After all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the Hobbit movies, much is made of New Zealand being exactly like Middle Earth, with rolling green hills, high snow-capped mountains, and lush forests and roaring rivers. While New Zealand has all of these things and more, it also has an area that appears to be lifted straight from the Sahara, or from one of the deep deserts of the world. That place is the Farewell Spit, a fifteen mile (25km) stretch of land that extends from the northern section of the South Island of New Zealand. And for those willing to explore it, the Farewell Spit features sand dunes, blowing sand storms, long stretches of sandy coast, wildlife, and hidden pools of water.
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.
The decision to tramp the Coast Track is easy; it has world class beaches, stunning forests, and sea-side scenery. What is not easy, however, is deciding how long to spend on the track and deciding which direction you head on the track. If you’re an international traveler like me, or have limited vacation days, the sad reality is that you might not have the time to backpack the whole track. The first time I was in Abel Tasman, I took three days to hike part of the Track from North to South, and this is my day-by-day guide of that backpack, which covers about three-quarters of the total track, along with a side trip into the interior portion of the park. A couple of years later, I went back and hiked the top quarter portion of the track; and enjoyed it as well, but in terms of a great multi-day trip, the one I am about to describe is hard to beat for backpackers.
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.