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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.