is New Zealand. It’s an opportunity to enjoy a Fiji-island-inspired moment of aquatic bliss as your eyes take in deep greens and multiple shades of blue. It goes without saying that the Abel Tasman National Park is worth a visit.

But is the Great Walk worth the time and money?

1) Difficulty:

The track is more of a walk than a trek. There are a few hills in places, but mostly it is a relatively flat, easy walk. It is certainly a much less challenging trek than the other Great Walks.

The only moment of remote difficulty comes at Awaroa Bay when you must cross the sea bed at low tide. However, the water only comes up to below your knees and it is not particularly difficult to do alone. Just make sure you find out the tide times and factor it into your itinerary.

Tip: use the exposed sandbanks to cross. The water tends to be shallower and it’s quicker than wading through!

If you are looking for a real challenge and enjoy hiking up mountains, then the Abel Tasman may fall short of expectations, but it is perfect if you want a casual amble or don’t want anything too strenuous.

2) Time:

Logistically, you can complete the trek in 3 days/2 nights, though most people take 4-5 days to complete it.

I completed it in 3 days and 2 nights, walking from Marahau to Burn Bay and then Burn Bay to Totaranui (I chose not to walk to the very tip of the track as I was experiencing extreme back pain, though I could have done so in the timeframe.)

To fully plan your trip you can find full details on the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) website.

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3) Scenery (is it worth the miles?):

The Abel Tasman is a corner of tropical heaven and is definitely worth a visit.

Following a clearly marked sand-strewn dirt path, you pass through green and luscious forest and walk along white sands. The sunsets are pink and full and gorgeous, and the water reflects itself into varying shades of blue and turquoise from bay to bay.

Did I mention that the campsites and huts are right along the beaches? You can enjoy a hearty fire in one of the designated fire pits before falling asleep listening to the gentle rise and fall of waves. It’s heaven.

The only blight on the horizen is the millions of sandflies.

Tip: wear plenty of insect repellent and bring marshmallows to toast on the fire.

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3) How busy is the Abel Tasman?

One problem with all of New Zealand’s Great Walks is that they tend to be very overcrowded in peak season. I am someone who enjoys the peaceful isolation that comes with hiking and the sensation of being close to nature, and constantly running into people and exchanging a million greetings is not something that always appeals to me. However, because I was doing the walk in low season during New Zealand’s autumn/winter season (I did it in May), the track was ridiculously quiet. In fact, on my second night I had the whole campsite to myself and didn’t see another human being for more than 12 hours (!)

4) Costs

No freedom camping is allowed so you cannot camp for free.

Huts are $32 a night and campsites are $14 a night. It is best to take a water taxi either to or from Totaranui for $49 . So, the cheapest you can do this trek is for $75 (camping.)

Again, please make sure you check the DOC website for up-to-date costs. Remember, all huts and campsites need to be booked before you begin the trek. (In peak season you will need to book a few weeks or even a few months in advance as the camping/hut spots fill up quickly.)

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How would I rate the trek overall? Would I do it again?

Truthfully, I wouldn’t pay to do the trek a second time, but I would definitely visit the Abel Tasman again.

I wasn’t looking for a strenuous hike, but the flatness of the track and the endless cycle of beach-forest-beach-forest made it a bit stagnant and repetitive for my tastes. I love tracks, like the Routeburn, that have a diverse range of scenery.

Moreover, the extra cost of the water taxi makes it a more costly trek in comparison to some other hikes. In addition to the taxi, the Abel Tasman National Park is quite remote so you have to go out of your way to do it. Other trek bases, like Te Anau and Taupo, are worth visiting in their own right and are places you will most likely end up staying anyway. I would never have visited Marahau if it weren’t for the trek, so I should factor in the additional cost of $44 for hostel accommodation in Marahau. All in all, Abel Tasman cost me significantly more than other treks I have done.

My recommendation would be to go sea kayaking or to take a relaxing boat trip.

A good itinerary would be to kayak or take a boat to one of the many beautiful bays and then hike back to Marahau. Kayaking can be pricey and may cost you around $20 more than the water taxi, but I think it would be worth the money if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to do more than walking.

Overall, I enjoyed the walk and loved, loved, loved the bays and beaches. The Abel Tasman is definitely too beautiful to miss!

I would rate the trek at 4 stars out of 5.

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Got anymore questions? Leave them in the comments below!

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