The Abel Tasman National Park, 60km north of Nelson, is stunningly beautiful with golden sandy beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters and lush green bushland, interspersed with granite outcrops and inhabited by an abundance of wildlife. Deservedly it has an international reputation that draws large numbers of trampers, kayakers and day-trippers from November to March. But don’t be put off. Despite being New Zealand’s smallest national park – just 20km by 25km – the Abel Tasman absorbs crowds tolerably well and compensates with scenic splendour on an awesome scale.

Most visitors come to see the coastline. Some come to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track with its picturesque mixture of dense coastal bushwalking, gentle climbs to lookouts and walks across idyllic beaches. Abundant water taxis mean you can pick the sections to hike and get a lift back when you’ve had enough. Others come to kayak the spectacular coastline, spending leisurely lunchtimes on golden sands before paddling off in the late afternoon sun to a campsite or hut. Hiking and kayaking can be combined, and you might even tack on sailing the limpid waters or swimming with seals to round off the experience. You can stay in the park, either at one of the DOC huts and campsites, or in considerably more luxury at the ever-increasing number of attractive lodges.

With guided and advanced trip booking you can be whisked from Nelson straight into the park, missing potentially fascinating nights in the surrounding gateway towns. Motueka is best for organizing your own trip, but most kayaks and water taxis leave from tiny Marahau, at the park’s southern entrance. A few trips depart from diminutive Kaiteriteri, where a gorgeous beach tempts many to stay.

The park’s northern reaches are accessed from Takaka where Abel Tasman Drive leads to Wainui, Awaroa and Totaranui, all on the Coast Track.

Brief history

Since around 1500, Maori made seasonal encampments along the coast and some permanent settlements flourished near the mouth of the Awaroa River. In 1642, Abel Tasman anchored two ships near Wainui in Golden Bay and lost four men in a skirmish with the Ngati Tumatakokiri, after which he departed the shores. Frenchman Dumont d’Urville dropped by in 1827 and explored the area between Marahau and Torrent Bay, but it was another 23 years before European settlement began in earnest. The settlers chopped, quarried, burned and cleared until nothing was left but gorse and bracken. Happily, few obvious signs of their invasion remain and the vegetation has vigorously regenerated.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A postcard from New Zealand: where Maori culture is making waves

A postcard from New Zealand: where Maori culture is making waves

Despite centuries of colonialism that have had a devastating effect on the traditional indigenous way of life, Maori culture in New Zealand is experiencing a re…

26 Mar 2018 • Rachel Mills local_activity Special feature
Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

With spectacular mountains, incredible lakes and sprawling national parks, New Zealand makes for the adventure of a lifetime. The locals call it “Godzone” (…

15 Dec 2017 • Aimee White help Quiz
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every corner, with beaches, vineyards…

21 Nov 2017 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs