Abel Tasman National Park is easily accessible and, with its golden sand beaches, sculptured granite headlands and forest-lined tidal inlets and islands, it's one of the most visited parks in New Zealand. Unlike other South Island parks, Abel Tasman has few extremes in weather and its coastal track, one of the Great Walks, is an ideal place to explore without the need of serious technical equipment or experience. Day and multiday trips, walking, sea-kayaking, sailing, and scenic cruises, and combos of all of these, are popular ways to explore.
Keep in mind in the peak summer holiday season (Christmas to late January) this area is very busy and you will rarely be on that dream beach alone. Any time of the year, however, is perfectly suitable for an Abel Tasman trip, to wander the coastal track on golden beaches and through forest trails, or kayaking the sheltered bays and coves, perhaps in the company of seals.
The small settlements of Kaiteriteri and Marahau
are the main gateways to the national park, both at the southern end 20 to 40 minutes' drive from Motueka. Stop first at the Nelson or Motueka i-SITE Visitor Centre for maps and information. If you're planning to stop over night at a Department of Conservation campsite or hut, along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you need to book ahead. You can do this online or at the Nelson or Motueka i-SITE. It pays to book well ahead, especially in summer. Water taxis service the coastline, and they drop-off or pick-up at many points along the way. At the northern end of the park, a road leads from Golden Bay through the park to Totaranui, where there is a large DOC campground and long beautiful beach. This is a popular start/finish point for those walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Kaiteriteri Beach. The approach to Kaiteriteri Beach is lovely, and the beach is one of the area's prettiest, with its curve of golden sand, rocky islets offshore, and deep clear water. This place is packed in mid-summer, but once the six-week Christmas rush is over, the area returns to its usual quiet. Many water-taxi and scenic cruises leave from here for Abel Tasman National Park. There is a popular campground and a few cafés in the village, although all prune their hours or close in winter. A number of private holiday homes are also located here. Best for: swimming, walking. Amenities: food and drink, toilets, accommodation, parking (free), tour booking offices, cruise and water taxi services. Kaiteriteri-Sandy Bay Rd., Motueka, 7197.
Jun 4, 2015
I know many people love this park and consider it a gem, but we felt like we wasted a day trying to access it and in the end didn’t really felt like we saw very much. Granted, the facts that the day we had for this was rainy and that we spent a good deal of it worried about running out of fuel in our campervan didn’t help. We started and ended the day in Motueka, went to Kaiteriteri, then back to Highway 60 and up part of the Canaan Road until
we got worried that we were going to get stuck, then to Takaka where a woman at the I-Site said there was a visitor’s center at Totaranui. It took us about two hours to get there on an unsealed road in the rain, only to find that what she called a visitor’s center was actually the campground registration office and it was apparently closed for the season. By that time, it was late afternoon and time to head back before dark. My favorite parts of this day were photographing some sea birds at Kaiteriteri, taking in views at the Hawkes Lookout (actually in Kahurangi National Park), and the Abel Tasman Monument, despite the fact that it was raining pretty hard at that point. It didn’t seem like this national park had adequate infrastructure, or maybe we just didn’t understand what a primitive park it is. Later in our New Zealand trip, we got to the seal colony at Cape Foulwind and Pancake Rocks near Punakaiki and found that both of those places had decent roads, facilities, and even a visitor’s center. If I had it to do over again, I’d skip Abel Tasman and what was a very frustrating and fruitless day.