Abel Tasman National Park - quick facts

Situated in the north west of the South Island, on the other side of the hills from the Marlborough Sounds and the Queen Charlotte Track, it’s the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks and one of the most stunning!  Golden sandy beaches, crystal clear water, dolphins, penguins and seals, swimming, snorkelling, walking, caving and kayaking, sounds like paradise doesn’t it? That’s why Kiwis love Abel Tasman.

Here’s everything you need to know about Abel Tasman, including how to get there, how to fit it into your holiday, where to stay, weather, our Abel Tasman ‘must-do’ activity and a Kiwi trip or two.

Where is Abel Tasman National Park?

Abel Tasman National Park Location Map

Our favourite Abel Tasman activity

It would have to be kayaking and snorkelling at Tonga Island Marine reserve. OK, technically this is two activities, but who’s going to split hairs over this! Getting out around the coastline by kayak, then pulling out your snorkel and fins for a free dive to check out the marine life under the Kiwi summer sun will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your life!

It would have to be kayaking and snorkelling at Tonga Island Marine reserve. OK, technically this is two activities, but who’s going to split hairs over this! Getting out around the coastline by kayak, then pulling out your snorkel and fins for a free dive to check out the marine life under the Kiwi summer sun will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your life!

Other things to do in Abel Tasman we love

Overnight or day hiking on the coastal or inland tracks, swimming and boating up and down the coastline making stops in secluded bays and beaches.

Something you can’t do anywhere else except Abel Tasman

Combine a cruise and walk on one of our ‘Great Walks’. If you’re a little short on time and still want to walk a section of one of New Zealand’s best walks, it’s all set up for you right here. Jump on a water taxi, get dropped off at Bark Bay, then either walk all the way back to Marahau or arrange to be picked up somewhere along the way, Anchorage or Torrent Bay for a nice cruise day’s walk.

Kayakers in the forest channel - Abel Tasman National Park Tours

Kiwi Favourites in Abel Tasman

In Abel Tasman you can see the park by foot, on the water or a combination of the two. Walking all or part of the Abel Tasman coastal track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, covers the best of both worlds, with a great mix of hiking in the forest AND out on the beach.  Torrent Bay and Anchorage are idyllic spots, only accessible by water or on foot, so is Awaroa Inlet, if you’re on the guided walk you’ll be lucky enough stay in the old homestead there. Tonga Island Marine reserve, only reached by water, is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals, easily accessible but with without the crowds of mainland seal colonies. Totaranui, at the northern end of the park, is a great spot to stay after you’ve walked the whole track.

Abel Tasman for the Day

If you haven’t got time to overnight in the park, don’t worry, it’ll be a day you never forget! Stay in either Motueka or Nelson, get up early and head through to either Marahua or Kaiteriteri, where you can jump on a water taxi or kayak tour. You can get a little closer by staying in Marahau or Kaiteriteri too.

Water taxi on the beach - Abel Tasman National Park Tours

Stay overnight in Abel Tasman

Here in New Zealand we don’t like chopping down trees to make space for hotels, so there aren’t many places to stay in side the national park itself, you’ll be glad we’ve done that once you’re here! If you’re hiking or kayaking, and happy to carry your own gear then there are several public huts to choose from - make sure you book in advance! Another option is to book the 3 or 5 day guided walk, where you’ll stay in beautiful lodges at Torrent Bay and Awaroa Inlet - if you like your creature comforts then this is our pick - hot showers, a nice wine with dinner, why not!

How to get to Abel Tasman National Park

Here’s a quick guide on how long it takes to get to Abel Tasman National Park from main visitor centres in New Zealand. Some of these suggestions take the long way, but that’s what you’re here for right?

From Auckland: Domestic flight to Nelson (1hr 25 mins), drive or bus from Nelson to Kaiteriteri (1hr 20 mins)

The scenic route from Wellington: Ferry to Picton (3 hr 30 minutes), drive or bus fro Picton to Kaiteriteri (3 + hours). This is the slower route, but covers some awesome country - the inter islander ferry and the Queen Charlotte Drive, great if you’ve got the time.

The quick route from Wellington: Domestic Flight to Nelson (40 mins), drive or bus from Nelson to Kaiteriteri or Marhau (1hr 20 - 30 mins)

From Picton: The Queen Charlotte Scenic Driver (3 hours) or fly directly from the Picton waterfront into Abel Tasman by floatplane!

From Christchurch: Drive or bus to Kaiteriteri, Marahua or Totaranui via the Lewis Pass (7 hours)

From the Westport, top of the West Coast: Bus or Drive via the Buller Gorge to Kaiteriteri or Marahau (4 hours)

From Queenstown: If you’re going overland, take a few days and travel up the West Coast or via Mt Cook and Christchurch, it’s a long way and there’s a lot to see. If you’re short on time then fly to Nelson (2 hours 25 minutes, via Christchurch) and take a bus or drive from there.

Walking on the coastal track - Abel Tasman National Park Tours

Abel Tasman National Park entry points

You can drive to the entrances of the park, but there are no roads at all inside the park itself. Here’s where you can get in:

Marahau - the southern entrance to the park, 67 km by road from Nelson.

Wainui - The ‘inland’ entrance, 21km from Takaka, the last 2km is a gravel road.

Totaranui - The northern, more remote end of the park, 32km from Takaka. Last 13km is a gravel road.

Awaroa - A rough road for the last 12km, including two fords which are prone to washouts.

Dolphins jumping next to our boat - Abel Tasman National Park Tours

Weather in Abel Tasman National Park

Coming to Abel Tasman?  Lucky for you it’s in one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, over 2000 hours annually. It’s one of those spots that Kiwis seem to think escapes winter, while that’s not entirely true, it sounds good so let’s run with that!

Abel Tasman Average Temperatures: 

• Summer, December - February. High: 72F, 22C. Low: 55F, 13C.

• Autumn / Fall, March - May. High: 64F, 18C. Low: 46F, 8C.

• Winter, June - August. High: 55F, 13C. Low: 37F, 3C.

• Spring, September - November. High: 63F, 17C. Low: 45F, 7C.

Something you don’t know about Abel Tasman

You probably know the park is named after the Dutch seafarer, Abel Tasman, who was the first European to discover New Zealand in 1642. Bet  you didn’t know that the scaredy cat never actually set foot on land here, some vicious encounters with Maori in which several of his crew were killed put him off that! He named the spot of the confrontation ‘Murder’s Bay’, and continued on to chart the west coast of the entire country but never went on land.

Something else you probably don’t know is that there are small sections of private land within the park, one of which was bought and gifted to the people of New Zealand after 39,000 people contributed over $2 million through a crowdfunding website in 2016.

Kiwi tip for Abel Tasman

With stunning coastline and beaches, it’s easy to forget the highlands of Abel Tasman, which you can get right into the hear of on the Abel Tasman Inland track.  Three days / 2 nights, tiny ‘first come - first served’ huts, this is where Kiwis wanting to get off the beaten track in Abel Tasman go!

Visiting Abel Tasman with MoaTrek

Abel Tasman is a favourite on our small group tours, which we visit for the day from Nelson. Take your pick from a cruise, or cruise / walk combo, and be back in Nelson in time for dinner.