Summary: Access to Abel Tasman National Park is primarily by water taxi. Our planned hike from was from Bark Bay to Anchorage Bay (8 miles), via a water taxi from Kaiteriteri. The hike is about 3.5 hours with stops, plus approximately 2 hours in water taxi travel time. You can extend your stay in the Park by relaxing on the beach or adding hiking miles. This beautiful hike features blue-water coastal views, dense vegetation, and fresh water pools.
Who was Abel Tasman? The park is named after the first European to "discover" New Zealand. Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer hired by the Dutch East India Company to find if there were any exploitable lands to the South. In 1643, the group anchored at what is now known as Abel Tasman National Park, where they had a violent encounter with the local Māori. Even though Tasman did not return after the encounter, the area is named after him because he was the first to shed light on this beautiful area.
About Abel Tasman National Park. Founded in 1942, this 38,000 acre park is the smallest of New Zealand's National Park system. It is located approximately 2 hours from Nelson, on the North shore of the South Island. Access to the Park is primarily by water taxi. Within the park you will find a series of well-kept trails, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Unlike other parts of the South Island, this area is a banana belt, with dense vegetation, warm waters, and popular beaches. The area is also known for agriculture because of the warmer climate.
Water Taxi. The plans for our day in the park required booking a water taxi out of Kaiteriteri. Our day hike would be from Bark Bay to Anchorage Bay (total of 8 miles), so we booked a taxi to Bark Bay and a return taxi from Anchorage Bay to Kaiteriteri at a cost of approximately $60/person. There are no additional park fees once you arrive. The ride to Bark Bay takes about an hour, and the return trip from Anchorage Bay takes about 45 minutes.
At the pick up point, passengers are driven from the Taxi headquarters via a tractor pull. Riders sit in the boat which is on a trailer, with our life vests ready to go. The tractors drive all the way out to the Bay, where they release the boats into the water.
Once on the water, the Taxi offers a scenic view of Tasman Bay.
For the passenger's viewing pleasure, the Water Taxi also stops by Split Apple Rock to get a close up view of this unique rock formation. Also, as you can see from the second photo below, the water here is a pretty turquoise blue.
Arrival in Bark Bay. The water taxi unloads passengers by backing up to the beach. If you have hiking boots, you'll want to take them off because it is nearly impossible to disembark without getting wet. Here, some beachgoers choose to stay and enjoy the warm sun. There are clean restrooms and picnic benches available. Multi-day hikers also use this area to camp. For us, this was the starting point for our hike to Anchorage Bay.
Hiking Abel Tasman National Park. Like all the other trails we hiked in New Zealand, the trails in Abel Tasman are well-kept, well-marked, and quite pleasant. Bark Bay to Anchorage features beautiful coastline views, hanging bridges, and green vegetation.
The water and weather in this part of the South Island felt like being in the tropics!
Lunch. While a National Park, the area also has several private stretches of property. This means you can be hiking in a rural area, only to come upon a set of houses and marinas. One such private beach ended up being a nice stop for our picnic lunch that we had packed in with us.
Depending on the tide level when you come, you may encounter a a stretch of the trail that requires you to get wet. We do not have photos but the stretch near Cleopatras Pools gets flooded by the tide. [photo below is near Cleopatras Pools, a fresh water stream that created a natural pool area to relax]. The result was a fun but somewhat challenging effort to keep cameras dry by placing bags on tops of our heads and wading neck deep (at least for this vertically challenged writer) into the water.
Birds. We are not bird watchers but there were many folks on the trails viewing the local birds. Here's a guide to the Park's Flora & Fauna.
Anchorage Bay. Timing of arrival on a hike can be a little tricky. For fear of missing our boat ride home, we booked it on the final stretch of the hike, only to be left with 45 minutes to kill before our taxi ride home. Anchorage Bay itself does not have any cover but where the restrooms are located, there are picnic benches in the shade. While there were no views, we did at least get to relax in the shade while we waited. Others took this time to enjoy the sun and go swimming in the warm water.
Evening at the AirBnB. Where we stayed, there were very few restaurant options and even fewer open. It might have been because of the holidays but you may want to double-check your food options when visiting. For us, we had plenty of leftovers from our Christmas dinner the night before so we enjoyed a quite dinner back at the AirBnb and relaxed for the evening.
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