The best part about backpacking the Coast Track is the stunning sunrises. While there are many differences between day-hiking the coast track and backpacking the Coast Track, the main difference is that as a day hiker, the odds of you seeing the sunrise – or sunset are slim. However, if you are backpacking, you will see sunrises, sunsets, and everything in between – including some stunning nighttime skies. While I’ve seen a lot of sunrises and a lot of sunsets on the trail, in my opinion the sunrises on the Abel Tasman are probably the best I’ve seen in the whole world; which is another reason to backpack the Coast Track.
If you’re following my route that I outlined here, you’ll start Day Two at the Tonga Quarry Campground. If you’re worried that you’ll have to get up early to see the sun rise, or walk a ways to see the above view, don’t fret: this view is five feet away from your tent; and if you place your tent correctly, you might not even have to move those five feet; and seeing the sun rise is a great way to start your day. That extra motivation will definitely help you, because although the scenery will again be stunning on your trek, you will need to cover a lot more distance than you did on Day One, when you trekked a mere 4.9 miles (7.9 km) from Awaroa Landing. On Day Two, you will need to backpack 9.69 miles (15.6 km) to reach your next stop, Torrent Bay. Alternatively, if you have the time, you can only trek the remainder of the distance to Bark Bay (3.5 km, or 1 mile), and make camp there for the night, but as this is a short distance, chances are that you will want to head all of the way to Torrent Bay.
From Tonga Quarry, the trail heads out, and begins to ascend over one of the many low rising coastal hills that the Coast Track intersects. Like the ascent to the Awaroa Saddle, the track may appear steep at times, but the elevation gain is between 300-400 feet (100-150 meters) at the steepest sections, and the total uphill distance is only .5 miles (1.75 km). Overall, the trail is pleasant, and there are great views to be had at the saddle, before you start your descent into Bark Bay.
Like Onetahuti Estuary/Bay, Bark Bay is a tidal crossing, so you will have to plan your day accordingly in order that you will not be stranded on the track. Unlike the crossing at Onetahuti, there is an alternative high tide route at Bark Bay. However, be warned: the high tide route around Bark Bay crosses the highest point in the park, and does have some substantial elevation gain and loss. Furthermore, if you are forced to take the high tide route, you’ll miss out on another of the park’s spectacular beaches, which in my mind is incentive enough to properly time your crossing. Once you have made it through the tidal zone at Bark Bay, you will see the Bark Bay hut and campground, which is a good spot to stop and change shoes; or simply use the restroom facilities. From the hut, the trail continues back up into the forest, and again heads uphill. At the top of the hill, the trail will level out, and you will be looking out over a large suspension bridge which crosses the largest river in the park, the Falls River.
After you have crossed the bridge, the trail levels out and provides great views of the area before it descends down into Torrent Bay. Like Onetahuti and Bark Bay before it, Torrent Bay is also a tidal crossing; but it is substantially larger than both of those crossings. At low tide, the bay is nothing more than a beach – no water is present. But, at high tide, the bay is a bay – an enormous expanse of water that you cannot hope to cross by foot, and one that you should not attempt to cross(not that you should attempt the prior crossings either on foot at high tide). As you will have already crossed Bark Bay earlier in the day, your chances of timing the Torrent Bay crossing in the same day are slim to nonexistent. Besides, at this point, you will have backpacked 9.6 miles, and this is a great spot to stop and relax before heading out on the trail for Day 3.
Tips: 1) Watch out for possums at Tonga Quarry Campground. For non-New Zealanders, be aware that in New Zealand, a “possum” is something that looks more like a koala or other cuddly animal, and is not the long tailed rat-like creature that lives in North America. These creatures are like marmots, or squirrels, and will try to chew through your gear/tent to get your food. Plan accordingly, and do not leave your food unattended. 2) As I mentioned for Day One, be sure to bring two pairs of shoes for the Coast Track – a pair to backpack the trail; and a pair to cross the tidal areas. 3) Enjoy the walk. The forests through this area are particularly spectacular, as are the views.