Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of the nine New Zealand Great Walks. With lush, green hills that rise out of the sea, it is easy to see why many hikers come to experience this special landscape.
Hugging the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park for 60 kilometres, this protected area is rich in marine life, as well a wildlife and plant species.
One trailhead is at the small town of Mārahau and the other at Wainui Bay. There are three places where the trail can be accessed by road, and that is at either trailhead and also at Tōtaranui.
- Sandy beaches
- Tidal estuaries
- 47 meter suspension bridge overlooking Falls River
- Wildlife and marine life
This stunning coastal path stretches 60 kilometres from Mārahau to Wainui Bay. Open all year round, this path is well formed and easy to follow.
The terrain is mostly gentle inclines and descents as it sweeps the coastline. There are some steeper sections in places.
If you want to head more inland to enjoy a side trip or two, be prepared for some steep climbs.
The nearest large town to Mārahau is Nelson. From Nelson, here are buses available to take you to Mārahau and back again. Other small towns nearby are Takaka and Kaiteriteri.
One of the easiest ways to get to different parts of the track is by water taxi, and there are regular services from Kaiteriteri, Mārahau and Tōtaranui.
There is road access to the Able Tasman Coastal Track, with carparks situated at:
- Mārahau: 67 kilometres from Nelson
- Wainui: 21 kilometres from Takaka
- Tōtaranui: 32 kilometres from Takaka
If you are coming from abroad, the nearest international airport to the Abel Tasman National Park is Wellington.
Nelson has an airport for domestic flights, and connections can be made from international airports such as Christchurch and Auckland.
There are ferry services that will take you from Wellington to Picton, at the top of South Island. Picton to Able Tasman National Park takes around three hours by road.
This 60 kilometre coastal track can be walked in one go with overnight stops along the way, or it can be walked in stages.
Lifts to different parts of the track can be made via water taxi if there is no road access.
You can make this hike into a circular route by choosing to walk the inland track through unspoilt forests back to Mārahau.
This will lengthen your hike by a further 41 kilometres, but is a fun challenge and saves you from having to arrange transportation.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
The Abel Tasman Coastal track is graded 3/5. The path is well-managed and mostly easy to walk, but some areas are prone to mud and it can be steep in places.
If is more difficult to walk if you are completing the length with overnight stays, and carrying equipment.
This walk is suitable for most ages and abilities, and can be walked in sections if desired.
You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to walk the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.
If you are walking the length with overnight stays, you do need to be fit enough to carry all your supplies, including food and camping equipment.
Water is available from huts, but filtering systems may not always be working. Being able to boil or filter your own water is essential.
It is important have tide information with you when walking, as the area has a large tidal range.
The Rākauroa/Torrent Bay estuary is safe to cross two hours before or after low tide, but the there is a side track you can take if you miss the window.
Awaroa estuary also needs to be crossed one hour 30 minutes before low tide, or two hours after.
The crossing takes 25 minutes, but care is needed as this estuary can be affected by the weather, causing tides to come in quickly.
Permits are required for staying at the DOC huts and campsites, but you don’t need one to walk the trail itself.
Guided or Self-Guided
Most people choose to walk this route self-guided, yet there are companies that provide guided tours of the track.
If you like to learn local knowledge, and have your bags transported to your next overnight stay, then a guided walk may be the right option for you.
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track can be walked all year round.
The climate in this part of New Zealand has generally mild temperatures and has the most sunshine in the country, although you should be prepared for any weather no matter what the season.
Being a coastal path, there may be strong winds at times, storms out at sea, and differences in tides to be careful of.
The busiest time on the trail is between December and February, so if you prefer to avoid the crowds choose to visit outside of this period.
A typical itinerary would be:
Mārahau to Anchorage: 12 kilometres
Anchorage to Bark Bay: 12 kilometres
Bark Bay to Awaroa: 11 kilometres
Awaroa to Whariwharangi: 17 kilometres
Whariwharangi to Wainui: 6 kilometres, or Tōtaranui: 9 kilometres
There are four DOC huts and 18 campsites along the trail. There must be booked in advance, no matter what time of year you are hiking.
The huts provide a place to sleep and toilet, but there are no cooking facilities provided.
Other accommodation options can be through private companies, or if you arrange a guided walk with lodgings.
Lodge style accommodation is also available on the edges of the national park.
Campsites have basic toileting facilities, and there are usually places where you can get water
It is worth noting that wasps and sand flies are common along the trail, and having repellent with you is a good idea if you are camping outdoors. If you are allergic to wasp stings, bring antihistamines.
Wild camping is not permitted.
A side trip to Cleopatra’s pool will feel like you are visiting another world. Hidden and shaded, this mossy natural pool provides a welcoming place for a dip. There is also a moss-lined water slide!
Spend some time snorkelling, kayaking and exploring Tonga Island Marine Reserve.
There is plenty of wildlife to see, including fur seals or kekeno that like to rest among the boulders on the beaches.
Cascade Falls is around 45 minutes’ walk off the path near Rākauroa/Torrent Bay.
Awaroa beach is another side trip around 40 minutes from the track. This beach became a national park after it was purchased through crowd-funding.
Hire a kayak for the day and explore the coastline on the water. This gives you a unique chance to get close to marine wildlife such as seals and dolphins.
|Starts at||Marahau 7197, New Zealand|
|Finishes at||Wainui Bay, South Island, 7183|
|Length of route||60 Km|
|Average time to complete||3 - 5 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||200 metres|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, food supplies, tide information, Trekking gear, walking boots|
|Countries visited||New Zealand|