Abel Tasman holds many amazing memories for me. Shortly after I moved to New Zealand,  Jack and I visited Abel Tasman National Park in early winter, not knowing what to expect from our first of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Much of the trip we had the park to ourselves as we kayaked through the turquoise water, meandered along the stunning coastal track, and pitched our tent in the seaside campsites. Our most memorable evening was spent dining on the beach and gazing at the waves lit by the full moon only to be joined by a group of seals dancing in the waves before us. Magic!

Along with the ups, there were downs, of course. Our first few hours in the kayak, we argued over whether it was sensible to climb up the split in the split apple rock for a photo. I insisted that we would never know unless we tried, so I tried, which turned out to be a divisive move. On our second night it rained and rained, we packed up the tent and walked in more rain. We were sopping, I was cold, and I couldn’t bear to pitch the already wet tent in the downpour. This led me to go against the tramper’s code and commit my worst DOC-sin ever – I slept in a hut that I hadn’t booked. A very full hut to boot. Upon reflection, I absolve Jack from any guilt in this situation. He did agree to sleep on a stolen bunk in the overflowing hut, but this was back in the early days of us when he was too lovesick to function rationally. If charged, he would surely be acquitted by reason of temporary insanity.

Itinerary #1 – Two fit and experienced trampers with tents - Jack & me.

Day 1: Kayak from Marahau to Bark Bay. After the kayak safety briefing, head South to Split Apple Rock, then Northward again with a picnic stop at Adele Island. Camp at Bark Bay.
Day 2: Kayak from Bark Bay to Onetahuti Bay. Camp at Onetahuti Bay in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Spot seals dancing under the full moon.
Day 3: Walk from Onetahuti to Anchorage, 14.8 kilometres. Steal a bunk.
Day 4: Walk from Anchorage back to Marahau, 12.4 kilometres.

Living across the world from friends and family in what happens to be the most beautiful country in the world, we attract a lot of visitors and regular requests for suggestions about what to do. As much as possible, we try to join in with our tourists. We landed at Abel Tasman again a few years later with our friend, Ally, who was visiting over New Year’s. It was perfect summer weather with relief from the heat easily attained with a dive into the glittering sea. New Zealand's fabulous hut system is unparalleled in Canada, so many of our visitors are wary of sleeping in a hut. Despite the uncertainty, Ally bravely agreed to book into huts with us.  

Two of the trip highlights were dependent on the tide times. At high tide, we kayaked through the lagoons of Frenchman’s Bay and Sandfly Bay, feeling grateful to be amidst the emerald waters. Timed with the outgoing tide, we dipped into the water at Bark Bay riding the current just like a water slide. It was true New Year’s Eve celebration complete with fireworks at Bark Bay, but being 14-weeks pregnant with Dan, I was too sleepy to stay up after dark. On our last day, Jack and I decided to run back to Marahau figuring my running days might be numbered; while Ally preferred to rest on the beach and finish her book before the water taxi came to retrieve her.  

Itinerary #2 Happy kayaker braving the hut - Ally.

Day 1: Kayak from Marahau to Anchorage. Transport packs in the water taxi. Sleep in the Anchorage Hut.
Day 2: Kayak from Anchorage to Bark Bay. Transport packs in the water taxi. Sleep in the Bark Bay Hut.
Day 3: Water taxi from Bark Bay to Marahau.

Itinerary #3 Abel Tasman for runners and pleasure kayakers - Jack & me.  

Day 1: Kayak from Marahau to Anchorage. Transport packs in the water taxi. Sleep in the Anchorage Hut.
Day 2: Kayak from Anchorage to Bark Bay. Transport packs in the water taxi. Sleep in the Bark Bay Hut, barely notice the fireworks.
Day 3: Run from Bark Bay to Marahau, 23.9km. Transport packs in the water taxi. 

This year we were once again blessed with overseas visitors and planned another visit to Abel Tasman. Jack had to head back to work, so Dan and Sadie ended up doing their first Great Walk with me. Luckily, we'd had some practice tramping just the three of us, a few weeks earlier at Lake Daniells. My brother and sister-in-law, Ned and Hannah, both in training for the ultimate tourist tramp, the famous Tongariro Crossing, wanted to include a mixture of tramping and kayaking, while coordinating campsites with us.

Unfortunately, it’s against the park rules to hire freedom kayaks for children under 14-years-old. Some companies offer private tours that may include children as young as 4-years-old, but that option was out of our budget. With these parameters in place, this trip ended up being the most complex yet.

Our planning paid off and the trip couldn’t have gone any better! We were blessed with sunny skies and calm seas. Hannah, from the East Coast of Canada, was well versed in the art of clamming and taught the kids. Uncertain about the edibility of these Kiwi clams, we buried them after finding them, but the joy was in the hunt. And we discovered Te Pukatea Bay, which was postcard perfect Abel Tasman. Te Pukatea Bay is less than 1 kilometre away from the heaving metropolis of Anchorage Hut and Campground.  In comparison to Anchorage with a capacity for 134 people and swarms of day visitors, Te Pukatea Bay's maximum of 14 people was like a library: still, serene, and meditative. We can’t wait to take Jack there next time.

Itinerary #4 Finding the balance of kayaking and walking - Ned & Hannah. 

Day 1: Water taxi to Torrent Bay. Walk from Torrent Bay to Bark Bay, approximately 9 kilometres.Transport packs in the water taxi.  Camp at Bark Bay.
Day 2: Kayak from Bark Bay to Anchorage. Transport packs in the water taxi. Walk from Anchorage to Te Pukatea Bay, 1 kilometres. Camp at Te Pukatea Bay.
Day 3: Walk from Te Pukatea Bay to Marahau carrying packs, 13.4 kilometres.

Itinerary #5 Tramping with kids - Sadie (4), Dan (6), & me. 

Day 1: Water taxi to Bark Bay. Low tide exploration. Camp at Bark Bay.
Day 2: Walk from Bark Bay to Te Pukatea Bay, 9.4 kilometres, with a low-tide crossing at Torrent Bay. Transport packs in the water taxi to Anchorage. Get your support crew (Ned and Hannah) to carry the ridiculously heavy* pack 1 kilometre from Anchorage to Te Pukatea Bay. Camp at Te Pukatea Bay.
Day 3: Water taxi to Marahau.

*Note:  We did not stick to our "what to pack" guidelines on this trip. Instead, we opted to pack most everything under the scorching sun.  

With it’s hard packed trails sandwiched between golden beaches and emerald native bush, the effort to reward ratio is pretty spectacular at Abel Tasman. In addition to huts and campsites, there is private accomodation available within the park, such as lodges and baches. With all of the options for transport and accommodation, Abel Tasman might be the most adaptable great walk with options to suit most everyone.