The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 51 kilometre (32 miles), easy to moderate walking track that passes through a picturesque landscape of coastal forests and golden sandy beaches. All streams are bridged and most people can walk it in three to five days with plenty of time to explore.
The climate is mild and it is possible to walk the track at any time of the year.
Location: Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is accessible at several points, which allows you to walk just a portion of the track if you wish, or even to mix walking and kayaking. Marahau, the southern gateway, is 67 kilometres (42 miles) from Nelson. From Takaka it's 21 kilometres (13 miles) to the Wainui entrance, 32 kilometres (20 miles) to Totaranui and 31 kilometres (19 miles) to Awaroa. Carparks are located at these four access points. All the local towns have a range of accommodation options.
Public boat ramps are located at Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Tarakohe, Tata Beach and Totaranui.
Regular bus services depart Nelson and Motueka for Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Totaranui and Wainui. On-demand taxis are available at Motueka and Takaka.
Boat services from Tarakohe (charter only) Nelson, Kaiteriteri and Marahau serve points on the coast track, a convenient way to start or finish your walk.
Abel Tasman Coast Track Map
Weather on the trail: When is the best time to hike the Abel Tasman Track?
The best time of the year to hike in the Abel Tasman National Park is during the hiking season, from late October to late April. October and November daily highs are around 17-19 degrees Celsius (62-66 F), and alpine flowers bloom all around. December to February are warmer and dryer but also busier, and daily highs around 21-23 degrees Celsius (70-73 F). Finally, April to May daily highs sit between 16-18 degrees Celsius (60-64 F) and the trail is a bit more quiet. The area is quite dry, with an average of 10 rainy days per month.
During the winter season (late April to late October) the track can still be walked (and is way more quiet!), but temperature can go as low as 4 degrees Celsius (39 F) at nighttime. Luckily, the huts all have heating, so you'll be able to warm up your toes with a cuppa in your hands.
Fitness: How fit do you need to be to hike the Abel Tasman Track?
Any reasonably fit person can walk the Abel Tasman Coast Track, and no previous hiking experience is needed. If you're going independent, you will need to be able to carry all your own gear over rough rocky uneven surfaces, with elevation gains up to 600 metres (1,970 feet) on the biggest days. It is an ideal trip for groups or individuals. Physical fitness and good equipment will make the difference to your enjoyment regardless of the weather. It is suggested you start a regular walking programme 1- 2 months before your departure on the track. This programme should include some practice at carrying your pack on hills or stairs.
Accommodation and facilities on the Abel Tasman Coast Track
Backcountry huts and campgrounds
The four huts along the track have bunks and mattresses, heating and water. No cooking facilities are provided, so visitors should carry portable stoves.
Camping on the Coast Track is only permitted at the 21 designated sites. Each site has a water supply (except Te Pukatea) and toilet. Safe drinking water is available at Totaranui, Bark Bay and the Anchorage.
There is also a campground at Totaranui with fireplaces, shelter, toilets, cold showers and laundry facilities but no power. A small shop operates during the summer.
Please use toilets at huts and shelters. If this is not possible bury toilet waste well away from watercourses. Remember drinking water at huts and shelters comes from rivers and lakes.
Track etiquette and how to prepare
We recommend you arrange travel insurance to guard against loss of costs associated with cancellation or delay of your trip. The Department of Conservation will not be liable for injury, damage or any costs incurred by intending walkers. Emergency evacuation from the track can only be arranged by Conservation staff. For your own safety please sign hut books when you arrive. Know the symptoms of exposure. React quickly by finding shelter and providing warmth. If you become lost, stop, find shelter, stay calm and try to assist searchers.
Please Remember When Trekking in New Zealand
- All plants, birds and animals in the park are protected
- Please carry your rubbish out of the park
- No dogs or domestic pets are allowed
- Hunting is by permit only. Permits can be obtained from the Department of Conservation
- Fire is a major threat. Fires should only be lit in designated fireplaces. Please make sure fires are extinguished properly before you leave, and use portable stoves for cooking.
- Smoking is not permitted in the huts and shelters.
- Wasps and sandflies can be a problem. Carry insect repellent and antihistamines in case of allergy
- Possums are a pest and damage native trees. Do not encourage them by leaving food outside overnight
How to book the Abel Tasman Coast Track
Going by yourself
A Great Walks hut or campsite pass for the Abel Tasman Coast Track should be purchased before starting your trip and be carried with you. There are separate passes for summer (1 October to 30 April) and winter (1 May to 30 September) seasons. Also, between 1 October and 30 April each year, accommodation in any of the four public huts must be booked. Bookings can be made from 1 July each year for the coming summer season.
The booking system assures you of a bunk for the night. It avoids the need to rush to get to huts early to get a space or to carry a tent in case you miss out. You can walk and enjoy the track at your own pace.
There is a two-night limit on staying at each hut and campsite. At Totaranui, the limit is one night at the Great Walks campsite. The campsite pass may be upgraded to a hut pass if bunk space is available and on payment of the difference. This can be arranged with hut wardens after 6pm.
Many companies offer various guided options, from day hikes to the full track. Our Kiwi adventure includes a day trip that will bring you by boat through crystal clear waters to the best section of the trail. You'll hike along the coast through magnificent forest and immaculate beaches, and you'll hear from your passionate guides about the ancient rimu tree, the cheeky Weka, the elusive Kiwi.
Times are approximate only and will vary according to fitness and the pace of your group.
Consult a tide timetable when planning your trip, as some estuaries are only passable when the tide is low.
Marahau to Anchorage 4 hours, 11.5 kilometres (7.1 miles)
French names left by d'Urville and his crew - Adele, Lesson, Coquille, Simonet, and Torrent - add character to this part of the journey. At Marahau information kiosk a causeway crosses the estuary. On the far side the track passes through open country to Tinline Bay.
The track rounds Guilbert Point to Apple Tree Bay then passes through beech forest with large kanuka trees. After Yellow Point it turns inland, winding in and out of several little gullies before emerging in open country overlooking Torrent Bay and the coast and islands to the north.
Descend to Anchorage Bay where there is a hut and campsite.
Anchorage to Bark Bay 3 hours, 9.5 kilometres (5.9 miles)
From Anchorage Bay, cross a low ridge to Torrent Bay estuary. The estuary can be crossed within two hours either side of low tide. Alternatively, an all-tides track leads around the estuary to Torrent Bay. Please keep to the track through the private houses here.
At the northern end of Torrent Bay beach the track climbs through pine trees. The track sidles around two attractive valleys and above a beautiful inlet to the Falls River, the biggest in the park. Beyond the river sidle again before dropping back to the sea. Follow the track to the hut and campsites beside Bark Bay estuary.
Bark Bay to Awaroa 4 hours, 11.5 kilometres (7.1 miles)
Cross Bark Bay estuary or follow the all-tides track around its edge, and climb steeply to a saddle. Here you lose all sense of the sea below and journey quietly through stands of manuka.
Return to the shore at Tonga Quarry, where blocks of granite remain from an old quarrying operation. Tonga island sits offshore surrounded by marine reserve. A short distance on is Onetahuti beach; at its northern end, high tide may cause a delay. The tidal stream can be crossed within four hours either side of low tide. The track then climbs over Tonga Saddle and descends to Awaroa Inlet. Follow the shore for 15 minutes to Awaroa Hut and campsite.
Awaroa to Totaranui 1.5 hours, 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles)
Awaroa Estuary can only be crossed within two hours either side of low tide. And following very heavy rain the estuary may be uncrossable. From its northern side, the track crosses a low saddle and drops to Waiharakeke Bay where a timber-mill once operated.
The track re-enters the forest, emerges at Goat Bay, then climbs to a lookout above Skinner Point before descending to Totaranui. Follow the track to the visitor centre.
Totaranui to Whariwharangi 3 hours, 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles)
The track heads around Totaranui estuary, climbs over a low saddle and winds down through lush forest to Anapai Bay. From here to Mutton Cove travel alternates between sandy beaches and rocky headlands of regenerating kanuka.
Leave the coast at Mutton Cove and climb to another saddle. From here the track descends to Whariwharangi Bay. The hut, a restored farm homestead, and campsite are just behind the beach. Add one hour to go via Separation Point (see side trips below).
Whariwharangi to Wainui 1.5 hours, 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles)
From Whariwharangi Hut follow a small stream then climb out of the bay to a saddle overlooking Wainui Inlet. The track winds down to the shore around gorse-covered ridges recovering from a 1978 fire, then follows the estuary edge for a short walk to the carpark.
Transport is available from the carpark and it is possible to cross Wainui Inlet within two hours either side of low tide.
Gearlist: What you need to pack
The following is a list of essential equipment you'll need to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track. We do not recommend you walk in cotton garments, jeans or silk thermals. Perspiration means you are likely to feel damp and cold inside the best raincoat. We recommend you put all your clothing in plastic bags inside your pack liner for added rain protection. Keep your pack as light as possible while still taking the essentials.
- Waterproof raincoat with hood
- Backpack, 50-litre capacity (minimum)
- Plastic pack liner
- Sleeping bag
- Boots or strong walking shoes, preferably with ankle support
- Wool or polyproylene thermal underwear (top and bottom) is essential
- Warm hat
- Wool sweater or fleece top
- T-shirt for fine days
- Shorts for walking
- Wool socks - two pairs
- Insect repellent
- Water bottle
- Shirt or sweater
- Trousers, skirt or sweat pants
- Underwear - two sets
- Sandals or lightweight shoes
- Pajamas or night wear (keep in mind you may be sharing a mixed-gender dorm)
- Toilet requisites
Optional items you may want to include
- Sun hat and sunglasses
- Spare laces
- Second skin for blisters
A bit of extra background about the Abel Tasman Coast Track
History of the Abel Tasman National Park
For at least 500 years, Maori lived along the Abel Tasman coast, gathering food from the sea, estuaries and forests, and growing kumera on suitable sites. Most occupation was seasonal but some sites in Awaroa estuary were permanent.
On 18 December 1642, Abel Tasman anchored his two ships near Wainui in Mohua (Golden Bay), the first European to visit Aotearoa New Zealand. He lost four crew in a skirmish with the local Maori, Ngati Tumatakokiri.
The Tumatakokiri were conquered around 1800 and the conquerors in turn were invaded in the 1820s. The modern Maori, Te Ati Awa and Ngati Rarua, trace their ancestry back to this latter invasion.
Frenchman Dumont d'Urville followed in January 1827, exploring the area between Marahau and Torrent Bay. Permanent European settlement began around 1855. The settlers logged forests, built ships, quarried granite and fired the hillsides to create pasture. For a time there was prosperity but soon the easy timber was gone and gorse and bracken invaded the hills.
Abel Tasman National Park was formed after Nelson conservationist Perrine Moncrieff became concerned at the prospect of logging along the beautiful coast. She campaigned to have 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of crown land made into a national park. A petition presented to the Government suggested Abel Tasman's name for the park, which was opened in 1942 on the 300th anniversary of his visit
Flora and Fauna: What to look for on the Abel Tasman Track
The park is built mostly of granite; it colours the beaches and streambeds and gives rise to characteristically infertile soils. Despite this infertility, the damp gullies just above sea level support rich forest. Although many trees were removed during the milling era, a lush understorey of trees and shrubs, tree ferns, kiekie and supplejack remains, and the gullies lead the regeneration process.
Black beech is the natural cover of the dry ridges and headlands close to the sea, with hard beech further back where more moisture is available. Kanuka occurs where there have been windfalls or a history of fires. Manuka occurs where repeated burning has degraded the soil.
D'Urville found South Island kokako in the forests around Torrent Bay; these and several other native bird species have since disappeared. Bellbirds, fantails, pigeons and tui are now the main forest birds. Around the beaches, estuaries and wetlands, pukeko and weka are common.
A range of wading birds stalk the estuaries for fish and shellfish. Offshore, gannets, shags and terns can be seen diving for food. Little blue penguins feed at sea during the day and return to burrows on the park's islands at night.
Little is known about the park's freshwater fish. However, many of the park's waterways are slightly acidic and stained a tea colour by tannin leached from the soil - features known to be unfavourable to introduced trout, which compete with and prey upon native fish.
Unmodified estuaries are an integral feature of the Abel Tasman coast. Twice a day, with the tides, nutrients pour in from the sea to nourish the estuary's many fish, snails, worms, and crabs. These, in turn, are food for coastal birds. Being sandy, (rather than muddy), the park's estuaries are easily explored around low tide.
Areas inundated by only the highest tides carry salt marsh vegetation, rushes, glasswort and sea primrose. Between the tides creatures like periwinkles, tubeworms, Neptune's necklace and pink algae have adapted to regular exposure to sun and wind and sea.
Fur seals are found along the coast of the park, particularly on the more remote granite headlands of Separation Point and Tonga Island. Their numbers are increasing rapidly and they have recently started breeding there.
In 1993, Tonga Island Marine Reserve was created along part of the Abel Tasman coast where it is hoped the marine environment will be restored to its natural state.