Sea Kayaking New Zealand's Abel Tasman Nat'l Park

Gorp.com

Abel Tasman, New Zealand's smallest national park, makes up for its acreage deficiency with an array of options for the active-minded traveler: undulating valleys rich with kiwifruit, tobacco, apples, and nectarines; swaths of coastal forests fringed with golden beaches; turquoise waters and world-class trekking routes; a rocky base riddled with underground caves and sinkholes; and a rich and varied wildlife population. Most visitors head to Abel Tasman to tramp along the Coast Walk and other challenging hiking routes, but the park's position on Golden Bay along the northern coast of New Zealand's South Island, coupled with near year-round tropical weather, make Abel Tasman prime sea kayaking territory.

The scalloped coastline of small coves, remote bays, and calm beaches qualify it as an isolationist's dreamland; paddle through aquamarine waters by day and glide onto secluded beaches by night—much of the coastline here can be reached only by boat. We recommend that you start off in Totaranui, then travel south to Tonga Island and the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Stretching one full mile between Awaroa and Bark Bay, you'll encounter fur seals, dolphins, blue penguins, shags, and gannets. Pass alongside the Tonga Arches, two massive granite structures rising up over the horizon, then head for Bark Bay. Split Apple Rock and Mosquito Bay—more attractions accessible only by water—should not be missed.

The curvature of the land on which Abel Tasman National Park sits protects the coastline from prevailing westerly winds, resulting in very little swell activity and creating an ideal waterway for beginner and intermediate kayakers, although guides are recommended for first-timers. This mode of transport is also a great way to reach regions of the park seldom seen by hikers. Be sure to leave your boat behind for a few hours each day and explore some of the park's well-maintained hiking trails. Two main kayaking outfitters run out of Marahau, Abel Tasman's gateway town—Abel Tasman Kayaks and Ocean River Adventure Company. They both specialize in kayaking tours and offering single- and multi-day trips along the park's shore.

Published: 28 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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