Why the Abel Tasman Track Belongs on Your Bucketlist

I have had wanderlust for as long as I can remember, and for just as long I have had a picture of the Abel Tasman Track beaches fueling that wanderlust. This last week I was able to check that beauty off the bucketlist and now I get to spread the gospel of why everyone should have it on their bucketlist.

A few weeks back in Kaikoura, we were feeling burnt out in the rooftop tent. The wind had been wicked, sleep was light, and school holidays packed the Top 10 full of chaos. To cheer myself up I decided we were close enough to start planning our 6-day Abel Tasman trek I have been looking forward to for months.

Meal plans were planned, packing lists were listed, gear was checked and bought, and soon enough we landed ourselves at The Barn Cabins & Campsites, which is a destination in an of itself I highly recommend. Bags were fully packed… and rain was in the forecast for the whole week.

Day 1: Marahau to Anchorage Hut – 12.4km

New Zealand weather is a fickle beast, luckily it worked out in our favor for our first day on the trail. In good spirits to our surprise good luck, we started off the trek with smiles and good moods. For about 2 minutes, and my injured ankle was immediately screaming her protests to a boot touching her and the extra weight.

After a bit of a faff, I marched the first part of the trail in my chaco sandals. Not shortly after, we had to stop and wrap Oli’s newly forming blisters. We were off to an ominous start, but the good weather and excitement of being on the trail kept us giddy and trudging on. About 3km from the hut, my feet were refusing to walk another step in the chaco’s, so the boots went back on with some padding, I shushed my ego, and hobbled the rest of my way to the hut with the aid of trekking poles like an old person.

Oli and I have a thing for awesome solo trees and we found our favorite one so far, and even dubbed it worthy of a short detour. The picture alone was totally worth it!

After 12km we finally made the final decent onto the beaches of Anchorage Bay, just in time to beat the rain to our hut for the evening. After a pre-dinner stroll to another beach, all the snacks, dinner, post-dinner hot chocolate, and a very lazy teeth brushing we laid down for bed at sunset around 8:15PM.

Day 2: Anchorage Hut to Bark Bay Hut – 13.5km

After a noisy night in the first hut, and thankful that the group of young partiers was heading the opposite direction, we took off in the pouring rain for our second destination. Along the way is a detour I highly recommend to a series of natural rock pools at the bottom of the Torrent River called Cleopatra’s Pools.

Despite the rain, we bravely changed into our suits and hopped in the frigid waters of Cleopatra’s Pools. I desperately wanted to slide down a chute that goes between two of the pools, but decided that since it was only day 2, maybe it wasn’t the best idea. After some research, turns out its moss covered and people do it all the time…. An adventure for next time. I pretended to be fancy and acted like I was bathing in a warm tub, rather than freezing my tits off in the rain and Oli found a natural rock throne and pretended he was in charge. I think I pulled off my role just fine, and for Oli pretending to be in charge is nothing new for him. 🙂

After realizing I left my boots out in the rain in my excitement to go be in more water, we changed back into our hiking clothes and added a couple extra layers and started cruising to get our temps back up. We crossed cable bridges, hiked up and up, overlooked beaches that are even beautiful in mist and darkness, and finally made it to Bark Bay Hut. The special thing about this hut is that on the same property they have a Kaka Rehabilitation Center, so there is a large group of these incredible birds that stay around the area. Their calls to one another made me feel like I was somewhere exotic and sipping my coffee and listening to them in the morning is one of my favorite memories of the trail.

We ended up making a few friends at this hut, and after a long time traveling just the two of us it felt so nice to be hanging out with other people. We had long chats next to the fire while we dried and warmed up, played cards, and made plans to hike together the next day.

Day 3: Bark Bay Hut to Awaroa Hut – 13.5km

Day 3 we hiked with our new friends Marie, Gerti, and Ben and had so much fun! Luckily, it was the kind of connection where you all just hit it off and have the same sense of humor so the the trail was full of stories and laughing. We even made plans to meet up with them at Shipwrecked Festival in February 2021. 

The day went by so fast and before we knew it we arrived at Awaroa Lodge. Oli and I took a detour with our new friends as they were catching a water taxi back to Marahau, and spent the day at the lodge playing Monopoly, eating good food, and having a couple glasses of wine until we waved our friends goodbye on their water taxi and carried on. Luckily, our next hut was pretty close and was a mellow walk across an empty estuary that is dry during low tide. We arrived with plenty of time to set up the hammock and read our kindles for a couple hours. 

We had to pack and plan strategically, as the following days tide crossing had to be at low tide, which was at 4AM. Others booked a water taxi from the previous beach to the next spot as the tidal times were not ideal. Since we hadn’t planned that ahead we decided a dark start was in our future and hit the hay early. 

Day 4: Awaroa Hut to Whariwharangi Hut – 17km

Our day began at 3:30AM crossing the sandy and mostly dry estuary, without even having coffee yet! The day before we had marked on our compass which direction to head in the dark to the trailhead across the inlet, which was a good thing because we could barely make out the reflector on the sign post. 

We decided to keep hiking to find a beach to make coffee and enjoy breakfast. Blame it on the lack of caffeine, but the beach wasn’t the best idea because of aggressive locals called Sandflies. They come in swarms and they literally slice your skin so they can drink your blood. Luckily, we had some deet, and though neither of us are a fan, desperate times call for desperate measures and nothing was getting in the way of me enjoying my coffee and stroop waffles. 

By this day both our feet were beat up, wrapped up, and bandaged. Some entire toes were no longer toes and were now entirely blisters. Second skin and moleskin was a saving grace, and I had managed to pack my ankle brace and learned to quickly hobble along on our trekking poles. 

17km was by far our longest day and took us through diverse terrain including sandy beaches (of course!), jurassic looking jungle, scrambling up rock walls with our packs on, and even through a parking lot and massive campsite at Totaranui Beach. It was unexpected to run into civilization on our 4th day but luckily it didn’t last long and we ascending back into the lush bush. The rain pounded us pretty hard this day, but the views were incredible and before long we arrived at the most adorable final hut of our trip.  

We were the first to arrive and had our choice of rooms. Most of the huts just have one or two bunk rooms and everyone sleeps in the same room together. I always bring wax earplugs with us, which is good because we definitely had some snorers among the group that was in all the huts together. This time we lucked out and got a bunk room for just the two of us. We made a huge ramen lunch, started a fire in the wood stove, hung all our wet gear front and center, and by the time anyone else arrived we were fed and our gear had already dried by the fire.

Our night was spent playing chess, reading, and then eating a huge dinner and passing out early feeling the effects of the 4AM wake up call.

Day 5: Whariwharangi Hut to totaranui Bay- 10km

Our final day was a trudge with blisters, sore legs, full bellies, and happy hearts. We lucked out with a sunny final day heading back to catch our water taxi at their furthest point back at Totaranui Beach. We used our final day as an excuse to eat anything left over and enjoyed some time on the beach in the sun before catching our water taxi back to Marahau.

The water taxi took a surprising twist when we arrived at our final destination and the boat drove up onto a tractor, and then that tractor drove us to our hostel. Was an epic way to end an epic trip!