Celebrating beauty at Abel Tasman National Park

Imagine a few of your favourite things – a rare book you own, a hard to find song, maybe an ancient hand-me-down recipe. Don’t they just fill you up with joy? And when your favourite things give the same joy to others too? Does your joy get a tinge of pride, maybe, but contentment too?

“Abel

That’s probably how the people of New Zealand feel when others visit the Abel Tasman National Park. It’s a gem of a place – and they know it. Everyone is welcome here, but no one is allowed to spoil its beauty even a bit.

The hows and the wheres of Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park is at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand making it a perfect spot to start exploring the beauty of this island.

Several small towns like Kaiteriteri, Motueka and Marahau are at the southern end while at the northern end of the Abel Tasman National Park is the Golden Bay – the least visited and our favourite part of New Zealand.

The nearest big town is Nelson, from where we left for Abel Tasman National Park. The tour operators to this national park usually offer free pickup and drop services to Nelson. These pick up buses have a separate luggage compartment connected to the main bus by a hook. Which means, in case you aren’t returning to Nelson, you can carry all your luggage and leave it in these buses. You don’t have to lug it along inside the national park.

We were dropped off at Kaiteriteri where the golden sand and the blue waters of the Tasman bay welcomed us. We bought our entry tickets to the Abel Tasman National Park here and got into the boat waiting to pick us up.

“Kaiteriteri

The boat ride in Abel Tasman National Park

There are several ways to explore the Abel Tasman National Park. Time and fitness permitting, the Abel Tasman coastal walk spanning 3 to 5 days is the best way to explore the beauty there is inside this national park. Stay at the campsites or in the huts can be arranged through the Department of Conservation website.

But even a day trip can pack quite a punch. Take a boat to the national park and choose walking, kayaking or just a relaxed time on the boat and the beach.

“Sea

Even before we had entered the official boundary of the national park, interesting sights came our way. Imagine an apple – taller than the tallest human, wider than the size of your arms spread out. The apple is split right at the centre, just ready for you to bite into. Now imagine this in rock. In the middle of the bay, surrounded by shining white sand – that was the Apple Rock!

“Split

Once inside the national park, all around us were the blue waters, white sand and the green mountains. Exceptions were a few houses here and there. Houses, here inside the Abel Tasman National Park? Just as we were wondering, the captain started telling us stories about the settlers here. When this region was declared as a national park, the government allowed the people who owned this land to continue doing so. They could live here as well, but they had to arrange for their own water and electricity. Surprisingly, a few adventurous albeit eccentric people chose to continue living inside the park. It must cost them a fortune to regularly get their supplies from the “outside world”. Which clearly they didn’t mind for the thrill of this off-the-grid life in the literal midst of nature.

“Campsite

We were now going deeper into the Abel Tasman National Park, one bay at a time. There were tiny islets all along. Playful seals here, cormorants soaking in the sun there. The penguins leave home early, they were nowhere to be seen. Our co-passengers started getting off at the various beaches to start their walk or kayaking adventure.

“Abel

“Kayaks

We went up to the bay of Totaranui. That’s the farthest any commercial vehicle (boat) is allowed to go. Totaranui has road connectivity to the “outside world”, making it a popular camping site in the summer. On summer weekends, the camps are sometimes packed to capacity. In such scenarios, far before the road turns towards Totaranui, they put a “Housefull” board, so families do not have to drive all the way and feel disappointed.

“Sea

From Totaranui, we turned back. At Medlands beach, it was time for us to get off the boat to start our 11 km walk. Before we got off, the captain gave us a couple of instructions. “Use the toilets here. You won’t find one for the next few km” and “Just follow the green boards”.

“Abel

“Medlands

Walking in the Abel Tasman National Park

The walking path was well defined, leaving no space of confusion like “Are we on the right path? Is there a trail ahead?”

Every now and then there would be a board announcing a diversion to a lookout point or an interesting entry to a beach below. The distance and time to reach there are also clearly indicated on these boards so you could decide whether or not to indulge in the diversion.

“Torrent

There were patches of yellow trees every now and then, giving the feel of fall colours arriving at the Tasman Bay. The yellow colour, however, wasn’t a sign of autumn. These trees had actually been poisoned. Soon they would turn leafless and eventually die. This was all done on purpose.

Purposely kill trees in the national park? This was something new. Turns out, these were all pine trees. The pine isn’t native to New Zealand. But it grows fast and spreads rapidly, overpowering and eliminating the native trees of New Zealand. So, when the spread reaches beyond the sustainable level, to maintain the ecological balance, the foreign species are deliberately killed.

Millions of years ago, during the formation of the continents, because New Zealand got so isolated, it developed a unique ecosystem. There were no predators, no snakes here. In the absence of predators, there was no need for self-defence. Which is why the native birds of New Zealand are flightless. “If it can fly, it’s not from here”, is a famous saying. As more Europeans followed Cook and Tasman, they brought with them foreign flora and fauna. The only way now of maintaining the native ecosystem of New Zealand is by keeping a strict track of what’s grown how much.

“Falls

After a few minutes, we reached the point where we had to cross over to the other side of the Falls river – by crossing a swinging bridge built high up. We’ve been on cruder versions of a swinging bridge while trekking in the Himalayas. We knew what it’s like to walk over one. We also knew that this was made of steel and much sturdier than the ones we had crossed earlier.

But when you are standing several meters above the gushing waters of a river, on a narrow bridge, swinging merrily with each step that you take, all the knowledge that you have about the design and safety of the bridge, vanishes. All you think about is getting over to the other side as fast as you can. You know the river below looks beautiful, and bravely, you snatch sideway glances through the bridge. You quickly take in the expansive view of the river, telling your mind to not get too excited and just focus on the next step. “We will think about the river once we are on firmer ground”. All this while you are holding onto the side as tightly as you can like your life depends on it (which it most certainly does).

“Torrent

Torrent Bay was our mid-way point. The trail descended to the beach. The sand was the whitest we have ever seen! Since we have been to the Salar de Uyuni, we are going to use the phrase “as white as salt”!

Torrent Bay was one of those places that make it hard for you to believe you’re seeing it with your own eyes. The still blue waters, the spotless white empty beach, curved perfectly. A lone boat n the distance completing this picture perfect frame. It was time to sit and relax, soaking in this beauty.

“Torrent

Torrent Bay has one of the bigger campsites in the Abel Tasman National Park. There are two routes going ahead from Torrent Bay. A shorter one is usable only at low tide. The tide was high during our crossing. We had to use the all-tide route, longer by around 4 km.

“Rocks

We were headed to Anchorage, where a boat would pick us up. From the cold Alaskan wilderness to this bay lined national park, there definitely was something fascinating about “Anchorage”. Since reading Chris McCandless’ story, Anchorage has drawn images of adventure and excitement. It was indeed a perfect place to end our walk through the wilderness of the Abel Tasman National Park.

“The

A celebration worthy of this beauty

It had been a perfect day. The sun was out the entire time. There was a light breeze. Conditions ideal for a nice long walk!

“A

On our return journey, we met a kiwi couple holidaying in the Tasman Bay. They asked us where we were headed next. “Somewhere south”, we had told them.

“If you like wilderness, go down the west. If you like the beach, go down the east coast. If you want to see the fall colours, take Lewis pass through the centre”, they said. “Just pick any route and move ahead. It is all beautiful!”

For a place to be beautiful, is a gift of nature. Nature doesn’t cheat – everyone gets their fair share.

To see this beauty and share it with the world – is one thing.

What we had witnessed at the Abel Tasman National Park had been a celebration of this beauty.

It was our introduction to what made the beauty of New Zealand a unique kind of special.

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Celebrating beauty at Abel Tasman National Park

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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One thought on “Celebrating beauty at Abel Tasman National Park

  1. Sneha Khale

    Great article, stunning pictures, and god what a beyond-beautiful place NZ is!! I’m yearning to go back, and explore more this time round. This article definitely ignites travel lust 🙂 Also, nice reference to Into the Wild, although I think McCandless was much further, somewhere up north 😀