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Published: March 31st 2010
Looking back at Golden Bay.
We decided to end our New Zealand odyssey on a high note.
We both love the outdoors and hiking is one of our favorite activites. Today we hiked in the northern reaches of Abel Tasman National Park. It was one of the best hikes that we've ever done - period.
Despite being the smallest of the national parks in New Zealand, Abel Tasman is arguably the most stunning - a wonderful mixture of lush rainforest and pristine white sand beaches. Tourists and locals alike flood Abel Tasman during the busy summer months (December through February) but in March the number of visitors declines despite the mild fall weather.
One of the best things about Abel Tasman NP is that the park is extremely accessible - no hiking for days into a remote wilderness with GPS units and homing beacons. Another big plus is that there are so many ways to enjoy the park. You can go for a short day hike or a long multi-day backpacking trip. You can rent a kayak (or join a group tour) and paddle your way up the coast, with regular stops to enjoy the crystal-clear blue/green waters and hidden coves/lagoons, before setting
One of many gorgeous beaches we crossed during our Abel Tasman hike.
up camp on a gorgeous beach. You can even avoid exercise altogether by signing up for a boat tour, disembarking for some quality time on the warm white sand beaches, before returning to civilization.
Three years ago we explored Abel Tasman by water on a two day kayaking trip. We decided to explore the park by foot this time.
Most people that hike the Abel Tasman Coastal track start/end their journey at Totaranui Bay which is the northernmost stop for the scheduled water taxis. If you hike from south to north (the way that most people go), you can easily get to Totaranui in 3-4 days - and then take a "taxi" back to civilization. To avoid the crowds, we decided to start at the northernmost point in the park, Wainui Bay, and hike south to Totaranui on the little-used inland route before making our way back to Wainui via the coastral track.
The hike was 14-15 miles long and it took us 5.5 hours to complete. In a word "Wow" (see pictures). The most magical aspect of the hike was that the scenery was constantly changing but unfailingly gorgeous. One minute we were in pristine beech
Pukeko in Abel Tasman National Park
forest with glimpses of the azure waters below. Ten minutes later, we were hiking along a deserted white sand beach. We even passed by a small farmhouse built in 1898 that has been converted to a Department of Conservation hut for trekkers.
This is why everyone comes here - not just to Abel Tasman, but to New Zealand. For the beautiful scenery, the commitment to the environment, the lovely people and laid-back, community-focused culture. We've had a wonderful time in this incredible country and still feel like we have so much more to see and do.
Next week we are headed home.
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