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After sailing up its coast for five days, Dutch East India Company explorer Abel Tasman first set eyes on Golden Bay on December 18, 1642. Seeing a perfect stretch of beach for men to search for fresh water, he and his men attempted to land, only to be met with hostile Maori warriors, defending their agricultural outpost from outsiders. Sailing in their traditional waka canoes, the Maori prevented the Europeans from landing. Almost four centuries later, the stretch of golden beach where the Dutch sailors attempted to land is known today as Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s premier kayaking destination.
It’s no surprise as to why: with pristine beaches, untouched islands, amazing accommodations, and miles of walking and biking trails, Abel Tasman National Park is a master class in outdoor adventures. But it is kayaking that makes the experience at Abel Tasman unforgettable. Whether travelling alone, with friends and family or using one of the local guide services, kayaking the golden beaches and gorgeous islands is an experience that cannot be missed. Whether the Yakima on your roof rack is a rental or your personal pride and joy, Abel Tasman has just what you’re looking for, and more.
You have a number of things to prepare before you ever hit the water. Consider first who is coming with you: are you going it solo, or with friends and family? From there you will need to seek accommodations. Abel Tasman offers many campsites along the coast and on hiking trails, each requiring reservations for guarantee enough space. Campsites allow for tents, but no hammocks or tents that tie to trees in order to maintain the integrity of the many types of trees found in the park. If you prefer more creature comforts, lodges can be found across the park that provides indoors accommodations.
For kayaking, make sure your vehicle has the right roof rack for your kayak or canoe, and consider the car accessories that might be most appropriate for your vehicle. If you prefer not to travel with your own kayak, services in and around the park such as Abel Tasman Kayaks provide kayak and kayak accessory rentals. In either case, make sure your kayak has enough accessories to carry your camping gear and anything else you and yours might need.
Arrival into Abel Tasman takes you into the Marahau, or “Abel Tasman Village,” tide-based inlets that allow you to hit the water as soon as you arrive; otherwise, you can take a water taxi service to your campsite to get set up before heading out. Popular destinations include Split Apple Rock, a geological oddity that fits its namesake perfectly, and the many islands within the park, including Adele Island, the largest island which contains a seal colony and a viewpoint for a spectacular sight of both the reserve and the Pacific. Conditions vary, but Abel Tasman is known for its protected coasts. Headlands that produce heavy waves and winds can be found off Adolphe Point (the infamous “Mad Mile”) and within the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. While in the reserve, no fishing or disturbance of marine life is permitted. Be mindful of conditions and of the skillset of those you’re kayaking with. Local services offer guides for as many as five days, allowing you to get a full sight of the park from Split Apple Rock to Separation Point.
Freshwater can be found throughout the park at destinations along the coast, and Awaroa Lodge offers the park’s only source of in-park dining.
Abel Tasman National Park offers visitors a unique example of unparalleled pristine Pacific wildlife and bountiful kayaking opportunities. Alone or with a group, armed with your own gear and accessories or willing to rent from the park’s services, Abel Tasman is not to be missed. If you find yourself on the Southern Island, take the time for you and your mates to head to Abel Tasman. The memories you make there will be as unforgettable as the waves and sand that will haunt your dreams for a lifetime.
Last updated: 7th September 2018