Coast Track, Abel Tasman National Park

Sunrise, Abel Tasman National Park

What Is the Coast Track?

The Coast Track is a hiking trail that extends from Wainui Bay to Marahau in Abel Tasman National Park. The trail is 55.2 kilometers long (for Americans, that’s 34.29 miles long, so we’ll round up, and call it 33.3 miles total distance), and it can be hiked and or backpacked from North (Wainui Bay) to South (Marahau) and South (Marahau) to North (Wainui Bay). This trail, or as New Zealanders call it, “track”, covers a variety of stunning terrain, from forested areas, to estuaries, to golden sand beaches, along the shores of the Tasman Sea.  It is considered one of New Zealand’s “great walks”, meaning that while it can be hiked piecemeal in a series of day hikes, it can also covered, and is best appreciated in a one-to-four day backpack trip (which New Zealanders call “tramping”). The best time to go on this great walk along the Coast is during Spring and Summer in New Zealand, which is from October to March.

Coast Track, Abel Tasman National Park

I was lucky enough to backpack the Coast Track from Awaroa Bay to Marahau over a two and a half day span, which I’ll be covering on the blog in successive weeks in one day increments, and also to explore the Wainui Bay region in a series of day hikes. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand and the world, so be sure to do your research before you go, and be sure to tread lightly while you are there to preserve the area for future visitors.

Where is Abel Tasman National Park?

Abel Tasman National Park is located on the Northwestern side of the South Island of New Zealand. It was established in 1942; and the closest towns to the park are Motueka and Takaka. It is also the smallest of all of New Zealand’s National Parks.

Who was Abel Tasman?

Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer who was the first European to discover New Zealand. In 1642, his ships set anchor in what is now known as Golden Bay. However, while in Golden Bay, Tasman’s crew encountered and ended up fighting the native Maori; an encounter which left four Europeans and seven Maori dead. This encounter caused Tasman to name Golden Bay, “Murderer’s Bay”.

Important Things to Know About Backpacking the Coast Track

Driving to the Coast Track

The number one thing to know about the Coast Track is that there are several tidal crossings along the trail, and these crossings will affect your trek. The tidal swings at these crossings range from no water – to huge, enormous amounts of water. What we are talking about is huge tidal swings – not small ones. Correspondingly, any hiker – or backpacker, must be prepared and be aware of the times that the tide will be at low tide; and the times that the crossings will be impassable. The second thing to know is that unlike in America where backpackers must carry their own tent/bivy sack to have a place to stay on a multi-day trip, in New Zealand, many of the Great Walks require backpackers to stay in shelters – permanent buildings at set locations, and camping is not allowed. Fortunately, the Coast Track is not one of the Great Walks where camping is not allowed; and the trail has a hybrid system of campsites and shelters (which can be reserved).

Third, access in to many areas of the Coast Track is by boat – which will pick you up at a dock; and drop you off at a beach, where you will begin walking. Fourth – beware of sandflies. While the scenery is beautiful in Abel Tasman, these bugs can and will ruin your day, depending on where you are, and the conditions that time of year; do not let them ruin your trip, and be prepared for their pesky biting. Above all else, be prepared for a walk of a lifetime.