Abel Tasman Coastal Trail – Nelson – New Zealand

For my second hike in as many weeks, I flew to Nelson at the top of the South Island. From here I will be doing a pair of hikes, but the first is a coastal and listed as one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. Thankfully the school holidays are over and as I start on a Monday the trail is expected to be quiet.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track Great Walk! is a 60 kilometre, 3-5 day walk which I did over four days, the last of which was a short day due to having an early pick up from my transport company. In addition, there are several inlet crossings on the trail, one of which doesn’t have an alternative high route, so tide times are important to ensure there are no delays.

Day 1 – Marahau to Torrent Bay Village Campsite – 17 km – 5.5 hours + Side trip to Cleopatra Pool

It was an early start from the hostel this morning to get to the pick up location, and I wasn’t able to find a coffee. I was collected with six others, most of whom were being dropped off like me at the southern start point.

As we pulled up I noted a cafe right next to the trailhead, but when I got there, I found it was closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I guess I’ll have to find time to make my own coffee. I started out along a boardwalk to where to the stony trail began and headed into the bush that I would annoyingly be spending much of the hike in. From time to time as I walked I got views along the golden sands of Porters Beach.

A couple of kilometres into the walk, I stopped at Tinline Campsite, the first of many, where I made a coffee.
As I drank, I had my first meeting with a Weka. It seemed friendly, but I would soon learn not to trust these thieving little beasties, thankfully not because they took any of my stuff.

After coffee, the trail climbed a little, making the views just that little bit better. I climbed down a steep thin path to Coquille Bay Campsite before continuing on. A couple of kilometres later, I did the same at Apple Tree Bay Campsite, but learned that climbing down to every beach campsite meant climbing back up to the trail again, usually on a steep path.

I was looking for a lunch spot another couple of kilometres later as I rounded Stilwell Bay. A sign sent me to Yellow Point Lookout in hope of finding a nice spot, but after a short walk, I discovered to my disappointment, there was very little to see at said lookout. I also had my first encounter with the wasps in the National Park, which were everywhere. They paid me little attention, and I learned later that this entire region was rife with them due to the plentiful beech forests. Next to the Yellow Point Lookout path was the path down to Akersten Bay Camp where I dropped my pack and took lunch, but not before visiting the small cave at the end of the beach.

My camp for the night was to be on the other side of a bay usually crossed at low tide. But as I knew this ahead of time, and with low tide several hours away, I took the high tide route around and was able to walk 10 minutes on a side trail to Cleopatra Pool, part of the Torrent Bay River.

The river runs down a slide into the Cleopatra Pool, and as I dipped my feet in the cold water, I watched a couple of women slide down.

After my break, I walked the hour around the bay and when I got to the campsite, I found a nice spot, pitched my tent and went for a walk. The Torrent Bay Village is a village of baches (beach houses, to non-Kiwis) with numerous private property signs. I wandered around a bit and enjoyed the golden sand, swam in the bay and waited for more people to arrive, but even at low tide came, no-one crossed. Tonight, it would appear, I would be the ruler of the camping ground, with my sole subjects the mozzies.

Day 2 – Torrent Bay Village Campsite to Awaroa Campsite – 18.5km – 7 hours + Side trip to Awaroa Lodge

It was low tide on my waking and people were beginning to stream across the dry bay. As I got ready and had breakfast I watched more and more begin the soggy crossing. I bumped into some later and they told me they were all coming from the Anchorage Hut or Campsite.

When ready, I walked through the village and along the beach a little before beginning the climb up the hill on the far side. It was not a tall climb, and I soon came to the Torrent Bay View point.

I headed on, winding through the forest on a curving path that stayed fairly level. These paths/tracks are very wide, as are all Great Walk! Paths.

I crossed a stream and climbed a little until I came to the Halfway Pool, formed by a stream coming through the area. Compared to Cleopatra Pool, Halfway Pool isn’t even a half sized pool.

I continued on, crossed the Falls River Suspension Bridge and began a slow descent to the turn off to Medlands Beach. I had a quick look at the carving there before continuing on. I rounded the bay and came down onto the Bark Bay spit, where I dropped my pack, took off my boots and had some lunch.

When I headed out again I noted that the bay behind the spit was dry, so decided to cross instead of going the long way around. At the far side, the water was just coming in and was too deep to cross without taking off my boots. On the other side, I put my boots back on and climbed the short steep path to the trail.

It descended slowly down to Tonga Quarry where stones were extracted for the Nelson Cathedral. The quarry was once a Campsite, but was permanently closed after storm damage in 2018. Another short climb led around to Onetahuti Bay where there had been a warning of a deep stream crossing the beach. It wasn’t deep and I crossed with little issue.

I sand walked to the end of the beach, which is not the most fun, and dropped my pack and boots for a break. I then crossed a bridge and headed back into the hills before coming to a T-junction, one way heading down to the Awaroa Lodge, the other continuing the trail. A group of girls were deciding if they should go to the lodge, but decided not to, so I tailed them a little way before they stopped and I continued on. Just over a kilometre later was another shorter route to the lodge, and with the thought of a cider creeping into my mind, I decided to take it.

The Awaroa Lodge did indeed serve cider along with hot chips, so I had a couple of drinks and relaxed. After an hour, I pushed on, following a flat path that would lead to a bay crossing. The bay still had water in it and I had to decide to wait possibly hours for the tide to go down, or to go around. I decided to go around, although I hear I could have easily crossed as the water was only waist deep. I cut through the Awaroa Glamping site instead and ended up bushwhacking a little to get back to the path. The rest of the trail was hard work, especially as I had relaxed so long (nothing to do with the cider, nope). An hour later I finally arrived at the campsite, set up my tent and to get away from the sandflies and Weka, got in. Just before dark a noisy group arrived, but thankfully stayed at the other end of the campsite.

Day 3 – Awaroa Campsite to Mutton Cove Campsite – 14km – 5 hours

In the morning, everyone was up early to get the low tide crossing of the bay, all except the noisy crowd who were barely rising when everyone else was heading out.

Halfway across I noted there was still water higher than ankle deep, so I removed my boots and put on my flip flops. The rest of the crossing was slow and muddy, but I got there, cleaned up my feet as I looked back across the bay, put my boots on and headed off.

With a minimal climb, I crossed the peninsula to Waiharakeke Bay and walked along the bay until I came out on Goat Bay Beach.

There was a steep climb over the hill at Skinner Point, but I noted the tide was still out enough that I could try to rock hop around instead. I deemed there would be plenty of time to come back if I got stuck, but there weren’t any issues.

I jumped down onto Totaranui Beach and walked along to the campsite where there were plenty of RVs and people on holiday. I stopped and made a coffee before pushing on again, heading past the Totarani Education Centre on a grassy path…

…before climbing a small hill over to Anapai Bay Campsite, a small beach camp.

I stopped for a rest before pushing on over a pair of short ridges.

I came down into Mutton Cove Campsite where I would be staying for the night. The camp was a large grassy area, but there was a lot of wind coming off the sea. I found a tucked away spot and pitched my tent. For much of the afternoon, only the occasional other walker would come by to stop for a break then head on again. Of course, I was not to have the place to myself, as late in the afternoon the noisy bunch arrived, thankfully camping at the other end.

Day 4 Mutton Cove Campsite to Wairau Bay Carpark – 8km – 2.5 hours
Today is a short day as I need to meet the trail transport in the early afternoon. I set off at my normal time, again just as the noisy crowd awoke.

I headed up the first steep climb right out of the camp as it crossed the peninsula to Wharwharangi Bay, and walked along the trail off the beach. The trail cut inland and passed the Wharwharangi Bay hut where I stopped to get some toilet paper to clean my sunglasses, then off again straight away onto the highest climb of the trail.

I powered up the sometimes steep trail and eventually came to the summit feeling strong. I took a break on a seat before beginning the slow descent around into Wainui Bay, where I was 2 hours early for the pickup.

I had hoped there might be a shop of similar nearby, but it was not to be the case. So, I found a camp table, got changed into long clothes to avoid the sandflies and just waited. The vehicle was early, and as all five of us were already there, we packed up and headed back to Nelson.

Overall,
The Abel Tasman was a nice little hike with one main issue for me, a large portion of it was spent in the forest. I’ve done plenty of forest walking in my time, but it tends to feel like I am on a treadmill with a screen showing forest displays. You climb and descend, turn left and right, but really have no idea where you’re going. I found this to be a typical case around the northern South Island. Other than this, I found the walk interesting and the various inlets a good respite from the forest. I did also note that two thirds of the people walking were woman. I noted similar on my next walk too and certainly aren’t complaining complaining.

After a day’s break in Nelson, I’m off to the Nelson Lakes Region for a more alpine walk.
Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer.

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