This day started early (like so many of my days on vacation), because of transportation requirements, since it was a two hour bus ride to the start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track in Marahau. It was my first day walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, my first of three multi-day walking tramps in New Zealand. I first visited New Zealand eight years prior, and did all the beautiful nature and adventure sports. But I wanted to come back and do a few of the tramps that New Zealand is famous for.
Due to scheduling requirements, I chose to do the Abel Tasman Coastal Track first. This proved to be a good choice, because this track is considered much easier than most tracks. The distance is not that excessive. While there are some steep ascents, they are always very short. This is a hike that can even be done in sneakers if so desired and not hiking boots. Now granted, I had to carry my large backpack every day, but the trail wasn’t that difficult. In fact, this trail was the perfect training for other, more difficult multi-day tramps I planned to do during my vacation. It got my body used to walking every day, and carrying a 25-pound pack on my back.
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national parks, but it is one of the most popular. It is located in the Golden Bay area in the northwestern part of the South Island. This particular park is filled with golden beaches and seaside forests that reminded me of the Caribbean and Hawaii.
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track can be done in three to five days, depending on how far you want to walk and where you want to stay. Since this park is so popular (around 30,000 persons walk at least part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track per year), persons can’t stay overnight in the park unless they have reserved a place in a Department of Conservation hut or campsite. Since I am not a fan of camping, I went with staying in huts. I elected to walk 38 kilometers over four days. This ensured that I walked no more than four hours a day, which left me ample time to relax on site and enjoy the beautiful beaches and other nature.
My first day was hiking from Marahau to Anchorage, which was only 11.5 kilometers or four hours of hiking, so I was done with my walking for the day by lunchtime. After years of hiking in Korea, this trail was a dream. It was wide, well-graded, and well-benched. There was no scrambling over boulders or anything like that. It was walking on a well-designed trail that enabled me to fully enjoy the beautiful nature around me.
There were plenty of people on the track during my walk. Part of it was that I didn’t start walking until mid morning so more people were awake, and I was with a group of people who came on the bus with me. Plus there were a lot of people doing day walks by walking either to Anchorage or from Anchorage. Water taxis went to all parts of the park, so it was easy for day trippers to come and visit and walk part of the track if they so desired.
At first I thought most of the track would be on the beach, but that is not the case. While small parts of the track are on the beach, most of the track is a bit inland through a shaded lush coastal forest, and every so often emerge to be rewarded with spectacular views of the lush coastline and the pristine blue water.
Anchorage was a popular site for visitors, so when I arrived there, there were plenty of people sunning themselves on the beach and enjoying lunch. There wasn’t much else to do, but walk along the beach, swim in the sun-warmed water and relax in peace. A short 15 minute walk from Anchorage is Te Pukatea Bay camp site, which is right on a quiet, isolated beach. If you wanted some solitude, this was the best place to get it.
My body was surprisingly hurting after the first day. Part of that was undoubtedly because I developed a blister on my heel that would plague me for the rest of the track. But even the rest of my body was a bit sore. While I’ve hiked plenty of day trips, this was the first time in a while I carried a sort of heavy pack on my back.
While I was staying in a DOC hut, it is basically camping indoors. These huts have mattresses and flushing toilets, but that is about it. There is no electricity, no gas cookers. If you want hot food, you have to bring your own stove and make it yourself, since there is no food sold on site. There are no showers, and of course there is no Internet. So it was just me, beautiful nature, and a fully charged e-reader for when the weather turned south. It meant relaxing on the beach, which is something I don’t typically do for long periods of time.
I ended up falling asleep before the sun went down, which isn’t that difficult when the sun doesn’t set until after 2100 at night. I woke up in the middle of the night. Everyone was asleep, and it was dark and silent outside. The nearly full moon was out in force, shining its cold, pale light over the beach with the lapping waves. It made me feel very connected to the natural world. It was a good way to end my first day of hiking.