Coastal Tranquility: Eight Great Sea Kayaking Spots

New Zealand: Tasmanian Daredevils

With over 1,000 miles of coastline encircling a land mass the size of California, New Zealand offers a wealth of sea kayaking opportunities. Of these, Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island's north coast is probably New Zealand's premier sea kayaking destination. Sheltered from prevailing storms, Abel Tasman enjoys some of the best weather in New Zealand. Passages are relatively short along a scalloped coastline of myriad small coves and bays with golden-sand beaches. Solitude is guaranteed as many of the Park's remote beach camps are accessible only from the ocean. Ancient, subtropical forest comes down to the shoreline, sheltering more wildlife than you're likely to see on the North Island. To top it all off, the coast faces away from the prevailing westerly winds, and so has little swell activity, making this a safe waterway for less-experienced kayakers.
Consider starting in Totaranui and then travel south along the coastline to Tonga Island, visiting a fur seal rookery, the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, and the granite Tonga Arches. Tidal lagoons, reefs, and small coves also await your exploration before you pass the "Mad Mile," a rugged, exposed section of coast. Camp on remote beaches eachnight and then relax or hike in the coastal bush the morning after.

To explore another remote corner of New Zealand, we recommend a kayak cruise through the Marlborough Sounds. This region, a sheltered archipelago on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, boasts over 1,400 square kilometers of hidden inlets, secret coves, and pristine beaches. Paddling in the sounds is easy; since there is always another small island or sheltered harbor only minutes away, you never have to make long passages across open ocean. With its calm waters, and many good campsites, this little-known part of New Zealand is a great destination for a self-guided tour—easily one of the best sea kayaking areas in the Southern Hemisphere. And when you feel like trading your sleeping bag for a bed, you can cruise to a nearby island farm where homestay lodging is available at reasonable rates.
If time permits you to tour the North Island as well, head for Matauri Bay and paddle your way to Whangaroa Harbor along a remote and almost completely undeveloped stretch of the northeast coast. This coastline is wild and unspoiled; the only evidence of man is an isolated farmhouse or two.
Practically Speaking
After arriving in New Zealand, the cost for most multi-day guided trips are pretty reasonable, roughly $300 per person including food, guide and all gear. Both kayak rentals and guided tours can be arranged through local outfitters, either before you depart or after you've set foot on New Zealand's soil. Cost for a guided trip is roughly $60per day for the group's guide, plus $35 per person per day for kayak rental (independent paddlers can rent kayaks for the same price, without the guide). Custom itineraries and power boat shuttles to nearby islands can be arranged on request.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 31 Jan 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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