Hiking New Zealand’s smallest national park
From top to bottom the Abel Tasman coastal path is a three-day walk, or an hour’s boat ride to cover the same distance. It is well maintained, and punctuated by campsites and overnight cabins that sit within metres of the beach. Cosying up to strangers is a given at Anchorage Bay, where a large wooden hut has giant bunk beds with plastic mattresses for a dozen people, along with cooking facilities, heaters and communal spaces. Bookings are recommended during the warmer months.
With gravel crunching underfoot the footpath wends through moist and sheltered valleys, where tree ferns and nikau palms bring a hint of the tropics to this relaxed corner of New Zealand.
Heading south toward Marahau, the branches and foliage provide a lush tunnel that protects walkers from the sun and the rain. Through the woods there are glimpses of Tasman Bay, where thick vegetation frames the emerald water and the sea appears as an extension of the land. The chorus of birdsong is briefly interrupted by footsteps and the scuffing of boots on coarse stone.
On the trail, I met Peter Triska and his wife Gill from nearby Nelson who were on an overnight trek but were not expecting anything too taxing. “We’re having a nice relaxed stroll. You can take a water taxi in and you can just stroll on out again, so it’s really easy,” explained Peter. Gill added that they were having such a peaceful time they had already stopped for lunch -- twice.