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Abel Tasman Coastal Track
Photo: Bjoern Dingwerth
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is a breathtaking, casual walk around a spectacular, unspoilt coastline. This is a haven for anyone out there who loves the sea. There are brilliant, blue lagoons, estuaries and tropical island sanctuaries. The beaches, oh those beaches are simply a delight covered with sand that is so soft on your skin it feels like powder. You will see dolphins, seals, oystercatchers and eels. Its accessibility and beauty have led it to become something of a tourist attraction drawing about 30,000 visitors every year. Its a park that caters for everyone. As water taxis are readily available to take you almost directly to the huts or camping grounds, the sights are available to anyone from little children to the elderly to the disabled. The more energetic may hire a kayak, water ski or swim with dolphins. Still, if it all does get too much for you there's even a shop and a cafĂ©. Infact, there are that many daytrippers and holiday makers here that the tramper loaded with a backpack, draws looks of pity and incredulity from some and eye-wide admiration from others. The track itself is more of a path being well graded and covered with gravel. You can walk this in a pair of sandals.
Day 1 - (4 hours, 11.5km)
Marahau to Anchorage (26 bunks, 50 camp sites)
From Marahau walk 1km to the start of the track. Immediately beyond the shelter lies the Marahau estuary. The mudflats are covered by an all-tidal causeway which climbs gradually through bracken and gorse. The track winds in and out of the bush by the coast and 2.5km/1hr arrives at a pleasant clearing with picnic tables called the Tinline campsite. Carrying along you will pass the Inland Track Route Sign winding around dry ridges and offering photo opportunities of Adele Island, Fisherman Island, Appletree Bay and Stillwell Bay. If you feel like a quick dip, tracks lead to the bays where camping is also available. The main track continues along for 3km/1 hour along the coast to Yellow Point (camping available) and then heads inwards weaving along dry ridges and in and out of the bush where you will see the Silver Fern. 1km or 30 mins later you will arrive at a sign-post directing you on a side-trip to the freshwater, 1m deep Cleopatra's Pool (15mins). The main track leads you past the Watering Cove junction and campsite to the bright, yellow sands of Anchorage Beach, (30 mins/1km) and then heads right to Anchorage Hut or just beyond to the Anchorage Camp Site.
Day 2 - (3 hours, 9.5km)
Anchorage to Bark Bay (25 bunks, 40 camp sites)
Be aware of the tides before you set out (2hrs before/after low tide). From Anchorage, follow the beach and then head west/right, climbing for 20 mins/700m over the headland to Torrent Bay. Time/energy permitting you may want to take the side-trip (3hrs/6km) from Torrent Bay Camping Site to Tregidga Creek, Falls River and and Cascade Falls. From Torrent Bay, the track passes a bunch of holiday homes before climbing steeply through the bush for 100m. The track then along Kilby Stream before arriving at a saddle. It's worth the short side trip to see the bays and reefs from the lookout. The main track descends from the saddle to Falls River, crossing a footbridge before climbing through the bush headland and then descends for 20mins back down to the coast and round the corner to Bark Bay. Turn left for Bark Bay Hut/Camp Sites.
Day 3 - (4 hours, 11.5km)
Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay (26 bunks, 18 camp sites)
Taking the low-tide route the track follows the spit, and crosses the lagoon over mudflats. A short, steep climb for 100m will get you to a low saddle and then weave over a few ridges before descending steeply to the abandoned Tonga Quarry (3km/1hr). Tide-conditions permitting, head south of the quarry and after scrambling along the rocks you will be rewarded and impressed by the sculptured arches of Arch Point (30 mins round trip). Don't miss it. The track climbs shortly out of the quarry to the headland before descending to the pleasure of Onetahuti Beach. This is a good place to head to directly if your time is limited. Immediately, in front of the beach lies Tonga Island while to the south beyond the Onetahuti Camp Site signs will direct you to a delightful, freshwater pool fed by a small waterfall. It's a beach walk for the next 1km/20 heading north before orange disc's point the track inland and into the bush. You will now climb past the Richardson Stream Swamp to Tonga Saddle (150m/2km/1hr). Nows the chance for that coffee and a side-track will lead you to Awaroa CafĂ© and Lodge. Alternatively, continue along the main track which remains mostly in the bush and crosses over the airstrip to Venture creek (1km/30mins). The orange signs will then direct you around the creek to Awaroa Hut/Camp (18 sites), (1.5km/30mins).
Day 4 - (1.5-2 hours, 5.5km/6.5hrs, 13km)
Awaroa to Totaranui to Whariwharangi (20 bunks)
The tide will dictate when you cross the Awaroa Inlet as the estuary may only be crossed 2hr before/after low tide. Following the orange signs you will cross the mudflats to Pound Creek (1km/20 mins) which it follows before crossing a low bush saddle and emerging shortly after at another of Abel's claim to fame, Waiharakeke Bay (1.5km/30mins). You may camp at Waiharakeke Camp Site (10 sites) which is a mere 50m from the point where the stream meets the beach. The track follows the path of an old tramway and then climbs away from the beach, crossing a ridge and then taking you down into Goat Bay. From here its a short 20 min walk through manuka forest across Skinner Point to Totaranui. Totaranui Camping Ground is massive and has a like quantity of visitors. There's also a phone, a tourist shop and water taxi/bus services are also available. Unless you're a real people person you'll probably find this site a bit overcrowded. If you can, its definitely worth heading to Whariwharangi which is ironically both the most beautiful as well as the least populated area of the park. Follow the tree-lined avenue, past the shop to a road junction where you should turn right/north and past the Education Centre. The track heading toward Anapai Bay begins at the end of this road (1km/20mins). It then crosses Kaikau Stream and arrives at a junction leading to the Headlands Track. Go left to climb 100m to a low saddle before dropping gently by a stream to Anapai Bay (1.5km/40mins). You may also camp here at the camp site which overlooks the beach (4 sites). Carrying along the beach, the track continues inland and over a headland for 2km before reaching Mutton Cove and camp (20 sites). An old farm road will then take you to the wonderful Whariwharangi Bay and Hut which lies 500m/15m inland at the west of the bay. This hut, a converted 2 storey homestead, is a treat. It was built in 1897 by John Hancock and last inhabited in 1926. A side-track from here will lead you to Separation Point (1hr/2km). You will have to negotiate a steep descent but its worth it for the opportunity to spot dolphins, seals, penguins and take a look at the lighthouse.
Day 5 - (1.5 hours, 5.5km)
Whariwharangi to Wainui Car Park
An old road leads from Whariwharangi over a saddle which offers views of Wainui Inlet. Descending sharply for 1.5km/30mins to the car park supported by a bus service.
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